WASHINGTON–Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood played a critical role in crafting the compromise between Mayor Daley and O’Hare’s major airlines, United and American, allowing the resumption of expansion and modernization of O’Hare.
*LaHood was “distressed” that the January lawsuit filed by United and American threatened the O’Hare project; the federal government already invested millions in the expansion.
*The airline CEO’s and Daley met for hours in LaHood’s office here on Feb. 9.
*Once the principles departed, teams from the airlines, city and Transportation department kept talking.
*Talks between top staffers moved to Chicago and were up and down during a three-week period. LaHood stressed the parties needed to work this out and made calls to nudge along the deal.
*Critical to the deal LaHood brokered:
1. Construction of the south runway will resume now with other building decisions deferred as long as March 1, 2013.
2. An additional $155 million in new federal money LaHood was able to obtain for O’Hare, which plays a central role in the nation’s aviation system. Of that, $105 million is for the south runway. Overall, the federal investment in the O’Hare project is $955 million.
3. Chicago agreed that a Western Terminal Complex will only be built when the airlines–who will foot the bill– decide there is enough demand.