Will Lightfoot ground O’Hare’s $8.5B expansion project?

New documents show administration is “assessing timing” on massive undertaking, but spokesperson says airport project is “moving forward”

Chicago /
Sep.September 21, 2020 02:01 PM
Mayor Lori LightfootLightfoot and a rendering of O’Hare International Airport (Photos via Getty; HOK)

Mayor Lori LightfootLightfoot and a rendering of O’Hare International Airport (Photos via Getty; HOK)

Will Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot delay the massive expansion project at O’Hare International Airport?

The administration is “assessing timing” on the $8.5 billion project, according to Crain’s, citing city documents filed as part of a pending deal to refinance $1.24 billion in O’Hare-related debt. The 2028 completion date is also now “subject to change,” the documents noted.

The potential shift comes as the nation’s busiest airport continues to feel the impact of the pandemic. The number of travelers is expected to drop 62 percent this year. Projections for 2021 show that the number of air travelers at O’Hare will be two-thirds of pre-Covid levels, Crain’s noted. Expectations are that the 2019 level of 42.2 million travelers won’t be surpassed until 2024.

Despite the documents, a spokesperson for the city, Matt McGrath, said it was “moving forward, period, full stop,” with the terminal project.

The expansion is being led by Skidmore Owings & Merrill, which signed a $140 million contract to design two terminals. In addition to work by two other designers, the airport is expected to be expanded by 60 percent, if all goes to plan.

Hotels in that O’Hare market have been hammered, with an increasing number shutting down in the months since the virus took hold. Owners of some that see little hope for recovery have already put the properties on the market. [Crain’s] — Sasha Jones


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