A DuPage County Circuit Court judge is expected to rule next week on whether Chicago can demolish about 500 properties in suburban Bensenville to clear the path for a new runway at O’Hare International Airport.
The dispute is just one piece of ongoing litigation involving Chicago, which owns O’Hare, and suburban opponents of the $8 billion runway expansion and reconfiguration project underway at the airport.
Judge Kenneth Popejoy last year granted a temporary restraining order barring Chicago from demolishing the homes to allow for a study of the potential environmental hazards of the demolition process.
Hearings on the completed review were conducted last week and the judge said he expected to rule in two weeks. Chicago attorneys argued that the process would be safe based on their analysis, while Bensenville argued a more detailed study is needed.
The first new runway is set to open this fall as part of the $3.3 billion first phase of the larger project, which relies on $1.6 billion of general airport revenue bonds, $659 million of bonds backed by passenger facility charges and general airport revenue revenues, the use of PFCs on a pay-as-you-go basis, and $330 million in federal grants.
While negotiations between the city and O’Hare’s airlines are continuing on the second phase, approval has so far eluded city officials as airlines struggle to keep afloat amid skyrocketing fuel costs. Carriers are bearing much of the expansion costs through higher landing and other fees paid to operate at the airport. O’Hare has about $4 billion of GARBs outstanding in three liens that are rated from mid- to high-single-A on the third lien to the high double-A category on the first senior lien.