O'Hare Expands Despite Lack of Funding

CHICAGO -- As city workers fear job cuts and suffer furloughs, the O'Hare Modernization Project is still moving forward. The city of Chicago is facing one of the worst economic situations ever and is more than $450 million in the red. The project, which needs an estimated $20 billion worth of taxpayer funding, is behind schedule and under-funded.

In addition to the city's budget woes, Cook County's budget is also stretched, and the board is considering $740 million in new bonds - on top of the massive sales tax increase enacted last year.

"Cook County taxpayers are being burdened with the highest sales tax increase in the country, the City of Chicago is raising taxes on everything from bottled water to parking meters, and they want to spend billions more on an ill-conceived plan that will only serve to enrich a select group of political insiders?" says Cook County Commissioner Tony Peraica.

The O'Hare Modernization Project has been criticized for fundamental design flaws, including planes having an additional 45 minute taxi time due to major airport choke points, long rides between terminals - often longer than the scheduled time of a flight - and baggage transfer issues from one terminal to the next.

The plan has already been criticized and questioned by the six major airlines who service O'Hare Airport. The slumping airline industry, which is making long-lasting cuts in fleets and labor forces, says it is in no position to commit to any more than the initial phase of startup funding for O'Hare expansion. O'Hare gates leased to United Airlines and American Airlines are already underutilized and the airlines are making more cuts, trimming their schedules by about 15 percent.

Neighbors from Park Ridge, Des Plaines and other towns are surprised and angry with major jet noise due to the new first phase "bad weather" runway that is already handling more than 350 flights a day - significantly higher than the Chicago environmental impact statement expected.

The battered Villages of Elk Grove and Bensenville that border the airport have consistently questioned the feasibility of the project. Many community leaders have pointed out the O'Hare mega-project simply doesn't make sense.

"We're in a recession. How does boarding up houses for unnecessary and unwanted airport expansion help communities? Anyone who has followed this project knows its planning and implementation simply won't help the flight delay situation at O'Hare Airport," says John Geils, president of the Village of Bensenville. "This is not the time, or the way, to move forward with a lackluster plan that will sink our economy further into debt."

"This project has an estimated $20 billion price tag and nobody can accurately predict what the value will be," continues Geils. "Supporters want taxpayers to pick up the cost of the O'Hare project in the midst of job cuts and profound financial insecurity. Save the jobs. End the expansion."

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