CHICAGO — Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the city’s airline carriers are in the final stages of negotiating an $8.5 billion deal to dramatically expand O’Hare International Airport.
The eight-year plan would be the single largest and most expensive terminal revamp in the airport’s history, the Chicago Tribune reported. The goal is to increase the number of international flights and create more room for domestic carriers.
The airport hasn’t made any major upgrades to its international terminal over the last two decades, while airports in New York, Miami, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Dallas and Atlanta spent a combined $18 billion on their international terminals, according to Chicago Department of Aviation figures.
Plans call for a state-of-the-art global terminal, dozens of new gates and several additional concourses. The global terminal would have wider concourses and gates to accommodate larger aircrafts that embark on international flights to places like Hong Kong and Dubai.
Aviation Commissioner Ginger Evans said the total number of gates would increase from 185 to about 220 upon the project’s completion in 2026.
“You snooze, you lose in this business,” said Evans. “Our competitors are out there investing, adding capacity, and we have got to do the same.”
The mayor is seeking to leverage the May expiration of the airlines’ 35-year lease to secure higher fees and charges from the carriers that would help bankroll the project.
City officials said the aviation department would borrow against future airline fees to pay for construction, which wouldn’t require taxpayer dollars.
Emanuel is expected to introduce the agreement at a City Council meeting on Wednesday.