Daley Aide: O'Hare project to ask for stimulus money

Mayor changes tune on O'Hare Modernization Project
February 10, 2009 4:23:06 PM PST
Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley has apparently changed his mind on some of the ways he'd like to use money from the federal stimulus plan. He now plans to put some of the funds toward the O'Hare Modernization Program (OMP), according to one of his aides. On Monday, Daley said he would not use federal money on the airport project.

During the meeting with both of Illinois' U.S. senators and five Congress members, Mayor Daley said the economic slowdown was 'quicksand' and 'worse than a recession.'

"There's a crisis out there. It's worse than a recession, what you see in this country. I don't care where you go, it's worse," said Daley.

Daley then listed his priorities for the city's share of a stimulus package: the CTA, arterial streets and lighting, the water and sewer systems and the construction of new schools.

"If we don't reinvest in math, science and technology in any one of our elementary schools, we're going to be so far behind the other countries in 10 to 20 years," said Daley.

The mayor did not mention the estimated $15 billion O'Hare Modernization Program, which is the most expensive public works project in the upper Midwest. It's over budget and partly stalled by lawsuits and threats from airlines that say they cannot afford their share of the expense. The OMP director, who traveled with Mayor Daley to Washington, said the stimulus package could get the project back on schedule.

"We believe that OMP is perfectly positioned to meet any of the criteria that then gets established? to compete for that money," said Rosemarie Andolino, OMP director.

When asked about it on Monday, Mayor Daley said the city would not ask for stimulus money for O'Hare.

"No, no, no" said Mayor Daley on Monday.

Bensenville President John Geils--a longtime expansion opponent-- said he suspects the mayor and Andolini have kept their plans for O'Hare-related stimulus money a secret so as not to arouse opponents of the project. He says he'll travel to Washington Wednesday to give lawmakers his side of the story.

"We're skeptical, and that's why we're going tomorrow to make sure that the leaders representing our districts are going to hear firsthand how concerned we are that Mayor Daley would be allowed to have this kind of stimulus dollars for a project that is a $20 billion boondoggle," said Geils.

Andolino said that a $250 million infusion of federal money could put as many 1400 O'Hare construction workers on the payroll by April 1. She also said that stimulus bill cash could put the project back on schedule to be completed by 2014.