Friday, July 5, 2019

Chicago's Three "Third Airport" Plans and O'Hare's Expansion

Just a few days ago I came across information about a third airport in Lake Michigan. Then yesterday I came across a map for a third airport in Southeast Chicago. And every time I drive past Peotone I  think of how long I would have to drive just to get someone to the airport. Fortunately, someone decided modern airplanes no longer have to land and takeoff into the wind thus all of the runways at O'Hare can be east/west. That allows them, with the addition of some land on the southwest corner, to fit in eight runways so that they can expand O'Hare rather than build a third airport.

1970 Airport in the Lake

I didn't move to the Chicago area until 1973, so I didn't hear about the proposal to build an airport in the lake in the daily news.
Chicago did open an airport in the Lake, Meigs Field, in 1948, but it was too small for commercial airlines. (Actually, a 727 that United donated to the Museum of Science and Industry did land there. The runway is about half the distance of O'Hare's shortest runway.) Ironically, it was the mayor's son that tore it up in 2003 by putting some X's in the runway one night. He used the 9/11/2001 attack as his excuse.
By Zargnut - Own workCC0Link, cropped

Since then, building airports on artificial islands has happened in Asia more than once. I remember that Hong Kong's airport is on an island. I saw a TV show about how they are jacking up the building to compensate for the island sinking more than they expected. When I Googled "hong kong airport sinking," I found that a Japanese airport pioneered island airports, but it is still plagued by excessive sinking.

Early 1990s, Tear Down a lot of Southeast Chicago

I do remember reading about this proposal during its planning stage. But this is the first time I have seen a map of what would be destroyed to make room for it.
Tony Margis posted
Thank gosh this never happened!
This airport is evidence that the Democratic Machine doesn't care about Chicago south of Bridgeport. (E.g. after building 22 dog parks in the north and two in the loop, they finally built one south of 18th Street in Calumet Park.) I can remember an argument for it was that it would use airplane money to clean up the land caused by all of the industry that was down there. I do remember the complaints about the plan gutting entire residential neighborhoods. But if you look at what the city did to build the Dan Ryan and other expressways and to build the Chicago campus of U of I, gutting neighborhoods was not a big issue to the city planners. Although they learned with the Crosstown Expressway that it is a big issue for other people.

Looking at the map, it would have severed the Illinois Waterway's connection to the Great Lakes. It saves the Ford Assembly plant itself, but it guts its car loading and railroad service, NS/Nickle Plate. And it would have gotten rid of the industrial area that is now a refuge for the industries being kicked out of the Goose Island area because of gentrification of the north side.

Peotone Area

The plan to build a third airport down by Peotone, IL, was in the press for years. I remember a lot of land had been bought for this plan. Fortunately, they figured out how to expand O'Hare and dropped this plan. Even if they added more lanes to I-57, getting there would be a pain. And I live in the west suburbs. The people living in the ritzy north suburbs would have an even longer drive to the airport.

(Aug 2019 Update: Peotone was back in the news because now it is being proposed as an eCommerce airport for Amazon, etc. But UPS and others are happy with Rockford Airport. It seems that some people have found study jobs studying boondoggles. In addition to the third airport, there is the US-53 extension to the north and a new Lake Shore route down the Indiana/Illinois border along the old Monon route. Unfortunately, Rauner managed to permanently kill the expressway that would have gone south of the Chicagoland area and bypassed I-80 through the metro area.)

O'Hare Expansion

As I mentioned, the plan to expand O'Hare was to remove the diagonal runways and add lots of east/west runways. It is a plan with multiple phases. I remember it started with a new runway at the north side. Then residential property acquisition, movement of roads and railroads, and new runways on the south side. That is where we are today (2019). The next phase is to remove the diagonal runway and  replace Terminal 2 and add some satellite concourses. I've lost track of the status of the Tollway Agency's plan to add a west entrance to the airport.

It occurred to me that Google Earth can be used to see what has happened. We start with:
Goolge Earth, Apr 1998
That was plenty early enough because it looked the same through Aug 2006. In Aug 2007 we see grading at the north end for the a new east/west runway and grading on the west side.
Google Earth, Aug 2007
I skipped Oct 2007 because they don't grade real fast. In May 2008 they are pouring concrete. It is now obvious that the grading on the west side was to extend the existing southern east/west runway because of a diagonal runway was the original long runway.
Google Earth, May 2008
By Aug 2008 they appear to be done with this first phase. They have also moved the UP/C&NW tracks as far south as they can go while the houses they are buying are still standing.
Google Earth, Aug 2008
Oct 2009 has some grading activity north of the new track's location. Jun 2010 shows they are building a new east/west runway south of the one that was extended. And they have started removing the southern part of the original longest runway.
Google Earth, Jun 2010
Aug 2010 looks the same because only a few months have passed. But Nov 2011 shows they have torn down all of the houses that were bought and are grading the embankment for another new routing of the UP tracks. Construction of the east/west runway has stopped because there are some buildings in the way.
Google Earth, Nov 2011
By Mar 2012, some of the buildings have been removed and the new UP route is in service. By Apr 2013, they have removed enough buildings to complete most of the new runway. They also have moved Irving Park Road, IL-19, further south.
Google Earth, Apr 2013
By Apr 2015, a new east/west runway is built south of the remaining buildings. And another taxiway has been built to the east/west runway that they first added 0n the north side.
Google Earth, Apr 2015
That appears to be the end of phase 2 because I don't see any more changes until Oct 2018. They have removed the north end of the original longest runway and built something on the west side. I wonder if that is a deicing apron. This image is more current than Google Map because Google Map doesn't show these changes. This is the most recent image available in Google Earth.
Google Earth, Oct 2018

They are now in the planning stages for a new $8.5b "global terminal." The global terminal will combine international and domestic flights in one terminal. Now you must use the people mover to go between the three domestic terminals and the international terminal. And if you are going from the international terminal to a domestic terminal, you get to first tour car rentals and various remote parking lots. (They have been working on the people mover. Is it supposed to become bidirectional?)

To design the new terminal, Mayor Emanuel made a big deal about choosing five architecture firms to compete for the contract. The winner gets the new 2.25 million-square-foot global terminal that will replace Terminal 2 and the runner-up gets the two satellite concourses, which is $1.5b of the $8.5b project.
When the team's designs were made public, Blair Kamin, Architecture Critic, and Mary Wisniewski, Getting Around Columnist, co-authored a Chicago Tribune article on Jan 17, 2019. They quoted the mayor concerning the design competition: "we're gonna keep this aboveboard."

The five plans documented in the Jan 17, 2019 article.

Chicago Tribune, Jan 17, 2019, photo 1 of 5, Chicago Department of Aviation
Studio ORD led by Chicago's Jeanne Gang

Studio ORD Joint Venture Partners, headed by Chicago's Jeanne Gang, calls for a sculpted, three-part terminal that wraps around a towering skylit atrium. The terminal would be "a vibrant neighborhood," the team said in its statement.

Inspired by the airport's original name — Orchard Field, which lives on in its ORD designation — the terminal's interior would include ample greenery and nature-inspired architecture. There would be columns that resemble trees as well as actual trees and even patches of grass in the floor.

The interior also appears to make extensive use of wood in its skylit ceiling.

Chicago Tribune, Jan 17, 2019, photo 2 of 5, Chicago Department of Aviation
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

The global terminal from the Chicago office of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, which is teamed with ARUP, Ross Barney Architects and JGMA, would have an undulating skylit roof, which would overhang the building's tall glass walls.

Also drawing inspiration from the airport's rural origins, the design proposes ample outdoor landscaping. The terminal would be "set in a prairie," a video caption said.

Inside would be glass-enclosed waiting areas filled with trees. One shows a hammock hung from tree trunks. "A place to rest under a tree before boarding," another caption promised.

Chicago Tribune, Jan 17, 2019, photo 3 of 5, Chicago Department of Aviation
Santiago Calatrava

Calatrava's plan is the most extensive, encompassing not just the global terminal but a business complex with formal gardens that would remake the present site of parking facilities next to the terminals.

The terminal itself is conceived in the shape of an arrowhead or a ship's prow with a dramatic white roof overhanging the approach road. The terminal's interior would feature the architect's trademark white-on-white skeletal look, with wide skylights set in an undulating ceiling.

Calatrava's statement terms the design "a masterwork of modern terminal architecture," though it does not say how much the business complex would add to the project's cost.

The architect has drawn sharp criticism for cost overruns at projects like the $4 billion transportation complex of the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan.

Chicago Tribune, Jan 17, 2019, photo 4 of 5, Chicago Department of Aviation
Foster Epstein Moreno Joint Venture

Another team, Foster Epstein Moreno Joint Venture Partners, is led by London-based Foster + Partners, which has designed several airports around the world as well as the sleek North Michigan Avenue Apple store.

The team proposes a roof that would cover the global terminal like a glassy blanket, shifting from three arches along the approach road to a single, dramatic arch facing the airfield.

The roof would have a diagonal grid of skylights. This team also seeks to recapture "the romance associated with air travel," its statement said.

Chicago Tribune, Jan 17, 2019, photo 5 of 5, Chicago Department of Aviation
Fentress-EXP-Brook-Garza Joint Venture

The team of Fentress-EXP-Brook-Garza Joint Venture Partners, headed by the Denver-based architects of the tentlike Denver International Airport, suggests a global terminal with swooping skylit roofs and tall glass walls.

The plan's visual signature is a curving, upturned roof that would accentuate the terminal's presence along O'Hare's approach road. The airy interior would be clean-lined and mostly white, with towering columns.

"Our vision is to return the romance of air travel to all who pass through Chicago's O'Hare," the team said in a statement.

Studio ORD won. [Chicago Tribune, Mar 27, 2019]
Chicago Tribune, Mar 28, 2019, photo 5 of 9, Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune

Given that Emanuel blatantly lied about "we're gonna keep this aboveboard," he is probably lying that the unidentified evaluation committee using a secrete scoring system chose the plan based on merit rather than "teacher's pet." Or as Blair Kamins additional article headlines: "Jeanne Gang's design for a light-filled O'Hare airport is born in the darkness of the Chicago Way ."

The other home town team, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, got the consolation prize for designing the two satellite concourses. Even though the selection process is done, the members of the selection committee are still being kept secret with the now obsolete excuse of  "to prevent outsiders from influencing the process." And the scoring system remains a secrete. The satellite concourses will be built before Terminal 2 is torn down to build the global terminal. [Chicago Tribune] The same issue of the Tribune had an editorial about how the governor Rio de Janeiro paid $2m for an "undue advantage" (today's euphemism for "bribe"). That governor is already sentenced to 200 years in jail for corruption charges. So Chicago is also a second city, or lower, in terms of corruption.

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