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Larger Terminal 5, central Terminal 2 highlight O’Hare upgrades

O'Hare | Getty Images

The next step in a multi-million-dollar expansion and renovation of O’Hare International Airport will include expanding one terminal, redeveloping another, and building new gates, all without taxpayer money, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced Friday.

At a press conference announcing the project, Emanuel said the “O’Hare 21” initiative, for which planning will be complete in 2017, will “support tens of thousands of jobs and economic opportunities in Chicago.”

Terminal 5 — the international terminal — will be enlarged by 25 percent and will get up to nine more gates; that project is already under way, Emanuel said. The $300 million project, the first expansion of Terminal 5 since since it opened in 1993, means airlines will be able to add flights to more destinations, with increased frequency.

It is expected to support 1,100 jobs, according to a statement from the mayor’s office.

Terminal 2, meanwhile, will become “a new central terminal within the existing terminal complex,” and will add more international flights to “solidify O’Hare’s role as an international gateway and strengthen the airport’s connectivity, capacity, and efficiency,” Emanuel said.

A new central terminal would also allow arriving passengers to leave the airport faster, or make connecting flights more easily, Emanuel said.

The terminal could include a new U.S. Customs facility, a departure hall, additional space for TSA screening, concessions, and other passenger amenities. It would also allow for new concourses to the west if passenger demand dictates.

“This is an important step forward in our ongoing work to ensure that O’Hare serves as the economic engine for the people of Chicago and an international gateway for travelers around the world,” Emanuel said. “From adding more gates and improving the international terminal, to constructing the most efficient runway system in the country, we are ensuring that O’Hare continues to be an economic driver for the city of Chicago long into the future.”

The project will use federal, state and local dollars, as well as money from airlines and other business partners to “complement ongoing capital improvements already taking place,” the mayor’s office said. “This multi-million dollar investment – which will not use local taxpayer dollars – will support more than 1,250 jobs and generate millions of dollars in economic activity for the city.”

“As Chicago’s hometown airline, we are committed to building a stronger, more vibrant O’Hare that will help elevate the travel experience for our customers,” Oscar Munoz, United Airlines president and CEO said in a statement.

“As the world’s largest airline, we recognize that this is an important step in the development of O’Hare into a first-class, 21st century airport so that it remains an integral part of our global network,” American Airlines chairman and CEO Doug Parker said. “Over the next 18 months, before the expiration of our current lease, American Airlines will continue to work with the City of Chicago to propel the customer experience at O’Hare into the future.”