Video: Rahm Wants Bonds for Expanded O’Hare Terminals


Mayor Rahm Emanuel has announced yet another plan to expand O’Hare International Airport, and get Chicago’s largest airport out of the headlines as a perpetual bottleneck.  The city recently spent billions of dollars at O’Hare to add new runways and reconfigured others.  But the passenger terminals remain insufficient to handle the capacity.

Though O’Hare seems to be perpetually under construction and undergoing upgrades, it remains far behind other airports in passenger service and satisfaction.  Even at tiny airports like Charleston, South Carolina (CHS), the general boarding area for passengers is nicer than most of the first class airline lounges at O’Hare.

Hizzonor wants to spend $300 million adding nine new gates to Terminal 5, the international terminal.  That money would come from bonds sold by the city, backed by ticket taxes.  A 2015 study by the National Center for Policy Analysis showed Chicago has the fifth-highest travel taxes, even ahead of New York.

The second part of Mayor Emanuel’s plan involves yanking down Terminal 2 and starting over.  He doesn’t know how much that will cost or who’s going to pay for it.

The expansion plan is supposed to meet O’Hare’s capacity needs for the next three decades or so. It will also allow the monster Airbus A380 super duper jumbo jets to land in Chicago.  Because of it size, currently the A380 can land at just eight airports in the United States (ATL, DFW, IAD, IAH, JFK, LAX, MIA, SFO).  We recently flew on an A380 between Los Angeles and Tokyo, and it’s a little strange to think that not only is there a whole floor full of people above you, but also another level with the crew dormitory below you.

For those of you curious about where Chicago ranks on the list of the world’s busiest airports, here’s the list:

  1. ATL — Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport
  2. PEK — Beijing Capital International Airport
  3. DXB — Dubai International Airport
  4. ORD — Chicago O’Hare International Airport
  5. HND — [Tokyo] Haneda International Airport
  6. LHR — London Heathrow International Airport
  7. LAX — Los Angeles International Airport
  8. HKG — Hong Kong International Airport
  9. CGD — Paris Charles de Gaulle International Airport
  10. DFW — Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport

Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at

Share This Post On