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Durbin, Kirk, urge LaHood to help break O'Hare expansion deadlock between City of Chicago, American, United Airlines

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below, release from Durbin....

DURBIN, KIRK TO DOT SECRETARY: COMPROMISE ON O'HARE MODERNIZATION IS ESSENTIAL

LaHood expected to meet with Airlines and City of Chicago this week

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] - After learning that the Department of Transportation is planning to host a meeting this week in Washington between the City of Chicago and both United Airlines and American Airlines, U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) today sent a letter to the Secretary of the Department of Transportation (DOT), Ray LaHood, to stress the importance of finding a compromise on the O'Hare Modernization Program.

"Secretary LaHood shares our commitment to moving forward with the O'Hare Modernization Project and pledged today to work with the City of Chicago and the airlines to find a compromise. The project supports hundreds of local jobs and is critical to current and future economic growth in Chicago," said the Senators.

"Since we met with the airlines almost two weeks ago, both sides have signaled a willingness to sit down and find a solution outside of the courtroom. Bringing the city, United Airlines and American Airlines back to the negotiating table as soon as possible could prevent a costly legal battle and the delay of a construction timetable that will keep people working this summer and in the years ahead."

On January 27th, Durbin and Kirk held a meeting with the CEOs of United Airlines, Jeff Smisek, and American Airlines, Gerard Arpey to discuss the potential for a compromise between the airlines and the City of Chicago. At the urging of both Senators, Smisek and Arpey indicated a willingness to reopen a dialogue with the City of Chicago, a sentiment that Mayor of Chicago Richard M. Daley has also expressed.

[Text of the letter is below]

February 7, 2011


The Honorable Ray LaHood
Secretary
United States Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20590

Dear Secretary LaHood:

Your meeting this week in Washington, D.C. with the City of Chicago and United and American Airlines is important to moving forward with the O'Hare Modernization Project. We know you share our commitment to finishing this important project and we hope your meeting this week will help accomplish this goal.

As you know, efforts to modernize O'Hare were postponed for over 25 years due to political disagreements and lack of local consensus behind a single plan. In 2001, we worked together with the City of Chicago and surrounding communities, the State of Illinois, the federal government, and scores of civic and business leaders to move this important project from concept to reality. The strong coalition that we helped form created the momentum necessary to build consensus and begin this historic O'Hare Modernization Project.

Unfortunately, the current dispute between the airlines and City of Chicago puts that work and the progress made on OMP at risk. We requested a meeting with the CEOs of the airlines immediately following their decision to bring suit against the City of Chicago. At our meeting, the airlines communicated their willingness to sit down with the City of Chicago and find a solution outside of the courtroom. Bringing the city, United Airlines and American Airlines back to the negotiating table as soon as possible could prevent a costly legal battle and a delay in a construction timetable that will keep people working this summer and in the years ahead.

The Department of Transportation can play an important role in getting both sides of this dispute to come to an agreement to keep the OMP on track to completion. The final phase of the OMP will support thousands of local jobs, and making sure we continue the construction with this project is essential to future economic growth in Chicago. Completion of the OMP also will benefit the entire National Airspace System as we add capacity to one of our nation's busiest airports.

We thank you for your intervention in this issue, and request that you continue to stay actively involved in this process. We stand ready to work with all parties to ensure Illinois has the most modern, safe and efficient travel network in the country.

Sincerely,


-30-

1 Comment

Every one in this city know the focus should be on the deplorable roads and bridges. Not the airport(s).

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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