CHICAGO (AP) -- The planned expansion of O'Hare International Airport flew into turbulence recently when the city said it couldn't spare the money for a $250 million taxiway and the federal government insisted the aircraft access road be built.
The Federal Aviation Administration told city aviation officials last week that they must guarantee that the ''LL'' taxiway will be built by the time Runway 10 Center/28 center is opened, the Chicago Tribune reported in Monday's editions, citing documents it obtained.
The taxiway is a critical element in the city's $6.6 billion airport expansion project designed to dramatically reduce delays at O'Hare and increase the airport's capacity to handle hundreds of thousands of additional flights a year.
Without the runway, congestion problems could persist and the reconfigured O'Hare could be more prone to accidents, the FAA and air traffic controllers say.
The ''LL'' taxiway was part of the airfield design the city submitted to the FAA almost two years ago. Under the design, aircraft landing on two runways, 28 Left and 28 Center, would taxi on ''LL'' by intersecting Runway 28 Right at a safe distance behind planes taking off from that runway.
But the city has told the airlines that the taxiway would cost as much as $250 million to build, and the airport's two largest carriers _ American Airlines and United Airlines _ have refused to help pay for it.
In April, when the city distributed a revised draft of an airfield layout map to the FAA, the taxiway was no longer on it, leaving no clear path to the terminals for arrivals. Instead, pilots from hundreds of inbound flights would have to cross the middle of 28 Right in front of takeoffs, forcing departing planes to wait.
''We don't want to get into the situation of bringing planes across the middle of an active runway,'' FAA spokesman Tony Molinaro said. ''That would require adding space between flights and slowing down everything to ensure safety.''
Chicago aviation officials like to point to the 31-year-old airport in Dallas as a proven model for the parallel runways envisioned at the future O'Hare International Airport.
Mayor Richard Daley said construction would begin immediately after the FAA gives final approval for the plan, which is expected by September.
The first new O'Hare runway in the eight-runway configuration will not open until at least 2008, a full year later than the city's original schedule.