Appeals Court Blocks Chicago From Taking Over Cemetery for Airport Expansion

A federal appeals court Friday temporarily blocked the city of Chicago from taking over a suburban cemetery in the path of the planned $15 billion expansion of O'Hare International Airport.

The goal of the expansion is to reduce flight delays at one of the nation's busiest airports by reconfiguring runways, adding others and building another terminal.

Opponents argue that it isn't worth the cost and the damage to nearby communities. They say relocating graves in St. Johannes Cemetery to clear space for a new runway would violates owners' constitutional rights.

The injunction issued by a three-judge panel of the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals means the city can't receive the legal title to the cemetery until the panel makes a permanent ruling on an appeal filed by attorneys for the cemetery, whose lawsuit was dismissed last month.

A spokeswoman for the city's legal department, Jennifer Hoyle, said Friday's ruling will have little affect on the expansion plans. City officials can still survey property at the cemetery and talk to plot owners, she said.

In a separate case, the city has agreed not to disturb any graves at the cemetery until a federal appeals court in Washington rules on another lawsuit opponents have filed against the Federal Aviation Administration.

The FAA says the expansion will reduce delays by 68 percent if the work ends on schedule in 2013.

The airport expansion would force about 2,600 people and nearly 200 businesses in the Chicago suburbs of Bensenville, Des Plaines and Elk Grove Village to relocate.

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