City of Chicago Press Release


Two-mile long, 200-feet wide runway can accommodate the largest aircraft in operation; O’Hare system impact delays reduced by 61% since airfield reconfiguration


Today, Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot and the Chicago Department of Aviation, joined by former Mayor Richard M. Daley, U.S. Senators Richard J. Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, FAA Great Lakes Regional Administrator Rebecca MacPherson, Alderman Matt O’Shea, representatives from American and United Airlines, and civic and labor leaders joined together to celebrate the virtual commissioning of Runway 9C/27C. This two-mile long runway is the final new-build runway of the $6 billion O’Hare Modernization Program (OMP), the historic airfield reconfiguration project that set out to improve the airport’s capacity, efficiency, and reliability in all weather conditions.

“The landmark O’Hare Modernization Program has already created 30,000 jobs, provided a gateway of opportunity for many small and diverse-owned local businesses, and enabled O’Hare to regain its rightful place as the busiest airport in the world,” Mayor Lightfoot said. “Thanks to the leadership and foresight of my predecessors—particularly Mayor Daley, who pushed this project forward through sheer force of will—along with the incredible work of countless individuals, OMP not only solidifies Chicago’s future as the premier 21st Century global air hub, but also creates a talent pipeline ready to take on the next generation of airport capital projects and fuel our regional economy for decades to come.”

"If there's one thing every Mayor of Chicago appreciates it’s how critical O'Hare is to our City," Mayor Daley said. “OMP was a bold plan, and the process was far from painless, but it was the right thing to do. I'm proud to stand with City leaders and our airline and federal partners to celebrate this milestone."

The OMP was initially conceived in 2001 to reconfigure O’Hare’s antiquated airfield, which had expanded over the years to include a number of intersecting and diagonal runways, including the airstrips used by the Douglas Aircraft Company during World War II, when the airport was known as Orchard Field. Because of this layout, airfield operations were severely constrained and frequently affected by bad weather, and delays were common. The OMP set out to build a series of six parallel runways that run west to east and allow O’Hare to operate efficiently in good weather and in bad.

“O’Hare is the economic engine of the City, state, and region, and this is an exciting day,” Senator Durbin said. “OMP required many parties to come together including the federal government, the City, local communities, and the airlines. This success at O’Hare is a perfect example of federal dollars at work, and Chicago is stronger because of it.”

“This project has been critical to not only ensuring O’Hare is an efficient transportation hub for Chicago, the Midwest and the nation, but has generated thousands of jobs and spurred economic development across the region,” Senator Duckworth, Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Transportation and Security, said. “I’m proud to see this new phase of the OMP begin today, and I’ll continue working with Mayor Lightfoot, Senator Durbin and others to help ensure projects like these have the federal support they deserve.”

Overall Runway 9C /27C cost just north of $1 billion, which was covered through a combination of federal airport improvement grants and airline backed bonds. In early 2016, the City and the signatory airlines agreed to increase OMP’s funding to include this and several other critical airfield projects, for a total price tag of $1.3 billion. The Federal Aviation Administration also pledged significant funds to make this project a reality.

"Recognizing O'Hare's significance to the City and region and advocating for continued investments to secure its competitive position has been among the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago's highest priorities, and this is a very satisfying day Lester Crown said. The success of the OMP speaks for itself, and I want to applaud the visionary leadership and perseverance multiple Mayors and airport stakeholders have demonstrated to see this project through. With continued investment, I'm confident the best is yet to come."

In addition to Runway 9C/27C, other critical projects of the plan included the Central Deicing Facility, a crossfield taxiway system, and relocation of perimeter taxiways (Taxiways A and B) around the central terminal core. These improvements have led to increased efficiencies that contribute to OMP’s overall 61% reduction in system impact delays since the first new runway opened in 2008.

"The commissioning of this new runway is one of the final steps in realizing a fully modernized and efficient O'Hare Airport," FAA Regional Administrator MacPherson said. "We appreciate our partnership with the City of Chicago in this investment in enhanced air and ground safety, and in a better travel experience for passengers in Chicago and across the country."

Construction of Runway 9C/27C itself accounted for 2,700 jobs, while the broader OMP project has thus far created more than 30,000 construction and professional services jobs over the course of 15 years of active airfield work.

“Projects like this provide more than a paycheck, they provide dignity and opportunity for working men and women across the region,” Chicago Federation of Labor President Bob Reiter said. “Over the life of a project like OMP – and O’Hare 21 going forward – someone can grow and develop from an entry-level job all the way up and provide for themselves and their families a living wage, healthcare, and pension benefits."

“We all understand how critical our airports are for Chicago’s economy, both in facilitating the movement of people and goods, as well as in creating jobs and developing a talent pipeline,” Alderman O’Shea, Chairman of the City Council’s Committee on Aviation, said. “This landmark project literally paves the way for another landmark project — the O’Hare 21 terminal redevelopment — and promises to keep people working and developing skills for years to come.”

Initially, Runway 9C/27C will be used for departing flights before maturing into service as one of the airport’s primary use arrival runways in 2021. The 11,245-foot-long, 200-foot-wide airstrip is O’Hare’s second-longest, and will provide balance between flight activity using the north and south airfields as well as noise exposure among communities to the east and west of O’Hare. A sound insulation program for all eligible homes and schools remains active and will be increasingly active once COVID restrictions are lifted and permit in-home consultations and installations.

"The opening of runway 9C/27C is another step to a more balanced airfield for the communities surrounding O’Hare,” Mount Prospect Mayor Arlene A. Juracek, O’Hare Noise Compatibility Commission (ONCC) Chair, said. “The ONCC continues to work collaboratively with CDA and all stakeholders to reduce the impact of aircraft noise for people in these communities.”

The construction of this runway required the relocation of a Chicago Fire Department Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting (ARFF) facility, several ground equipment maintenance facilities, and two large aircraft hangars, as well as a large airline employee parking lot. Many of these facilities dated from O’Hare’s early days as a commercial service airport in the 1950s and 1960s.

“Runway 9C/27C marks the completion of O’Hare’s parallel runway layout and provides Chicago with a 21st century airfield,” CDA Commissioner Jamie L. Rhee said. “This project significantly increases safety and efficiency and addresses the impact of airport noise by balancing O’Hare’s airfield operations. I want to thank the FAA and our airline partners for making this project a reality. I also want to express thanks and gratitude to our airline partners for their support and cooperation in this complicated project.”

With this runway completed and work progressing on the Runway 9R Extension — the final runway component of the OMP — CDA and its airline partners are diligently planning the O’Hare 21 terminal redevelopment program, which will totally reimagine the traveler experience and replace aging facilities to better secure Chicago’s future as the nation’s leading transportation hub.

“The opening of Runway 9C/27C marks an incredible milestone in O’Hare’s transformation and reinforces our future here as Chicago’s Airline of Choice,” Kirk Hotelling, American Airlines Vice President of Corporate Real Estate said. “Thanks to our partners at the City of Chicago, we will continue working together to bring investments like this to fruition to improve airport operations and create world-class amenities that will best serve our customers in Chicago and across the globe.”

“United is always looking for ways to increase the safety, reliability and efficiency of our hubs, and this new runway dovetails with our larger vision to further enhance O’Hare’s position as a leading global travel hub,” United Airlines Vice President of the Chicago O’Hare Hub, Omar Idris said. “By expanding overall reliability, we’re advancing the United travel experience for all our customers.”

To view a video release of the commissioning of Runway 9C-27C, click HERE.