A DuPage County Circuit Court judge this week issued an order stalling any demolition of homes by Chicago to make way for a new runway at O’Hare International Airport as part of a $7.5 billion expansion plan. The order came as suburban opponents said they would appeal the court’s ruling last week that lifted a temporary injunction that halted the demolition.
The village of Bensenville said it would file an appeal within the next 30 days. Judge Kenneth Popejoy last week lifted the injunction against demolition of about 500 homes. He first imposed it last summer to allow for an environmental study on the public health hazards Bensenville officials had argued would result if demolition were permitted. While the study failed to show sufficient toxins and other hazards existed to stem demolition, the village believes a more detailed assessment is needed.
The injunction stalled the city’s efforts to demolish the homes to make way for one in a series of new runways being built as part of the O’Hare Modernization Program. A new runway is set to open as planned this fall under the $3.3 billion first phase of the program while negotiations continue between the city and the airport’s struggling carriers over approval for the second phase. Officials say they want to complete the three phases of the overall $8 billion program by 2014.
The runway plan is designed to expand the airport’s capacity to 1.2 million flights from one million and relieve delays that occur in poor weather conditions when runways are closed down, impacting the national air traffic grid.
A series of legal challenges mounted by suburban opponents have failed to halt construction. Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court said it would not consider an appeal filed by the group that had cleared the path for Chicago to acquire and relocate a cemetery. A separate case challenging the viability of the financing scheme for the project is pending before the District of Columbia appellate court.
In a statement, OMP director Rosemarie Andolino expressed disappointment in the 30-day order halting construction pending the appeal, but expressed confidence the city would prevail at the appellate court level.
“Besides having a negative impact on our construction schedule, the stay poses a threat to the safety and well-being of the remaining residents in the land acquisition area that cannot be underscored,” she said. “There have been more than 250 incidents of break-ins and vandalism of city-owned property, additional incidents of fly-dumping, and an assault on a property manager.”