Cost On Mayor's Plan More Than Doubles
Chicago Mayor Richard Daley's plan
for revamping O'Hare International Airport will cost more than
twice the amount promised by the man aviators love to hate -- and
may prove to be altogether unworkable, according to the Chicago
Daley, widely villanized for the midnight destruction of the
runway at Meigs Field, originally proposed a $6.6 billion plan to
add runways, terminals and other facilities at O'Hare. Now, the
price tag for that plan is $14.8 billion, according to documents
submitted by the Daley administration to the FAA.
And, say opponents, that ain't all.
"The city's $14.8 billion estimate doesn't include a
western-access road or any of the other $3.9 billion in road and
mass-transit projects near the airport that the city itself said
are critical to the success of its modernization plan," said Joseph
Del Balzo, a consultant hired by Bensenville and Elk Grove Village
-- two Chicago suburbs that are leading opposition to the mayor's
O'Hare expansion plan. Almost as an afterthought, he told the
Tribune, "And I still believe the city's figures for the airfield
expansion alone are on the low side."
City aviation officials insist that the heart of the proposal --
a $6.6 billion runway expansion/reconfiguration plan -- remains the
same in 2001 dollars. But they now admit, to make that plan work,
they'll have to build two new terminals and renovate one that
already exists. Add to that the cost of repairs over 20 years, debt
service, operating and maintenance expenses... the total bill comes
up to more than $15 billion. Offset by $537 million in non-airline
revenue, that brings the price tag to $14.8 billion.
Can it be done? Rosemarie Andolino, who heads up the O'Hare
expansion project, says the costs are "reasonable" when put up
against other major hub airport renovation projects.
But lawyer Joseph Karaganis, who represents the Suburban O'Hare
Commission, says, "It's clear the Feds and the airlines cannot
afford this plan. The dollar figures the city now acknowledges are
what we thought they were going to be."
The FAA still has to conduct an environmental impact study on
Daley's expansion plan. Federal officials say the plan will go
nowhere until that's completed. Chicago Aviation Director Thomas
Walker tells the Tribune he's confident in the plan because it's
flexible. Stand by for change orders...