Officials Break Ground on O'Hare Airport's Terminal 5 Expansion

This phase of the massive, multibillion-dollar plan to expand the entire airport will add 10 new gates at Terminal 5

Chicago and airline officials broke ground Wednesday on an upgrade and expansion of O'Hare International Airport's Terminal 5.

This phase of the massive, multibillion-dollar plan to expand the entire airport aims to add 10 new gates at the terminal by 2021. 

"Chicago and its airline partners are propelling the nation’s best-connected travel hub to the next level, starting with a more than $1 billion infusion that will bring new gates and expanded amenities to Terminal 5," said Mayor Rahm Emanuel in a statement.

It will increase the space of the 25-year-old terminal by about 350,000 square feet, city officials said in a statement, allowing for new passenger amenities, airline lounges, concession spaces and more.

This phase is part of an $8.5 billion overhaul of O'Hare that will be the airport's first major capital improvement in more than 25 years, and its largest ever, according to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who will be in attendance at the groundbreaking Wednesday.

Under the plan, Terminal 2, which is 55 years old, will be torn down to make way for the new "O’Hare Global Terminal" that will streamline customs and immigration processing, according to Emanuel. It will also allow for wider concourses and gates to accommodate larger planes on international flights.

Terminals 1 and 3 will also undergo renovations, officials said. In total, the proposal will increase gate capacity by 25 percent and increase terminal square footage from 5.5 to 8.9 million square feet, according to the City of Chicago.

The plan also includes improvements to security screening in an effort to reduce wait times, three new baggage systems as well as new self-service technologies to make the check-in process faster and easier, Emanuel said.

The deal was approved by City Council in March 2018 and came as the airlines neared the end of a 35-year lease. Emanuel sought to leverage that expiration to obtain higher fees from carriers that will in turn finance the project, paying back bonds issued for the construction without using tax dollars.

In all, the expansion is projected to take 8 years and will create 60,000 construction jobs, the City said.

The next phase of the project is moving forward on design and construction of new concourses, Emanuel said, then the creation of the "Global Terminal" by 2028.

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