Making the Most of the O’Hare International Airport Modernization Project

ULI Chicago Infrastructure Initiative

ULI Chicago hosts an examination of infrastructure investments that boost the region’s economic competitiveness


O’Hare International Airport is nearing completion of a $4 billion multiyear investment that is expanding capacity and increasing operating efficiencies. Coordinated with the airport expansion is a new tollway, the Elgin-O’Hare Western Access. Identified by ULI Chicago’s Infrastructure Initiative as a regional “game-changing” infrastructure project with catalytic development potential, the Elgin-O’Hare Western Access recently received federal approval. Construction on this 16-mile, $3.4 billion project will begin in 2013, but there is still a $300 million funding gap to fill.

ULI Chicago hosted a gathering of elected officials, business leaders, public agencies, and members of the development community to discuss the opportunities these major infrastructure investments bring for suburbs to the west of O’Hare and for the entire greater Chicago regional economy. As ULI Chicago Infrastructure Initiative Cochair Greg Hummel explained, “It’s going to be such an important part of the way the regional economy works.”

Additional speakers included:

  • Paul Shadle, chair, ULI Chicago, and cochair, ULI Chicago Infrastructure Initiative, pinch-hit for snowed-in Charles Wheelan, PhD, senior lecturer and policy fellow, Rockefeller Center, Dartmouth College, whose slides discussed the current state of American politics and public sentiment about funding infrastructure investments.
  • Michael Boland, City of Chicago Department of Aviation, updated the audience on the O’Hare Modernization Project.
  • Stephen Friedman, ULI Chicago Infrastructure Initiative cochair, presented an analysis of how enhanced access to O’Hare will affect 150,000 parcels in the vicinity of the airport.
  • Marilee Utter, executive vice president, District Councils, ULI, moderated a panel that included Kristi LaFleur, executive director, Illinois Tollway; Dave Riefe, senior vice president − investment officer, Prologis Inc.; and Rohit Syal, director, Ullico Infrastructure Fund, LP.

The audience probed issues such as private sector involvement, the role of foreign investment, and the timetable for completion when all funding is not in place.

A brief video summary, detailed meeting summary (.pdf), and complete presentation slides (.pdf) are available at the ULI Chicago website.

ULI Chicago’s work on the Elgin-O’Hare Western Access and O’Hare Modernization Project grew out of ULI Chicago’s Infrastructure Game Changers, which produced two studies that identified 22 game-changing projects. The ULI/Curtis Regional Infrastructure Project, a partnership between the ULI Infrastructure Initiative and ULI District Councils, supported the initial studies. The ULI Foundation sponsored the February 8, 2013, event.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *