May 23, 2001 Chicago Tribune
Daley: City will meet July deadline for O'Hare plan

Tribune staff reporter
May 22, 2001

Saying "the urgency is there," Mayor Richard Daley today promised that Chicago would produce a plan by July 1 to reconfigure O'Hare International Airport to reduce flight delays.

Daley would not say whether the plan will include new runways, but he said he will seek suggestions from outside City Hall on how O'Hare should be improved.

"I will be listening to mayors in the suburban area," Daley said. "I will be listening to the business community and labor people, everyone involved in regard to O'Hare. I hope the solution comes from us."

On Sunday, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) came out in favor of new runways at O'Hare and set a July 1 deadline for the city to produce a delay-reduction plan.

Durbin's announcement came on the heels of another senator's visit to Chicago to address the same issue. Last week, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) met with the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago to warn that unless progress was made by July to solve O'Hare's delay problem, he would introduce legislation authorizing the federal government to mandate new runways at the airport. Currently, only the governor has the power to approve additional runways.

Reminded that a new Chicago Delay Task Force, announced Monday to come up with ways to ease delays at the airport, will not complete its work by July, Daley said the plan he puts on the table this summer will not necessarily be a final one.

"You can get some concepts," he said.

On Monday, city officials flatly rejected any limits on flights at O'Hare, saying the construction of more runways and other steps were immediately necessary to accommodate growth at the airport.

A Federal Aviation Administration report released in April found that the number of flights into O'Hare exceeds capacity at least 3 hours a day, and for more than 8 hours a day when the weather is poor. The study also predicted that demand would grow three times faster than the ability of planned capacity improvements to accommodate air traffic over the next decade.

The delay task force will be co-chaired by the city and FAA and involve the Illinois and Indiana Departments of Transportation and representatives of airlines, pilots, air traffic controllers and business and general aviation.

The panel will need up to nine months to devise solutions to the delays at O'Hare, Chicago Aviation Commissioner Thomas Walker said Monday.

But Walker said that shouldn't stop Daley and Gov. George Ryan from establishing a "general framework" now to stave off the gridlock threatening O'Hare. That framework presumably would address the issues of new runways at O'Hare, which Ryan has opposed, and a new airport in Will County, which Daley has maintained would be a white elephant.

[Chicago ATC News]