CHICAGO (CBS) — A newly-extended runway at O’Hare International Airport is finished.

The completion of the runway marks the end of a construction project that has been going on for 16 years. The $6 billion O’Hare Modernization Program was designed to reduce delays and get ready for future terminal development.

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“The OMP is a tremendous investment in both our airport infrastructure and economy, as it will support job creation, catalyze economic growth and create business opportunities across our communities,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in a news release. “Thanks to this project, which features eight completed runways, we will be able to reduce delays and increase O’Hare’s efficiency—allowing us to build on the airport’s reputation as one of the best in the country. I want to thank all of the government, aviation, contracting and labor partners who made the OMP possible and look forward to seeing how it continues to bolster our city’s post-pandemic economic recovery.”

The project reconfigured the runway system at O’Hare into a series of parallel east-west runways that have increased capacity at the airport. Since the project began controllable system delays have dropped by 64 percent when comparing the years from 2003 until 2008 to the years from 2009 until 2020.

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“Thanks to the tremendous support of participating federal agencies and our air carrier partners, the CDA was able to accomplish one of the largest runway reconfiguration projects in the world, Jamie L. Rhee, Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Aviation, said in the release. “The $6 million invested in O’Hare’s airfield has led to the creation of tens of thousands of jobs and work for diverse businesses of all sizes.”

The project – which began when Richard M. Daley was mayor – has involved the construction of four new runways and the extension of two existing runways. It has also involved the construction two new air traffic control towers and the relocation of numerous facilities.

The latest work involved the extension of Runway 9R-27L by about 3,290 feet for a total length of 11,260 feet.

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The money for the project came from the Chicago Department of Aviation, which does not use local or state tax dollars.

CBS 2 Chicago Staff