City Looks To Seal Midway Contract

Sept. 27--The city of Chicago can earn a little money if it cuts costs at Midway Airport under a new profit-sharing agreement with airlines that's part of a proposed 15-year deal.

The City Council Aviation Committee on Wednesday recommended approval of a contract that would see up to $1.5 million a year returned to the city for projects at the Southwest Side airport if there is an operating budget surplus at Midway.

The current agreement, which expires Dec. 31, allows for some revenue sharing, but Aviation Department spokeswoman Karen Pride described the deal as "ineffective and inadequate."

Aviation Commissioner Rosemarie Andolino said the proposed pact is better for the city because it "gives us an incentive to find efficiencies and cut costs." She pointed to airport beautification projects such as new planters as a possible use for money the city gets back.

The proposal also would lock in participating airlines to pay a total of at least $1.1 billion for ongoing construction projects, including the development of a consolidated car rental area, and future ones such as runway renovations and upgraded security screening stations for passengers, Andolino told aldermen.

The city now has to negotiate those payments on a year-by-year basis, she said. Airlines that don't sign on will pay 25 percent more for gate fees and various services at the airport.

The new airport use agreement would have no bearing on any possible move by the city to privatize Midway, Andolino said. "They're completely separate," she said.

In 2009, Mayor Richard Daley attempted to lease the airport for 99 years for a $2.5 billion payment. The deal fell through when investors could not secure funding. Mayor Rahm Emanuel has been noncommittal about privatizing Midway, but his administration has gotten an extension from the Federal Aviation Administration to keep the option.

Asked Wednesday about the potential for a Midway lease, Andolino noted that the Luis Munoz Marin International Airport near San Juan, Puerto Rico, recently was privatized. Andolino said city aviation officials are looking at that pact and considering taking steps in order to secure the potential of privatizing Midway.

"We have a place card holder right now, from the previous transaction," Andolino said. "And so that is still open until the end of this year."

To keep that spot, the city would need to be ready to issue requests for qualifications to investors by the end of the year, she said.

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