May 15, 2001

Chicago Sun-Times

Support strong for new O'Hare runway

May 15, 2001


An overwhelming 90 percent of Chicago residents think something has to be done about airport delays and congestion, and the solution favored most is expanding O'Hare Airport, a new survey shows.

The survey was released the same day some of Chicago's most elite business leaders wrote an unprecedented letter calling for just that: a new runway at O'Hare.

A Sun-Times/WBBM-Channel 2 survey of 500 residents found 41 percent said expanding O'Hare was the best solution to airport congestion, compared with 29 percent who were in favor of building a new airport at Peotone. Meanwhile, 18 percent said traffic should be diverted to Gary, 10 percent favored diversion to Rockford and Milwaukee and 3 percent were not sure.

Those who oppose expansion at the airport said the results were positive because while O'Hare expansion was favored over Peotone as a solution, it did not earn support from the majority of people surveyed.

"Everybody is saying send [expansion] somewhere else, and I think that is a significant thing," Alliance of Residents Concerning O'Hare Executive Director Jack Saporito said. "The rest don't want it here. It is reassuring."

The survey was conducted by Survey USA and has a margin of error of 4.5 percentage points.

The majority of respondents said airport congestion has not caused them to use another form of transportation for their summer travel plans nor has it had a negative impact on the economy. But 40 percent said delays have caused them to avoid flying in and out of O'Hare.

The survey was released the same day the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago released the unprecedented pro-runway letter in ads that ran in Chicago newspapers.

The open letter, signed by corporate CEOs, urged Gov. Ryan and Mayor Daley to build at least one runway at O'Hare.

The anti-expansion camp responded quickly Monday, urging noise-weary residents near O'Hare to boycott some of Chicago's biggest companies in retaliation for the letter.

Saporito's group denounced the full-page ads as an "unconscionable and self-serving act" by business leaders who either don't know that O'Hare is destroying the quality of life for surrounding residents or are "too greedy" to care.

Lists of boycott targets will be mailed to 1,200 alliance members in 28 communities around O'Hare, according to Saporito. The list will include some of the city's biggest companies, banks and law firms.

R. Eden Martin, president of the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago, which prepared the pro-runway letter, sloughed off the threat.

"It's a free country. They're entitled to do what they think is appropriate, [but] they'll be boycotting a lot of companies," Martin said.

With Ryan dead set on building a third airport at Peotone and Daley favoring new runways, business leaders are pushing for a political solution aimed at pleasing both sides, Martin said.

"Peotone is not a substitute for O'Hare. But if, as part of an overall agreement that included at least one new parallel runway at O'Hare, Peotone was part of that package as a point-to-point airport, that would be a good resolution," Martin said.

[Chicago ATC News]