CHICAGO — American Airlines and United Airlines on Tuesday sued Chicago to block its financing of remaining projects under an $8 billion expansion program at O’Hare International Airport ahead of the city’s sale of $1.1 billion of passenger facility charge-backed bonds next month.

The two main airlines at O’Hare filed the lawsuit in Cook County Circuit Court. The suit asks the court to block the city’s funding of projects included in the completion phase of the expansion plan and to bar the issuance of any general airport revenue bonds until the court decides whether airline approval is needed.

The upcoming bond sale does not include any GARBs, but much of it would go to finance projects in the final phase of the expansion plan, and a GARB issue is planned for later this year. The airlines have not yet agreed to fund the completion phase.

“The city is now arranging financing without airline approval to commence construction of airfield-related components of Phase 2 of the O’Hare Modernization Program during the 2011 construction season … if the city proceeds as threatened without Airline approval, there will be no way to 'unring the bell,’ ” the lawsuit reads.

“The projects will move forward at exorbitant expense financed by massive, unauthorized bond offerings. In the meantime, the airlines’ fundamental voting and approval rights with respect to the completion phase and its financing will be lost forever.” 

Chicago Department of Aviation Commissioner Rosemarie Andolino responded to the lawsuit, saying the city remains firm in its position that it has the legal right to move forward with funding the completion phase.

“We remain willing to discuss modernizing O’Hare with the airlines that serve the airport; however, timing is essential,” she said. “The opportunity to realize the OMP’s benefits for the region and national aviation system cannot be lost.”

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