Big Airports, Big Problems
There's nothing like an airport expansion to foster debate, and the controversial $6.6 billion expansion of Chicago's O'Hare International Airport is getting some additional heat from U.S. Sen. Peter Fitzgerald, who's questioning United Air Lines' ability to pay for its share. The senator accused United of planning to use proposed federal legislation allowing deferment of pension contributions as a way to pay off its share of bonds for the airport project. "United employees have had to make many sacrifices and concessions in order to keep the airline flying," Fitzgerald said. "It's time for United management to get its priorities straight -- pensions before pavement," he told Reuters. United denied the senator's claim, saying the O'Hare project has no bearing on the airline's work regarding its pensions, including its support for the legislation. Meanwhile, a few thousand miles away in Australia, debate is boiling on whether to build a second airport in the Sydney area. The Mercury News reports Federal Transport Minister John Anderson is against such a project and claims a premature construction could be characterized as "a white elephant." Anderson and Prime Minister John Howard say the current Kingsford Smith Airport can cope with passenger numbers and aircraft movements at least until 2020.