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AReCO in the News

O'Hare moves ahead on runway expansion


            By Robert McCoppin Daily Herald Staff Writer

Posted on December 04, 2002

Copyright Daily Herald


Despite United Airlines' financial turmoil, O'Hare International Airport's expansion chief said Tuesday that Chicago is moving ahead with plans to build new runways.


Airport officials this week will hire a company on a contract worth tens of millions of dollars for preliminary engineering of new runways, said Chicago Deputy Aviation Commissioner John Harris.


The designs will show more specifically where the runways, utilities, drainage and related facilities would go.


O'Hare also is spending $15 million to help the Federal Aviation Administration expedite review of the expansion's environmental impact.


Chicago will pay the FAA to hire engineering firm Crawford, Murphy & Tilly Inc., as well as attorneys, planners, and administrative staff.


The city is asking for federal approval for "fast-track" consideration of O'Hare expansion, to reduce the usual 3-year runway review to two years.


Jack Saporito, head of the Alliance of Residents Concerning O'Hare, says Chicago's financing of the federal review is a conflict of interest.


"Doesn't that corrupt the process?" he asked. "I don't think it should be short-cutted."


Chicago's involvement is not a conflict, FAA spokesman Tony Molinaro said, saying all such consultants have been paid by the cities involved, including Detroit, Cleveland and St. Louis.


The additional employees will be hired by and report to the FAA, and reimbursed by the city, just as the state did for the FAA's review of a proposed airport in South suburban Peotone.


FAA oversight of every aspect of the review ensures independence, Molinaro said.


Chicago also plans to submit its proposed airport layout plan to the FAA before the end of the year, and to borrow more than $100 million early next year for environmental review, land acquisition and design.


Though United is struggling to get a federal loan guarantee to stay out of bankruptcy, Harris said city officials remain confident United and other airlines will be able to pay for most of the $7 billion expansion.


"These improvements are an essential element to the airlines' efforts to operate more efficiently and more profitably," Harris said Tuesday. Harris spoke in an interview after a speech to students at Roosevelt University in Schaumburg.