May 18, 2001

Chicago Sun-Times

City releases old plans for new runways

May 18, 2001


As the debate over O'Hare Airport's future intensifies, the City of Chicago on Thursday re-released controversial documents that show once-secret plans for new and reconfigured runways.

Many of the scenarios, which city officials portrayed as "outdated and conceptual," would require relocating roads, knocking down homes and gobbling suburban property.

One of the seven options would require the purchase of nearly 400 acres of land, while most options would affect 500 "housing units" and increase noise for thousands of residents.

Suburban activists contend the option that was most recently developed, calling for creating four parallel east-west strips, is still active.

"That is what they're working on now, as they speak," said Elk Grove Village President Craig Johnson, adding that he is unfamiliar with the other options.

"Plans change," insisted Susan Herdina, a deputy corporation counsel with the city, which owns O'Hare.

The documents were produced by consultants in 1994 and 1998, and nothing more current exists, Chicago aviation spokeswoman Monique Bond said.

"They're outdated--merely conceptual," she said.

Conceptual or not, the plans could serve as a launching point for future planning, which is on the horizon now that the city, airlines and federal government are reconvening a task force to re-examine flight delays and, probably, recommend once again that runways be built or realigned.

In 1995, suburban officials sued the city, which fought to keep documents secret. The Illinois Supreme Court ordered them released in 1998, and they were made public by both sides. However, a DuPage County judge then ordered them sealed, an order overturned by the Illinois Appellate Court last week.

Johnson said the city is "trying to do a preemptive strike" by making the documents available Thursday, days before suburban officials hold a news conference to explain, among other things, that "these documents show clearly that Chicago is not looking for new runways just for bad weather; they need it for capacity."

[Chicago ATC News]