City knocks down homes for O'Hare expansion

FILE--Construction equipment works at O'Hare International Airport as a plane lands in Chicago. ( (AP file photo))

March 24, 2010 2:51:03 PM PDT
After years of legal wrangling, demolition began in Bensenville to make room for O'Hare Airport to expand.

The battle between Bensenville and Chicago came to an end with the election of Village President Frank Soto, who said he realized it was in the best interest of the village's finances to settle. For years, his predecessor fought the bulldozers over the O'Hare expansion and modernization plan. Five hundred homes and business have to be demolished to make room for a runway.

"All the money that the village had had been directed to pay for legal fees and battles and the people saw what it meant to them, what it meant to the town, the lack of infrastructure, the problems with the sewer systems, lack of growth," said Frank Soto, Bensenville Village president.

Soto negotiated a $16 million settlement with Chicago.

"I think most of the residents finally figured we're wasting too much money fighting this. It will happen eventually anyway," said Yuri Cymbalisty, Bensenville resident.

"It was a David and Goliath fight. This time, the big guy won," said Evelyn Hampton, Bensenville resident.

The big guy won the battle with Bensenville but the City of Chicago continues to fight with the airlines over funding. While the demolition will end in September, there is no start date to build the southern runway.

"As you know, we're still continuing to work with our airline partners. We're confident that we will reach agreement and move forward with construction," said Rosemarie Andolino, Chicago Aviation Commissioner.

Some Bensenville restaurants don't believe the airport expansion will ever get built.

"If the city of Chicago has to furlough their employees, if they can't meet their own payroll, how are they going to pay for the expansion?" said Hampton.

While there is no start date for the southern runway, the city also faces delays because they continue to be in a legal battle with the cemetery that sits in the path of the runway.