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O’Hare’s latest runway extension paves the way for $8.5B terminal revamp

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The changes will mean better service and fewer delays for air travelers

An airliner hovers above a runway as its makes a landing at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport.
O’Hare will soon be able to handle more frequent flights by larger aircraft.

On Friday, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot joined state, federal, and airline officials to break ground on an extension of one of O’Hare International Airport’s most heavily used runway. The $334 million project will add 3,000 feet to runway 9R/27L and improve passenger service by increasing O’Hare’s capacity to handle more frequent flights by larger, long-haul aircraft.

Expected to be completed in 2021, the extension represents the last piece of the ongoing O’Hare Modernization Project (OMP), which realigned the airport’s intersecting web of runways into six parallel east-west approach and departure paths. The changes have helped reduce delays at the nation’s busiest airport.

The extension paves the way (quite literally) for the next phase of airport improvements, known as O’Hare 21. Approved by the city in the spring, the larger $8.5 billion overhaul includes the O’Hare Global Terminal—a 2.2 million-square-foot replacement for Terminal 2—designed by a joint venture led by Chicago architecture firm Studio Gang. O’Hare 21 also includes a pair of SOM-designed satellite concourses and an expansion of Terminal 5, which broke ground in March.

A conceptual rendering showing the location of the new O’Hare Global Terminal and satellite concourse.
Chicago Department of Aviation

The terminal realignment is expected to wrap up in 2028. As is the case with the extension of runway 9R/27L, the O’Hare 21 project will be funded through a combination of federal and airline funds.

“We are very excited to begin the final phase of the O’Hare Modernization Project as we move forward with our full vision for O’Hare airport with the $8.5 billion O’Hare 21 program,” said Mayor Lightfoot on Friday in a statement.

“Chicago’s status as a global city rests on O’Hare’s ability to handle the ever increasing demand capacity, and today’s groundbreaking stands as a major milestone in ensuring a seamless experience for everyone passing through our city for years to come,” added the mayor.

O'Hare International Airport

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