CHICAGO (CBS) — City Council cleared the way on Wednesday for a massive plan to expand O’Hare International Airport.

“This will secure our place for years, for decades to come and will continue to make this the economic engine, with the growth and job creation we seek for all our residents,” said Mayor Emanuel, who travel to the airport to take a victory bow. “This is a watershed moment.

By a vote of 40-to-1, aldermen gave the green light to borrow up to $4 billion for the $8.5 billion project, CBS 2’s Derrick Blakley reports.

The expansion deal would add dozens of gates at O’Hare by replacing Terminal 2 with a new Global Terminal with wider concourses, renovating the other three terminals, and adding two new satellite concourses.

The deal would be funded by higher fees charged to the major airlines. No taxpayer dollars would be used for the project.

“This is a huge step forward for the City of Chicago,” said 40th Ward Ald. Pat O’Connor, “This will put O’Hare at the forefront of airports not just in Chicago but around the world.”

One key to council passage: creation of an oversight commission to ensure  minority contractors don’t get squeezed out.

“We’re going to make sure we keep compliance by staying involved in the project going forward,” said 6th Ward Ald. Roderick Sawyer.

The goal: 26 percent minority-owned and six percent women-owned contractors.

Minority aldermen, with their 29 votes in council, are warning they hold the hammer.

“As minorities make up 60 percent of the City of Chicago, it’s imperative that people working on the projects reflect the population of the city,” said 36th Ward Ald. Gilbert Villegas.

Under the proposed expansion plan, the number of gates at O’Hare would increase from 185 to 220, and 3.1 million square feet of new terminal space would be added – a 72 percent increase.

Construction would take eight years, with completion scheduled for 2026.

 

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