Airlines Hedge On O'Hare Expansion

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United Air Lines and American Airlines, other than helping create the world's largest airport at Chicago O'Hare, say they currently have other priorities -- perhaps attempting to ensure they'll be around to use it. The plan at O'Hare is to ultimately build eight runways and attendant facilities to accommodate some 1.6 million passengers a day and nearly double the airport's current capacity. The plan's current problem is that it relies, in part, on funding from UAL and American. UAL filed for bankruptcy protection last week and American is losing somewhere near $5 million a day. "Other considerations, including the phasing of the O'Hare project, would be down the road a bit," United spokesman Joe Hopkins told the Associated Press. United and American would each have to issue their own debt, back airport revenue bonds and collect passenger ticket taxes to help pay for the $6.6 billion project. However, the obvious seems to have been missed by Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, who wants to keep the throttle wide open on the project, regardless of the economic realities. His arch-nemesis on the project, U.S. Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (R-Ill.), said the airlines should be concentrating on shoring up their troubled pension funds instead of building runways.