Please, no O’Hare deal without Western Access

Western Access O'Hare

Opinion Editorial by John Carpenter

As Greg Hinz reported in his February 25 column, “$8.5 billion O’Hare expansion deal about to land,” the city of Chicago is close to deal for a massive expansion of O’Hare International Airport. The new O’Hare deal includes a major step towards a providing passenger access from the west— the construction of a 10,000-space employee parking lot on O’Hare’s western edge is a start. As anticipation builds for the announcement of a final deal, establishing a western access point to the airport must remain a critical component of the overall O’Hare Modernization Project (OMP).

O’Hare International Airport is one of the world’s busiest airports, and hundreds of acres of ORD lay within DuPage County. While most appear to be focused on expanding gates and carriers, and possibly even developing a high speed express train to carry passengers back and forth from downtown, it’s important to remember the western access component of the larger OMP is critical to the overall success of the project; this effort will completely transform the economy of the entire Chicagoland region.

Since 2014, the Choose DuPage Economic Development Alliance has worked with the Illinois Tollway and regional public-and private-sector leaders to establish the Western Access O’Hare corridor as a premier global business location. The benefits from building western access are compelling. According to the Elgin-O’Hare Western Bypass Advisory Council, the economic benefits of this project include:

  • Creation of 65,000 jobs by 2040
  • Local tax revenues expected to increase by $29M annually (based on 2010 projection)
  • 13,450 jobs will be created annually in the region during construction
  • Travel delays will be reduced, saving an estimated $145M annually by 2040

There have been a number of stories written over the past few years regarding the progress of the Western Access O’Hare project, or rather, the lack of progress, due to continued gamesmanship by the City of Chicago.  There is much at stake here.  Many fail to realize the big picture impact of this incredibly important project, not only for DuPage County, but for residents and business across the Chicagoland region as whole – that means both the City as well as the surrounding suburbs.

Mayor Emanuel has recently touted O’Hare as the “best connected airport” serving one of the most diversified economies.  For this to be true, the commitment to Western Access as outlined in the OMP needs to remain a priority in the final deal the City. This project is vital to the future of our region and will remain a priority for Choose DuPage until it is complete.

Click here to view this in Crain’s Chicago Business

John Carpenter serves as the President/CEO of the Choose DuPage Economic Development Alliance. We are dedicated to establishing DuPage County as a premier global business location by working to expand and diversify the DuPage County economy through actions that stimulate business investment in its communities and generate desirable job opportunities for its residents.