The project, which will add dozens of gates and hundreds of thousands of square feet of passenger and retail space, will be one of the largest public works programs in the city’s history. It will come later and cost more than originally expected, but officials said the scope remains the same.
Under the latest plan, two new remote satellite terminals will be the first to open, in 2027 and 2028, off the existing Terminal 1, where most United Airlines flights are located.
Once that is done, full-scale work will begin on the centerpiece of the project. the demolition and reconstruction of Terminal 2, which will be converted into a combined domestic and international terminal. That will locate customs and related facilities at the center of the airport, and not at the somewhat remote Terminal 5, as is the case now.
Officials had estimated the project’s cost at $8.5 billion—but that’s in 2018 dollars, when the plan was unveiled and approved by the City Council under former Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
The total cost of the project is now $12.1 billion, Chicago’s Aviation Commissioner Jamie Rhee said today. The increase is due to a combination of inflation and extra projects that airlines have agreed to, she said.
The project will be funded by federal grants and taxes on airlines and passengers, not by general city revenue like property taxes.
“This is about remaining competitive on a global stage,” said Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who along with US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg made the official announcement at O’Hare today. “Everything we do will have a major effect both in Chicago and throughout the country.”
Lightfoot noted that the soon-to-be-demolished Terminal 2, where today’s news conference was held, was officially opened in 1963 by President John F. Kennedy. The new terminal project will be a milestone as well, she said.
Rhee declined to say exactly when construction work will begin, but declared that the two satellite terminals will open in 2027 and 2028.
Work on the new Terminal 2 will begin in phases in 2026 and be completed along with all other projects by 2030.
Buttigieg could not say for sure if Chicago will win a competition for major federal funding for the project, but he did say, “I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of strong applications from Chicago came in.”
In its statement, the FAA said it “concluded that proposed construction projects and changes to air traffic procedures will not significantly affect any environmental resources, including noise, air quality, water resources and historic sites.”
US Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, who serves on the House Infrastructure Committee, also attended the news conference. He is also running for mayor. He stood several feet to Lightfoot’s left, and did not speak.