Chicago will spend 8.5 billion U.S. dollars to extensively upgrade its O’Hare International Airport in the next eight years, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced last night.
Calling it a “historic plan,” Emanuel said the largest terminal expansion project in O’Hare’s history would deliver better gate capacity and connectivity, and an improved passenger experience by 2026.
“This plan is not just a game changer for O’Hare, it is a turning point for Chicago that will create tens of thousands of jobs for Chicagoans and strengthen our great city’s position as a national and global leader in travel, tourism and trade for generations,” said the mayor.
The announcement marks the first major improvements to O’Hare’s terminals in more than 25 years.
According to the plan, the air hub’s Terminal 5 will undergo an upgrade and expansion, with Terminal 2 to be largely demolished and rebuilt to include a brand new international arrivals facility, and renovations made to Terminals 1 and 3.
The upgrades are set to grow O’Hare’s overall terminal square footage by more than 60 percent. After the expansion, the amount of space for planes to park at terminals will be increased by 25 percent to roughly 220 gates from today’s 185.
The city of Chicago hopes the project will create 60,000 construction jobs through 2026 and drive significant growth for the region.
To support infrastructure improvements, the city is seeking authority to issue up to 4 billion U.S. dollars in bonds to help facilitate the start of the project.
However, the American Airlines and United Airlines, both based in the airport, are reportedly at odds on the distribution of gates.
O’Hare is one of the busiest airports in the world by the number of takeoffs and landings, with direct service to more than 200 destinations.