Green Light for $7.1 Billion Chicago O’Hare Revamp After Four-year Wait

Kevin Rozario


November 30, 2022

mod chicago ohare new global terminal

Impression of Chicago O'Hare's New Global Terminal.

© O'Hare Int'l Airport

The fourth busiest airport in the United States (based on 2021 traffic data) has been given the all-clear by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for the construction of two new satellite concourses and a new terminal that will transform the hub.

Chicago O'Hare (ORD), last week, celebrated the FAA decision after a long environmental review that started in 2018. It means that the airport can start on a series of infrastructure projects costing an estimated $7.1 billion, chief of which will be the new O’Hare Global Terminal that will replace Terminal 2.

The FAA review found there is “no significant impact” of the so-called Terminal Area Plan (TAP) from the Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA) which administers all aspects of ORD and Midway International Airport. The total TAP budget—which includes on-airport hotels, airfield and taxiway improvements, and the FAA’s own proposal to make permanent angled approaches to Runway 10R/28L—is about 59% of the current overall capital plan for the airport.

mod chicago ohare night v2

Night-time view of ORD

© O'Hare Int'l Airport

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg commented: “Chicago’s transportation infrastructure is what makes this city an economic powerhouse of global importance. As we prepare to break ground on O’Hare’s newest terminal, Chicago and this entire region will be positioned to grow and create good-paying jobs through the benefits of first-rate infrastructure.”

Works Begin Next Spring

Construction is planned to start on the satellite concourses and related airfield work in spring 2023, with the current timeline suggesting that the first concourse will be completed in 2027 and the second one in 2028.

When finished, the concourses will provide approximately 1.3 million square feet of gate and amenity space and dramatically expand the airport’s ability to accommodate both narrow- and wide-body aircraft. Opening the satellites first will allow ORD to maintain gate capacity when existing gates are withdrawn from service to allow construction of the O’Hare Global Terminal.

The latter project is scheduled to start in 2026 with the demolition of Terminal 2, the airport’s oldest passenger facility, occurring in phases. The target completion date of the new terminal is 2030. Construction of a large tunnel connecting passengers, baggage, and utilities between the O’Hare Global Terminal and the satellite concourses is set to begin in 2024 with a completion date of 2030 as well.

mod chicago ohare Buttigieg

Buttigieg: “Chicago and this entire region will be positioned to grow through the benefits of first-rate infrastructure.”

An Integrated Facility

When the Global Terminal is finished it “will be one of the most significant terminal developments in America” according to City of Chicago Mayor, Lori Lightfoot. It will more than double the space of the existing T2 and allow for the integration of international and domestic operations for ORD’s two hub carriers, American and United.

President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law has made more than $73 million available to O’Hare and more than $20 million to Midway International Airport in the first year. The law created three programs, investing $25 billion total over five years into the U.S. aviation system.

ORD is one of only two airports in the United States coming out of the pandemic with two higher credit ratings than it had going into it, with two recent upgrades from Fitch Ratings, and one from S&P Global Ratings on two bonds. These are the first rating upgrades for O’Hare in at least six years.

The FAA operates three air traffic control towers at ORD and manages more than 700,000 annual arrivals and departures on eight runways at the airport.

[Lead image: An impression of the new O’Hare Global Terminal (Courtesy of O’Hare Int’l Airport.)]