FAA: Chicago O’Hare Can Begin ‘Global Terminal’ Project

Credit: Stacey Wescott/Tribune Content Agency LLC/Alamy Stock Photo

Chicago O’Hare (ORD) has been granted environmental clearance by the US FAA to begin a massive construction project that will culminate in a new terminal opening in 2030 housing both international and domestic flights.

Since 2018, the FAA has been conducting an environmental impact review of the planned ORD expansion. The project will include the demolishing of ORD’s Terminal 2, to be replaced by a “Global Terminal” aimed at facilitating smoother connections between international and domestic flights at the mega hub. Both American Airlines and United Airlines operate hubs at ORD.

O’Hare’s terminal plan is slated to cost $7.1 billion.

Construction will begin in the spring. First up will be building two satellite concourses to be completed in 2027 and 2028, respectively. These concourses will allow ORD to maintain traffic levels while Terminal 2, the airport’s oldest, is demolished and the new Global Terminal is built. Completion of the new terminal is targeted for 2030.

“When completed, the satellite concourses will provide approximately 1.3 million square feet of gate and amenity space and dramatically expand the airport's flexibility to accommodate both narrow and widebody aircraft, which allows for a more efficient use of the terminal facilities,” the Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA) said in a statement. “Opening the satellite facilities first will allow O'Hare to maintain gate capacity when existing gates are withdrawn from service to allow construction on the O'Hare Global Terminal to begin later this decade."

The CDA added that the new terminal will have more than double the space of the existing Terminal 2 and allow for "the integration of international and domestic operations for the airport's two hub carriers.”

The US Transportation Department (DOT), which oversees the FAA, touted the project as economically critical for Chicago.

“Chicago’s transportation infrastructure is what makes this city an economic powerhouse of global importance,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, in Chicago to announce the FAA’s green light on Nov. 21, said. “Now, as we prepare to break ground on O’Hare’s newest terminal, Chicago and this entire region will be positioned to grow and create good-paying jobs through the benefits of first-rate infrastructure, beginning with the construction project itself.”

The FAA said in a statement it “concluded that proposed [ORD] construction projects and changes to air traffic procedures will not significantly affect any environmental resources, including noise, air quality, water resources and historic sites.”

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who joined Buttigieg at ORD for the announcement of the FAA’s decision, said: “O'Hare is the lifeblood of Chicago's economy, directly employing tens of thousands of Illinois residents and bringing more than 70 million passengers to and through our city each year. The next phase of work will expand O'Hare's capacity to serve travelers and improve the customer experience, transforming it into one of the greatest airports of the 21st century."

Aaron Karp

Aaron Karp is a Contributing Editor to the Aviation Week Network.