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Report: United Balking At O’Hare Expansion Pace

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O'Hare Airport (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

O’Hare Airport (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

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CHICAGO (WBBM/CBS) – As Mayor Richard M. Daley winds down his time in office, one of his pet projects is running into headwinds.

WBBM Newsradio 780’s Regine Schlesinger reports that Chicago-based United Airlines reportedly is balking at the pace of the O’Hare Modernization Program.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Regine Schlesinger Reports

The O’Hare expansion program has been flying along, but now, Crain’s Chicago Business reports United wants to slow it down.

The projected growth in air traffic envisioned when the project first began has not materialized, first because of the shocks of Sept. 11, 2001, and more recently because of the Great Recession.

DePaul University aviation expert Joe Schwieterman says that all has the airlines rethinking their commitment.

“The city has built an entire new north runway. They’ve extended others. They’re working on the runway through the old cemetery. They’ve made some great progress,” Schwieterman said. “But Phase 2 requires some massive investments, and that’s relocating Irving Park Road. That’s where I think the real pressure is on the airlines.”

Among the objections, United and American Airlines have been resisting calls to help pay for a new western terminal that would be used primarily by other carriers.

Earlier this year, the City Council approved a plan to issue $1 billion in bonds for the O’Hare expansion project.

The project calls for building one new runway, extending another runway and relocating a third. A new northern runway opened in November2008, and about 500 former homes and businesses in west suburban Bensenville are being demolished to make way for the expanded airport.

St. Johannes Cemetery is also being moved for the project.

But overall, the $15 billion expansion project is still less than halfway done.

With Mayor Daley leaving office, it’s not known how committed his successor will be to O’Hare expansion.

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