Airlines' Push Back as New Runway Debuts

Airport expansion continues to cause controversy

As a new runway opens at O'Hare International Airport on Thursday, The Chicago Tribune is reporting that major airlines serving O'Hare have called for a halt to an expansion project.

The Tribune, citing documents it has obtained, reports American, United and several other airlines are calling the O'Hare plan flawed and oppose more spending on expansion.

The Daily Herald reported Thursday afternoon, however, that United's CEO, Glenn Tilton, came out saying the expansion at O'Hare has his company's "full support."

The  Tribune claimed that, according to statements sent to city and federal authorities previously, the airlines are calling Chicago's effort to move ahead with the project "premature and inappropriate" because of the decline in air travel and the airline industry's uncertain future.

The O'Hare project includes replacing intersecting runways with a parallel runway system and new passenger terminals that the airlines are now calling "ill-conceived."

The city contends the airlines are letting short-term financial concerns overshadow gains to be reaped from reconfiguring O'Hare.

This is the first new runway to open at the airport in 40 years.  The runway is 7,500 feet long and has sensors in the pavement to alert the control tower if ice forms.  It's designed to reduce weather delays, O'Hare's biggest cause of back-ups.

The Chicago Breaking News web site reportied that Mayor Richard Daley will be on the first plane to land on the new runway Thursday.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters and Federal Aviation Administration chief Bobby Sturgell will view the arrival from O'Hare's new air-traffic control tower, then go over to the runway to congratulate the mayor for reaching the first milestone in the $15 billion O'Hare expansion project, according to the site.

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