Currently, the City of Chicago estimates $14.8 billion as the cost for its O’Hare Modernization Program (OMP). That’s a tremendous amount of money. But unlike Peotone’s new airport project, this program will help downstate airports like Peoria.
The OMP currently anticipates a new northern runway, reconfiguration of existing runways, 1.5 million square feet of terminal work, parking facilities, a people moving system, and new airport access road(s). The runway work will reduce delays substantially and increase O’Hare’s capacity. Currently, the FAA has placed flight restrictions on O’Hare to deal with the delay problems. The delays and resulting problems cost both the consumer and the airlines millions of dollars. The OMP anticipates a combined $750 million annual savings to air passengers and airlines.
O’Hare is still a major gateway for Peoria. In 2004, more than 75 million people used O’Hare International Airport to access domestic and international markets and places of leisure. An efficient and reliable O’Hare provides Peoria with an advantage over similar sized markets as we, too, can access those same markets/locations in a cost-effective manner.
Peoria is fortunate that with nine daily flights to O’Hare—five daily on American Eagle and four daily on United Express—not only do we have good access to O’Hare, but we have better reliability by having multiple options over the course of a day to and from O’Hare.
We’re still working hard to diversify our air service and to provide multiple avenues to these same national and world markets. However, O’Hare will continue to play a significant role in air service. The FAA recently closed public comment on this plan and expects to issue a Record of Decision by the end of September or early October 2005, subject to delays caused by the opponents to the expansion. Hopefully, we’ll all hear soon that much-needed O’Hare improvements are a reality. IBI