Chicago, Airlines Battle Over O'Hare Expansion Chicago Mayor Richard Daley has been pushing for a $6.6 billion expansion of O'Hare International Airport. He wants American and United — the airlines that handle the majority of O'Hare's daily flights — to help fund the project. But the airlines have sued the city and put off a meeting.
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Chicago, Airlines Battle Over O'Hare Expansion

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Chicago, Airlines Battle Over O'Hare Expansion

Chicago, Airlines Battle Over O'Hare Expansion

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ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.

MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

As Chicago Public Radio's Tony Arnold reports, phase two of the project has run into some unusual problems.

TONY ARNOLD: The CEOs of those two airlines were supposed to meet with Daley behind closed doors today, but that meeting was canceled. The airlines blamed the blizzard. In true Daley fashion, he told reporters today he thinks they're avoiding him.

RICHARD DALEY: They said no. Monday, they said no. Then Tuesday they said no. And Wednesday they said no.

ARNOLD: Daley says after all those negotiations just to set up a meeting, they finally settled on a date.

DALEY: And I made another exception, the only time I've ever made exception in 22 years. I said: How about that Sunday? And they said no. I said: How about Monday? They said no. Then they're doing it I think Tuesday, we think so.

ARNOLD: Joe Schwieterman is a transportation professor at DePaul University.

JOE SCHWIETERMAN: Everybody knows that we can't go back to the bad old days of the late '90s, where O'Hare was just being avoided by travelers. Airlines were facing tens of millions of dollars in costs because of, you know, congestion.

ARNOLD: Schwieterman says having only United and American involved in discussions gives them a competitive advantage. Other airlines like Southwest don't even look at O'Hare but stay focused on Midway Airport. Schwieterman says negotiations between the two sides are dicey.

SCHWIETERMAN: These are big companies, big organizations and some big egos involved.

ARNOLD: But there are at least two people who think they can manage those egos: Illinois' two U.S. senators. Democrat Dick Durbin says time is of the essence.

DICK DURBIN: I think some of them would wait until the day when the delays are just intolerable and then say: Now let's build. You've got to be ahead of the curve. As you're increasing the (unintelligible) there, you have to have the infrastructure to support it.

ARNOLD: For NPR News, I'm Tony Arnold in Chicago.

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