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HowardL Sep 30, 2005 5:48 PM

This is a super long article from today's Trib, but it includes an interview with Daley and covers a lot of the history and politics of all of the Chicago airports. Here goes.

Daley's field of dreams
In an exclusive interview, Mayor Richard M. Daley explains why he's Illinois' biggest promoter and defender of expanding O'Hare International Airport

By Jon Hilkevitch
Tribune transportation reporter

His father often referred to the world's busiest airport as "O'Hara.'' But to Mayor Richard M. Daley, it will always be "O'Hare Field.'' Not O'Hare International Airport. Not even O'Hare Airport.

In 1968, Mayor Richard J. Daley, who had earlier completed the transformation of Orchard Field into O'Hare, proposed building a third major airport in Lake Michigan when it became apparent that the Chicago region would face an air-capacity shortfall.

More than 20 years later, Richard M. pushed plans for a third airport on a dump site near Lake Calumet. It was an unsuccessful attempt to bring economic growth to that part of Chicago, much like O'Hare did at the dawn of the Jet Age for the metropolitan area in the north and west suburbs.

But the mayor soon did a 180-degree turn and revived Midway Airport instead. It was in large measure a reluctant bow to the political reality that increasingly powerful suburbs would not tolerate the added noise and pollution brought by an expanded O'Hare.

Behind the scenes, however, the mayor's staff and aviation consultants prepared secret plans, later disclosed in litigation, to expand O'Hare runways when the timing improved. An opening began to emerge in 1999 and 2000 when gridlock at O'Hare resulted in three out of every four flights being late. , creating a national outcry. that extended from Washington politicians to stranded passengers forced to sleep on cots in O'Hare terminals.

With the crisis in Chicago causing flights to back up across the nation, Daley offered a concept in June 2001 to retool O'Hare runways. Gov. George Ryan, thus far stymied by Daley in his own plans to build a south suburban airport, endorsed the mayor's plan a few months later. The O'Hare-expansion pact called for Daley to keep Meigs Field open and pledge that he would not sabotage Ryan's project to construct a third regional airport near Peotone in Will County.

Ryan left office after one term and months later, in the middle of the night, Daley dispatched bulldozers under police escort to demolish Meigs' runway for the stated purpose of protecting Chicagoans from a possible terrorist attack launched from the lakefront landing strip.

Through it all, Daley has warned that nobody would use the Peotone airport. The solution to building more runway capacity in the Chicago area, he says, can be found at one place only-O'Hare Field.

Like his dad before him, Daley is the state's biggest promoter and defender of O'Hare, which he sees as a perpetual target of unfair political attacks against him. To the mayor, politics is entwined in every aspect of the airport, much like the intersecting runways he wants to untangle in what would become the most expensive airport modernization project in the United States.

Tribune transportation reporter Jon Hilkevitch sat down with the mayor Aug. 19 in his City Hall office before this week's FAA decision approving the O'Hare-expansion plan. (Editor's note: The FAA gave its blessing to the plan Friday).

Here is an edited transcript of the interview.


Hilkevitch: "The decades-long wait to expand O'Hare finally seems to be ending. I don't want to jinx you with premature congratulations, but it looks like the FAA will approve your O'Hare expansion plan.''

The mayor says nothing, he just knocks his knuckles three times on a wooden table in the conference room of his fifth-floor office suite.

"Your greater concern might be the actual decision on the federal funding-the FAA's benefit-cost analysis that determines just how much government money the project will receive, right?''

Daley: "Well, I think the key in this is that O'Hare Field has always been a political issue. In the 1970s, in the '80s more so and the '90s where Democratic candidates for governor took an `I pledge,' remember that? Both Democrats and Republicans took pledges. `I hate O'Hare Field. I will never allow O'Hare Field to expand.' It became a political issue and never became an economic issue or a government issue. And that prevailed in all the elections, you know, you see people running for Congress and governor and it was like, `OK, let's go beat up O'Hare Field.'

"Everybody didn't understand the economic consequences or the government consequences of the political decisions that were being made.

"I think a number of changes that happened, as we got together (in the late 1990s) to form the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus of Chicago and Cook County and DuPage, Kane and Lake and McHenry as well. I said to them, Let's set aside our differences. Everybody wants to talk about O'Hare Field. Let's set that aside and see if we can agree on things. Let's work together.

"We set that aside. We said we were going to work to find out how mayors can really work together on 95 percent of the issues that we should be working together. Just because we disagree on runways doesn't mean we shouldn't work together on the 95 percent of issues.

"So that had a lot to do with it. Then the business community, people like Lester Crown, Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce's Jerry Roper, Andy McKenna, I could go on and on with, you know, the business community both in the city and suburban areas, then all of a sudden all of them got together, all of the businesses that were semi-related to O'Hare Field, which were enormous in the city, western suburbs, north, northwest. It was unbelievable in how important O'Hare Field is to them and if it dies, it slowly dies, then their economy and their companies are going to suffer.

"And then the future expansion of all these companies, it is centrally located to get to Washington, get to San Francisco, get to Europe, get to Asia, get to Latin America. International parts are so important for an international city, now a global city.

"The mood started changing. Then all of a sudden if you start getting the facts down, each suburban area, how important all those businesses were, who pay taxes, but don't live there, to their city.

"And then, outreaching, working with people, working with mayors, community groups. The whole idea of sharing things, the soundproofing. You know the airport does soundproofing. It's amazing what we've done.

"And then the whole idea of looking at the traffic problem around there and eventually looking at whether or not, with the problems of the airline industry, what airports are going to be here forever. And this is one airport that is going to be here forever because it is centrally located.

"I think people finally realized that you have to do it (expansion) to the airlines because every time a plane is delayed, the price of labor goes up, the price of fuel goes up, there is customer dissatisfaction. I think people finally realized we better do something about it. There was a lot of them, like, like trying to stick gum in a dam, you try to control flights, you try to do this, it really didn't help. It was like there was a dam, there's a hole, putting your fingers in. It didn't help. I think people finally came to the conclusion we better do something with that.''

"Then when Gov. Ryan came in, to be very frank, even though he could have been opposed to O'Hare expansion, after a few years he realized this is too important to the state of Illinois. That's how he realized. Most states don't even have a huge airport like this. Or if they have, it's being closed. It's amazing. So I think he realized. We had meetings here, we went to the federal government. The federal government had their hearings here, they talked about we're going to do something if you don't do it. And so we came together in an agreement. The federal government couldn't do it, they couldn't pass anything, and then Rod Blagojevich got elected, and he agreed with us and we passed (legislation) in Springfield. There is a lot of people involved. A lot of people crossed political lines, philosophical lines. I really think people sat up and said, `Hey, this is good. We need it. Otherwise, if we don't change, this (airport) is not going to be here.' ''

Hilkevitch: "After you were first elected, you talked about building a Lake Calumet airport that would work in conjunction with O'Hare and with Midway. How did your thinking evolve leading up to your decision in 2001 to propose such a complex makeover of O'Hare rather than more modest runway additions?''

Daley: "It was bipartisan. A number of states-Illinois, Indiana, I think Wisconsin was in there for a time before it dropped out-this discussion was whether to close Midway Airport and move it over to Lake Calumet and keep O'Hare Field going. Because you couldn't grow at O'Hare. Once the Lake Calumet project went down, there were elected officials opposed to O'Hare. Once we took over Gary Airport, that changed the whole issue of airports. It still remained the responsibility of the city, that was the major issue. The key was to move forward (on O'Hare). It was a bipartisan effort, there were Democrats, Republicans, independents. It really didn't matter. Everybody flies through here-senators, congressmen, everybody comes through here. And when you are delayed, the first thing they talk about, the business people, is O'Hare Field. And I think everybody realized in the whole aviation industry, the private sector, the public sector, that you have to do something about O'Hare Field.

"I get business groups, ethnic groups that came down, small businesses, contractors, engineers, big businesses who went to Washington, aldermen who went to Washington, they went to Springfield. They continue to go down there and talk about how important O'Hare Field is to the entire city and the metropolitan area."

Hilkevitch: "The FAA has said for years that what is needed at O'Hare is a third parallel runway so 100 planes can land each hour and another 100 can take off in all weather conditions. Adding only one runway would give you that third parallel at a much lower cost than what you proposed, but you chose something much more complex and maybe creative. Why did you go that route?''

Daley: "Everybody else is going to do parallel runways. If you don't do that, then maybe you are just nitpicking at it. You are maybe fixing something for a short period of time. But if you don't fix this for a long period of time, you can be back in 25 years in the same situation. That's what I thought about.''

Hilkevitch: "So how many years will this project buy?''

Daley: "It's hard to tell, but I think the east and west runways help us in bad weather. That's significant. I mean, in the bad weather factors, if you start cutting (flight delays) back down, boy, that helps (reduce airlines) labor costs, the costs of fuel, that significantly reduces, you know, the bad omens, I guess, of O'Hare Field, especially weather conditions.''

Hilkevitch: "I asked you how long a modernized O'Hare would be able to operate efficiently because here is a FAA chart showing average minutes of delay per aircraft. Under your full-build runway plan when you finally get out there in 2018, you are down to under six minutes of delay, which, if true, is excellent. During O'Hare's delay crisis before 9/11, the airport was averaging 15 minutes of delay per plane, which means in bad weather it's more like 90 minutes per plane, and that really stinks.''

Daley: "Haaa! You're right. People don't realize that. Or you are still in Washington, D.C., trying to get back here.''

Hilkevitch: "But the cautionary note to this is that the low delay levels are based on 1.2 million flights a year. This year, O'Hare will probably do close to 1 million flights. So you are getting another 200,000-not a lot. When the FAA does projects increasing flights by another 200,000, to 1.4 million operations, it puts O'Hare back into the same grim delay picture of about 15 minutes per flight on average, and much worse in bad weather.''

Daley: "Well … ''

Hilkevitch: "So what the FAA is saying is that growth in aviation activity at O'Hare will cause delays at the airport to rise in the future following completion of the project.''

Daley: "But it all depends if the planes are getting bigger, they are going to cut the smaller planes. You don't know that. The issue is going to change, we think. Technology is going to change. It is going to change drastically at O'Hare Field in the next three, four, five years.''

"We have to start somewhere. If we don't start this northern runway, there is only going to be so many international cities that are prepared for it. Everybody is not going to fly to Europe from every city. Everybody is not going to fly to Asia. It can't be. The cost factor is too much and maybe you don't have the growth in it to keep it going. That's one thing you are finding out.

"I don't know if San Francisco can build another runway. It's going to hurt their airport. I don't think Boston can build a new runway. So a lot of these airports could be obsolete. They can't build a runway. You can only get so many planes on one or two runways.''

Hilkevitch: "You mentioned Boston. Boston is part of a six-airport regional system in New England. There is Boston Logan International, of course, but there are other airports that help relieve the congestion and pressure on Logan and offer passengers more choices that are closer to home as well as lower fares. It operates as a cohesive system. Here in the Chicago area, we have O'Hare and we have Midway, which is quickly filling up.''

Daley: "And Gary.''

Hilkevitch: "Well, if you count Hooters Air, which offers only a handful of flights at Gary-Chicago Airport.''

Daley: "When you think about it, Midway is the fastest-growing airport today. I flew out of there to Minneapolis. Boom, you get right on the plane and you are gone. That's what you want in an airport. You want to get on the plane and take off as quickly as possible.'' And that is why Midway is growing leaps and bounds. Discount airlines realize that, whether it's Southwest or ATA and the other airlines. I think you are going to see a lot of discount airlines coming from overseas.''

Hilkevitch: "What do you see happening at the Gary airport?''

Daley: "They are going to build a 10,000-foot runway and it's the first time in the history of the state government that they are going to give money for the Gary airport. This is Republicans doing it, not a Democrat. That is amazing, isn't it? So he (Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels) realizes the economic interests of Indiana, northern Indiana.''

Hilkevitch: "From a budget-management standpoint on keeping the costs of O'Hare expansion under control, the FAA will likely give you a positive decision to allow the city to start construction. But it will probably be sometime later that the FAA informs you how much of the city's $300 million request for the first phase of the project will actually be funded. With such unknown financial factors, do you move forward full-steam ahead assuming you will get the whole pot, or how do you proceed?''

Daley: "I think one of the problems America has is, you know, it's amazing how long it takes to build a runway. We have to figure that out.''

Hilkevitch: "Ten years on average for one runway.''

Daley: "It's unbelievable. So if we are going to take 10 years, this is unbelievable. If you don't you are really sacrificing the industry. I don't think we can sacrifice jobs and sacrifice the industry and economic development in the region. We are speaking about $300 million. That is very reasonable for the size of a project like this and what it is going to do for the industry, what it is going to do for the aviation industry and the world.'' And America, it is going to have a significant impact. I think there's really a green light on it (Chicago's funding request). The FAA realizes they have to do it. Otherwise, nothing is going to happen.''

Hilkevitch: "So you are not concerned about any congressional opposition from lawmakers who fear federal funding for O'Hare expansion will dry up grants to other airports?''

Daley: "What are you going to oppose? We are going to have western access into O'Hare Field. You know what that is going to do to the western suburban area west of O'Hare who need the economic development? Some of those cities are getting a bit older. They lost some of their industry. They have to bring some strength and vitality back.''

Hilkevitch: "Is there anything the city can do to speed up construction of the western-access roadway so it is not at the very end of the project?''

Daley: "Well, no, you have to first build the runways. You'd be surprised, once maybe it gets moving, maybe you'll be able to speed it up. You don't know. That's a long process. But we finally got the money (in the recently passed federal transportation bill). Western access was the key.''

Hilkevitch: "In hindsight, you proposed this massive project before 9/11. Is there anything you would do differently? You read the headlines: Airlines are pulling out or downsizing airport projects in Miami, Seattle-Tacoma, Minneapolis. Boston and Atlanta are having problems with large projects, but they are not the mega-project you are attempting here in Chicago. The airlines are hurting and it's unclear when conditions will improve, right?''

Daley: "Remember, Miami is a Miami. You've got San Francisco, can't build. Tacoma, you can't build any new runways because the environmentalists are stopping them. Logan, can't. The environmentalists are all stopping them. If they don't build a new runway, if they don't get efficiency back, they are going to have a hard time to figure out why you would want to fly into those airports. It's just very challenging if they can't expand. It would be like a university, be like a business who couldn't expand. You just sit there and slowly but surely it becomes much more inefficient. That's the problem.

"We're centrally located. That's the difference. We're not east or west or south, we're centrally located. That's why it is so important for this expansion.''

Hilkevitch: "So you don't have any concerns about the magnitude of this project resulting in massive cost overruns? It's a slam dunk?''

Daley: "No, go to the rest of the world. Great cities have some vision and expansion and they aren't afraid of big projects. If you are afraid, the cities slowly die or decay. Look at Shanghai, they're building. They're not waiting for any nay-sayers on these projects. America has to get back, like during the Depression. Be confident. Let's move forward.'' Americans did everything in the Depression. Now, we have a difficult time making decisions. But the rest of the world, cities move forward, countries move forward making decisions. That's what we have to start doing.''

Hilkevitch: "You indicated it takes far too long to build runways in this country. Describe the working relationship between the city and the FAA to expedite O'Hare expansion.''

Daley: "They have been very professional about it, both under Clinton and Bush. You have to dot all your `I's' and cross all your `T's' and everything else. They look at your presentation and they look at your documentation. It's done very professionally and very thoughtful. You are not going to scare them.''

Hilkevitch: "The ranks of the Suburban O'Hare Commission have dwindled. Basically Bensenville and Elk Grove Village are all that remains of the O'Hare opposition. What do you say to those folks who are determined to stop the O'Hare project in court?''

Daley: "Someone said we are going to take half of Elk Grove Village. We are taking 14.8 acres, that's all. Five parcels of property, and we've acquired all the land we need for the first northern runway voluntarily. They were saying we are taking all those properties. We never did it. The facts are never there. We just took 14 acres, that's all we needed. The sellers loved it.

"Remember, that whole area was built for one reason-O'Hare Field. Every one of those factories in Bensenville are there for one reason-O'Hare Field. If they were not there, they would be at Midway Airport. And also, they have to understand when they built a lot of the factories there in the 1960s, trucks are different today. They are much heavier. They never adapted their industrial areas to the new type of equipment going down the street. They have to look at it. We have talked to them about it because we need their assistance. If the factories aren't going to adapt, they are going to go someplace else. Those industrial areas really never changed with the times. The trucks are much bigger today. And refrigeration and things like that are much more significant.

"We think they should become an ally of (airport expansion). They would not have an industrial base (without O'Hare). We take Bensenville, some of the major corporations and airlines are all there. It's really interesting. But they want to make a political statement, they've made a political statement. It doesn't bother me.''

Hilkevitch: "So you think quieter jet engines have taken away their argument against expanding O'Hare? EPA studies seem to be inconclusive as to whether it's the exhaust from airplanes or the traffic on three major expressways surrounding O'Hare that is the biggest contributor to pollution.''

Daley: "That's the other thing I've always said. Your truck and rail, rail noise. The truck noise. And also the pollution from cars. O'Hare Field didn't create that. It's just amazing.''

Hilkevitch: "On the question of land acquisition in the Bensenville area for the new runways on the south airfield, as soon as you get a record of decision from the FAA, are you going to start taking and bulldozing properties?''

Daley: "You've got to be working with people. People already contacted us on the phone. They picked up the phone. Hello? Real quick. It's amazing.''

Hilkevitch: "What did you think about the U.S. Department of Transportation inspector general's recent report that raised concerns the FAA wasn't exerting proper financial oversight on O'Hare expansion?''

Daley: "That's what the inspector general is supposed to look at, the presentation of ourselves, and then ask questions of the FAA. He is the overseer, the inspector general, of all comments and actions in the FAA. They start talking about the Boston Dig. We're no closer to the Boston Dig. It's unrelated to Boston Dig. I mean, this is a runway; this is not a tunnel. There is a difference between a tunnel, underground, near water, near filled-in land, near a bay, completely different. You know, I mean, just between us, there is no comparison.''

Hilkevitch: "But his point was to address the huge cost overruns in the Boston Dig project that could occur during O'Hare expansion.''

Daley: "That's a cost overrun. You are near a bay. You are near filled-in land and you're building a tunnel.''

Hilkevitch: "What do you say to the families of the people who are buried in St. Johannes Cemetery next to O'Hare? The cemetery was there more than 100 years ago when there were strictly apple orchards, no runways, out there.''

Daley: "In St. Louis, they moved 14,000 graves. When we built Congress Street, they moved graves. We've moved cemeteries in Lincoln Park. It's amazing. Even today, they move cemeteries, the federal government has moved cemeteries. But they recognized, you know, the family and recognized the sacredness of everything and do it in such a way, many of these families, well moved the graves closer to where they live. That's significant, too. So they really take into effect the families and where they are.

"Airports all over this country, this is nothing unusual, I mean, it's not. They are very cognizant of the families and the sacredness and the holiness of the site and everything else. We will work very closely with them.''

Hilkevitch: "But in the St. Louis airport expansion, the relocation involved graves at a secular cemetery, non-religious. The families at St. Johannes believe their descendants were put into the ground for eternity. What would you say if a friend of yours, or even your own family, had a relative, a father, a mother, buried there?''

Daley: "Well, a lot of them are. We understand the family and all that. That is why we work very closely with the families. It all depends where the graves are being relocated. It would be hard if they were relocated to Miami and you lived in Chicago. Or if you live in the western suburbs and they are relocated to Milwaukee. But if you relocate it closer to the family, then you can visit them. You are supposed to visit them. Sometimes it is much better for the families.''

Hilkevitch: "O'Hare's air-traffic controllers on the FAA's team reviewing the city's plan say the city hasn't consulted them enough regarding how the airfield layout would actually work. They are the experts, they are the people who operate this airport, and the controllers are concerned about the number of runway crossings by taxiing aircraft increasing under Chicago's plan. The controllers fear under your plan there would be a much greater opportunity for a pilot to miss a radio communication, for a plane to be crossing a runway while another plane is taking off from the same runway, and there could be a horrendous accident.''

Daley: "You can talk to the FAA, you can to John Carr, the national president of the union. He was here at O'Hare Field for so many years. He knows more about the airport than anyone else. We've been working with the FAA and the controllers for a long time, so maybe it's a difference of opinion.''

Hilkevitch: "Gov. Blagojevich supports O'Hare expansion, but he also is pushing Peotone.''

Daley: "That's all right.''

Hilkevitch: "Do you ever see the day that the Chicago region could have a shared airport system-one in which Peotone would operate in tandem with Midway and O'Hare without hurting either Chicago airport? Passenger forecasts indicate the extra capacity will be needed.''

Daley: "Well, that's up to them. O'Hare Field is going to be intact. Midway is going to be intact. And Gary. If they want to put in all that money and buy it and build an airport, so be it. It's up to them, not up to me.'' It takes a long time to build a runway, a long time to build an airport. So you need money. And if the state is going to give them money, so be it. I'm not against that. That's up to them, not up to me.''

Hilkevitch: "Is O'Hare good to go forever? In Denver, Stapleton Airport was closed to make way for the much larger Denver International. Is there ever a day O'Hare can no longer serve the need?''

Daley: "Someone said, Is Midway here forever? Yes it is. I think the airlines are going to get much more efficient. It's going to change a lot. So we don't realize that. I think it's coming here. Airports closer to downtown are going to survive better than way out in the farm fields. I really believe that.''

Hilkevitch: "Many experts think O'Hare will remain an expensive airport for the airlines to operate at in the future."

Daley: "No, it won't, because it can't. Because if you cut down the delay factor, the cost of labor, the cost of fuel, the cost of disgruntled customers and you run an efficient airline. Look at Midway. If you can get people on and off as quickly as possible in bad weather, that is very significant. That is going to change everything.''

Hilkevitch: "United Airlines, the largest hub operator here at O'Hare, has signed on to help pay for phase one of the new runways. But United has been in bankruptcy for three years and it's unclear when, or if, it will emerge. Are you worried?''

Daley: "United has come a really long way. Everybody had the, ah, death to them and thought they would not be around. But they are coming through this bankruptcy and I think they have worked on a lot of issues with the employees. I have a lot of confidence in what they are doing so far.''

Hilkevitch: "You of course disagree with Elk Grove Mayor Craig Johnson and Bensenville Mayor John Geils and the other opponents of O'Hare expansion. But do they maybe serve a needed purpose by raising issues and challenging what the city and your consultants are telling the public about O'Hare expansion?''

Daley: "I couldn't speak for them. I just know them, I see them, `Hi, how are you? Hello.' You know. They are against anything with the name O'Hare Field on it.''

the urban politician Sep 30, 2005 7:15 PM


Now we can start demolishing those pathetic suburban homes. Families will suffer! Children will cry! The all-powerful city, controlled by its tyrannical Mayor, will once again bend and shape the surrounding landscape to its mighty will, all in the name of economic progress.

>insert evil laughter here<


Jersey Mentality Oct 1, 2005 3:52 AM

Well with courts now on the sides with corporations and "economic progress" im sure they will build without a hitch.

HowardL Oct 1, 2005 4:07 AM


Originally Posted by Chicago Shawn
After waiting years for FAA approval, Daley has promised to break ground on the project immediately.

Daley ain't screwing around on this. From the Trib:
Race for expansion
Steve Hess with Heneghan Wrecking demolishes the Express Cargo Connection building to make way for the phase one expansion of O'Hare International Airport, Friday. Chicago's plan to expand O'Hare was approved by the Federal Aviation Administration Friday, setting off a race between workers starting site preparation for new runways and the lawsuits aimed at stopping them.
(AP photo by Charles Rex Arbogast)
Posted September 30, 2005

BVictor1 Oct 1, 2005 4:35 AM

It's not all smooth sailing yet...

FAA approves O'Hare expansion
But suburbs get judge to stop work before it starts

By Jon Hilkevitch, Patricia Callahan and Virginia Groark
Tribune staff reporters
Published September 30, 2005, 10:09 PM CDT

"O'Hare is now cleared for takeoff,'' the nation's aviation chief declared Friday, giving the go-ahead for new runways at O'Hare International Airport. But hours later a federal court grounded--at least temporarily--the FAA decision.

The court action, sought by attorneys representing opponents of the expansion, effectively halted the construction that began with a spirited ceremony at O'Hare led by Mayor Richard Daley.

The U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., tabled the FAA's decision until it can consider the opponents' arguments--that federal approval of the project is illegal on religious grounds and that the city should not be allowed to acquire and destroy property without first proving it can finance the project. It was not clear when the court would act.

Earlier in the day, bulldozers began knocking down city-owned buildings to make way for the new runways. Daley, who waited a decade and a half for this day, wasted no time celebrating.

"What a day. White Sox clinch the division, and we are at a groundbreaking today,'' the mayor said on the site of the first new runway while an earthmover carved out a chunk of dirt and dropped it into a dump truck.

He put the $15 billion airport expansion in the same league as the city's rebuilding after the Great Fire of 1871, reversing the flow of the Chicago River and preservation of the lakefront.

Under the plan, O'Hare's intersecting runways would be replaced with a network of parallel ones.

"Years from now, we will all remember this as the day we took a step forward,'' Daley said. "We are going to keep Chicago and the Chicago area at the forefront of the global economy.''

Meanwhile, police in Bensenville stopped Chicago land surveyors from scoping out properties in the way of the future runways, arguing they needed to first seek permission, said Village Manager James Johnson.

Bensenville officials stuffed fliers in doors Thursday warning of the expected FAA ruling and urging residents and businesses to resist city efforts to buy their homes.

"We believe Daley's henchmen will try to come into our community to try to get you to sell your home," the pamphlets said. "Show them the door!"

But several homeowners in the DuPage suburb said Friday they are tired of living in limbo.

Daniel Escutia, 22, who lives in a home in the footprint of the future runways, believes Bensenville should wage a court fight only if there is a good chance that Chicago won't eventually acquire their homes through condemnation.

"If it's going to happen anyway, Bensenville should tell us already because it's been dragged out a long time," he said.

Within hours of the FAA's announcement, attorneys representing opponents of the expansion--Bensenville, Elk Grove Village, a religious cemetery bordering O'Hare and other property owners--argued that the federal court needed to intervene immediately to prevent the city from destroying property and relocating graves.

"Two years ago, Chicago sent bulldozers to Meigs Field in the middle of the night to destroy the airfield and silence the ongoing debate about the airfield's future," the attorneys wrote. "There is every reason to believe that the city will engage in the same kind of destructive behavior here."

In their filing, the attorneys said the city's plan to relocate more than 1,300 graves in St. Johannes Cemetery violates a federal law designed to protect religious freedom. They also said that city was prepared to destroy property despite the FAA's failure to prove Chicago can afford to pay for its expansion plans.

The opponents argued that any removal "of the remains of a Christian once he or she is committed to the sanctified final resting spot [could prevent] the physical resurrection of his or her body on the Day of Resurrection.''

Arlington Heights resident Bob Sell, who has several relatives buried at St. Johannes, was outraged by the FAA decision. Sell said he had hoped the federal government would realize the plan violated the church's religious beliefs and "somewhere, somehow, someway take one runway and put it somewhere else other than through our grandparents and fathers and mothers and children."

City officials told the FAA they have made painstaking plans to handle the disinterment of remains from St. Johannes with dignity, transport all reusable grave markers and monuments to new grave sites as directed by surviving family members and pay all associated costs.

The FAA decision recognized that moving the cemetery is likely to "substantially burden the exercise of religion.'' But the FAA noted that the government has a compelling interest in reducing O'Hare delays and said there is no better alternative than using the cemetery property.

The FAA decision also expressed confidence O'Hare expansion can be paid for and carried out.

Federal Aviation Administrator Marion Blakey boasted that the city's plan would cut flight delays by 66 percent on average, saying such a change is needed "for the efficiency of our nation's aviation system.''

Still, FAA officials cautioned that new runways won't make O'Hare delays disappear. Even with the city's expansion plan, if fully completed, passengers and the airlines will face more than $1.7 billion annually in lost time and other costs associated with delays, the FAA said.

The city and the FAA disagree on how much the project will cost. The FAA's price tag for the two phases of the O'Hare expansion plan is about $560 million higher than cost estimate the city has cited repeatedly.

The FAA said its cost estimate accounts for recent increases in the cost of construction materials and labor.

In all, the airfield expansion, proposed passenger terminals and other airport improvements necessary to make O'Hare expansion work will cost nearly $15 billion. That doesn't include billions of dollars in interest the city must pay on the money it borrows, and several billion dollars in road and mass-transit improvements needed to transport people in and out of the airport.


Tribune staff reporter Gary Washburn contributed to this report.

BVictor1 Oct 1, 2005 4:37 AM

September 30, 2005

O'Hare: Will the pen be mightier than the backhoe?
Lawsuits seek to stop airport expansion

By Julie Jargon

With heavy equipment poised to begin the controversial expansion of O’Hare International Airport, lawyers in Washington, D.C. were scurrying to seek a stop the scheduled 2 p.m. groundbreaking. As expected Friday, Federal Aviation Administration approved a $15 billion plan to expand O’Hare by adding and reconfiguring its runways to increase the number of flights and cut congestion at one of the country’s busiest airports.

Opponents of the airport expansion, which include the neighboring towns of Elk Grove Village and Bensenville, are planning to seek an injunction today in the federal court of appeals in the district of Columbia to stop any construction.

Joseph Karaganis, an attorney representing the expansion opponents, says he hopes the requested court order will be granted this afternoon. But even if critics of the plan are successful in stopping today’s groundbreaking, it will be only the beginning of a court battle that could tie up the expansion for months.

The two towns and a nearby cemetery plan next week to file an amended complaint to an ongoing case involving the relocation of graves in the path of planned runways. That case, which has been in limbo in federal district court in Chicago for two years, can go forward now that the FAA has given the O’Hare Modernization Program its blessing. Mr. Karaganis alleges that by relocating graves, the city of Chicago and the FAA are in violation of several federal and state laws, including the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

The Karaganis-led opponents also charge that the FAA has violated federal law by approving a project before it has fully analyzed the costs involved. Legal complaints involving the cost are part of the Chicago case and also will be part of a lawsuit in the federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., where cases involving the FAA must be filed.

FAA administrator Marion Blakey this morning said the agency believes funding will be available for the $7.52 billion airfield reconfiguration it approved today. Future project phases are estimated to cost another $7 billion, and Ms. Blakey said the FAA still has to conduct further analysis on the project’s full cost.

Elk Grove Village Mayor Craig Johnson is confident that through the legal proceedings, further information about the true costs will be revealed. “We’ve been stonewalled for four years,” he says. “Information has slowly been coming out about how the project will be too costly and dangerous. Now, when we go to court, that information will finally come out. We’ve waited for this day.”

A spokesman for the city said it is awaiting further details of the expected lawsuits before commenting fully on the timeline of the massive undertaking, But the city has said in the past it expected to begin construction immediately upon receiving FAA approval.

“We’re confident (opponents) won’t meet the standards that will prevent us from moving forward with this project,” said Roderick Drew, a spokesman for the O’Hare Modernization Program, Friday.

Chi-town Oct 1, 2005 4:56 AM

Here's an interesting jobs program we can start:

Take the 1,000 meanest thugs in the city, give them the necessary tools (they can bring their own guns if they want), and set them on Elk Grove Village and Bensenville. With any luck, the towns will be destroyed by morning and we can get on for this.

Chicago Shawn Oct 1, 2005 7:55 AM


Originally Posted by HowardL

Originally Posted by Chicago Shawn
After waiting years for FAA approval, Daley has promised to break ground on the project immediately.

Daley ain't screwing around on this. From the Trib:
Race for expansion
Steve Hess with Heneghan Wrecking demolishes the Express Cargo Connection building to make way for the phase one expansion of O'Hare International Airport, Friday. Chicago's plan to expand O'Hare was approved by the Federal Aviation Administration Friday, setting off a race between workers starting site preparation for new runways and the lawsuits aimed at stopping them.
(AP photo by Charles Rex Arbogast)
Posted September 30, 2005

They have been demolishing buildings for about a year now on the northern fringe of the airport. Regaurdless of the outcome of the lawsuit, the northern runway will be built. We can thank the suburb of Des Plaines for this, because that community's clear thinking leaders know what an ecconomic engine O'Hare is and how much thier town has grown because of it. Des Plaines has been working side by side with the city on O'Hare expansion, and has volenteered to go out of its way to relocate businesses and hand the property over to the expansion commision. I have never felt so much love for my old home town. :hug: The next door shitholes of Elk Grove Village and Bensinville should take note and follow in Des Plaines' footsteps. Of coarse, they are choosing the hard way, but in the end it will just fuck them over with the legal fees, which is why Bensinville got cought stealing money out of the park district treasury to finance the losing legal battle.

Xing Oct 1, 2005 9:03 AM

I would rather expand Gary than destroy homes for an airport obviously out of space.

Chi-town Oct 1, 2005 3:07 PM


Originally Posted by Xing
I would rather expand Gary than destroy homes for an airport obviously out of space.

We need to do both. What's for sure is that we don't need Peotone.

And O'Hare isn't "out of space", they just need to remove some of the trailer trash around it.

It's more practical to have one large airport, in terms of making connections.

Rail Claimore Oct 1, 2005 7:14 PM

O'hare needs to expand with its current plans and then be done. After that, expand Gary as needed. Those idiots are wasting taxpayer dollars just to stick it up to Chicago and Mayor Daley. Some of the residents who are affected by this are getting impatient with their leaders.

Xing Oct 2, 2005 8:43 PM


Originally Posted by Chi-town

Originally Posted by Xing
I would rather expand Gary than destroy homes for an airport obviously out of space.

And O'Hare isn't "out of space", they just need to remove some of the trailer trash around it.

They're out of space.

Chi-town Oct 3, 2005 2:34 PM


Originally Posted by Xing

Originally Posted by Chi-town

Originally Posted by Xing
I would rather expand Gary than destroy homes for an airport obviously out of space.

And O'Hare isn't "out of space", they just need to remove some of the trailer trash around it.

They're out of space.

Obviously they're planning to expand, and have been doing so for years, and have been given FAA approval. They're not "out of space", they just have to tear some stuff down. If "out of space" means not having adjacent greenfields to develop, then the entire city is out of space for everything.

HowardL Oct 4, 2005 2:08 PM

From the Sun-Times:
City set to buy land for O'Hare expansion

October 4, 2005

BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter

Chicago would annex 120 acres in northwest suburban Des Plaines to make way for a new north runway at O'Hare Airport in exchange for $800,000, under an ordinance advanced Monday by a City Council committee.

City Hall has acquired the private property -- primarily businesses -- it needs to build the north runway. The annexation ratified by the Aviation Committee includes that land and the suburban streets where those businesses are located, according to Rosemarie Andolino, executive director of the O'Hare project.

The Des Plaines City Council approved the annexation on Sept. 19, choosing that alternative over condemnation. Chicago agreed to oblige in return for $800,000.

"It includes the cost of the streets, as well as the annexation of all of the property," Andolino said.

Project grounded, for now

On Friday, Mayor Daley and a host of other dignitaries stood on the site of the new runway and watched as bulldozers started demolition.

Daley's joy was dashed hours later. A federal appeals court in Washington temporarily grounded the project hours after the FAA approved it.

Opponents of O'Hare expansion have made two primary arguments: that the city's plan to relocate more than 1,300 graves at St. Johannes Cemetery violates a federal law designed to protect religious freedom; and that Daley should not be allowed to acquire and destroy property without first proving he can finance the project.

Chicago Shawn Oct 6, 2005 3:46 AM

God bless you Des Plaines. If only all suburbs worked together with the city has you have done, we would all live in a much better region. So, someone correct my if I'm wrong, but isn't this the first anneaxtion Chicago has had for about 35 years? Kick Ass, our landlocked city just got a little bigger.

the urban politician Oct 6, 2005 3:58 AM


Originally Posted by Chicago Shawn
God bless you Des Plaines. If only all suburbs worked together with the city has you have done, we would all live in a much better region. So, someone correct my if I'm wrong, but isn't this the first anneaxtion Chicago has had for about 35 years? Kick Ass, our landlocked city just got a little bigger.

^Yeah, by 120 acres!

Alright! :D

Chi-town Oct 6, 2005 4:09 AM


Originally Posted by BVictor1

The opponents argued that any removal "of the remains of a Christian once he or she is committed to the sanctified final resting spot [could prevent] the physical resurrection of his or her body on the Day of Resurrection.''

Pretty sure this argument gets thrown out in a U.S. court of law. At least I hope so.

Cemetaries are a fucking waste of space.

Chicago Shawn Oct 6, 2005 4:13 AM

Yes, graves were moved for the St. Louis airport expansion. I don't think the opposition has a chance.

And in addition to the annaxation, there is some unincorperated land that will surley be annexed in as well, so the gain will be larger than 120 Acres. I also noticed some patches of unicorperated land along I-90, which got me to thinking; If Chicago began annexing northwestward, starting with the Oaisis Mobile Home Park, it would follow along the routing of the Metra STAR Line, a great opportunity for TOD redevelopment, and it would be within the city limits too, while keeping spill over airport revenues and ecconomic growth in the city, rather than Elk Grove Village.

Rail Claimore Oct 6, 2005 8:46 AM


Originally Posted by Chi-town

Originally Posted by BVictor1

The opponents argued that any removal "of the remains of a Christian once he or she is committed to the sanctified final resting spot [could prevent] the physical resurrection of his or her body on the Day of Resurrection.''

Pretty sure this argument gets thrown out in a U.S. court of law. At least I hope so.

Cemetaries are a fucking waste of space.

I kind of wish we cremated our deceased. It would be quite the space saver.

Swede Oct 6, 2005 12:35 PM

@BV, Chi-t & Rail - Using (christian) graveyards as a way to stop any construction on grounds of making Resurrection impossible doesn't work. Hasn't worked. It's not uncommon to find 'lost' graveyards when buildings something new in old (christian) cities.

^You don't? it's the norm in Sthlm, and we're nominally christian majority.

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