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Old Posted Dec 15, 2005, 10:38 PM
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Could O’Hare be boon for city?

By Robert Sanchez

Daily Herald Staff Writer
Posted Thursday, December 15, 2005

Wood Dale Mayor Ken Johnson says his community is “a little schizophrenic” when it comes to the topic of expanding O’Hare International Airport.

The city belongs to the anti-expansion Suburban O’Hare Commission and opposes the building of new runways.

On the other hand, it would benefit if a promised western airport entrance opens by 2013.

“If western access occurs, that’s going to bring redevelopment,” Johnson said. “We have the potential to be the Rosemont of the western side.”

So when municipal leaders throughout DuPage County came together Wednesday night to discuss the possible economic and transportation impact of expanding O’Hare, Johnson brought an open mind.

“If we are going to get the aggravation, give us some of the benefits,” he said before the gathering at the county complex in Wheaton.

It was the first of three meetings the county scheduled to gather data for a study of what opportunities for new development might be created once the multibillion-dollar expansion of O’Hare is complete.

“The overarching goal is to get a vision of what DuPage County should look like after O’Hare is modernized,” said Tom Cuculich, director of the county’s economic development and planning department.

“Will it be office buildings and convention centers?” Cuculich said. “Or will it be next-generation industrial parks?”

But before any questions can be answered, consultants first want to know what municipal leaders are envisioning for their communities.

“We want to put all this together so regional plans are aware of local plans and vice versa,” Cuculich said. “It’s very important that we are all on the same page.”

The nearly $400,000 study, more than half of which was funded by Chicago, is expected to be complete by late spring.

In addition to economics and development, it will explore what road improvements might be needed to create western access.

National lawmakers have committed $140 million toward building the second entrance to O’Hare as part of the six-year federal highway bill. Still, DuPage officials estimate the total cost will be more than $1.5 billion.

Meanwhile, a study isn’t expected to deter O’Hare opponents, who say many are going to lose their homes and businesses if the airport is expanded.

The proposed airport expansion plan would take out more than 530 Bensenville homes, several industrial businesses in Elk Grove Village and 1,300 graves at the cemetery run by St. John’s United Church of Christ in Bensenville.
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