O'Hare Plan Would Take More Than It Gives?

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The city of Chicago is being accused of making its expansion plan for O'Hare International Airport look better than it actually is so it can qualify for FAA grants. The Campbell Hill Aviation Group has filed a critique of Chicago's application for $300 million in FAA funds. The consultants, who were paid to do the critique by the communities of Bensenville and Elk Grove, both of which will be significantly affected by the expansion, say the city failed to prove that the massive expansion (ultimately costing about $20 billion) is worth it. According to the consultants, Chicago, by law, had to show that the benefits would at least equal the expense -- but it didn't, and that means the FAA has to turn down the application. "The FAA is clearly between a rock and a hard place," said Craig Johnson, the mayor of Elk Grove. The consultants said Chicago underestimated costs and overestimated revenue on its way to an application that appeared to meet federal cost-benefit analysis standards. Bensenville President John Geils said that to approve the grant, the FAA will have to ignore the suspect conclusions in the application. "It will be hard for the FAA to let the American taxpayer finance a boondoggle that will go down in history as the poster child for government waste," Geils said. Elk Grove and Bensenville both think there are better ways to solve the area's airport problems than paving over large parts of their communities.