O’Hare And Midway Ready To Welcome 1.6 Million Passengers Over Busy Labor Day Travel Weekend
Lower Level Utilities and Pavement Work Completed, Arrival Lanes and Main Parking Garage Now Fully Open at O’Hare’s Main Terminals
CDA Media Relations (773) 686-3700 CDAMEDIA@CITYOFCHICAGO.ORG
The Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA) is ready to welcome approximately 1.6 million travelers to O’Hare and Midway International Airports between Thursday, Sept. 1 and Tuesday, Sept. 6, based on projections from airline carriers.
At O’Hare, the influx of travelers to the Chicagoland area will find the arrivals section of the main terminals free of construction for the first time in more than a year. And for the first time in two years, the 9,300-space O’Hare Main Parking Garage is completely open and ready for travelers.
“The best of Chicago is on display in the final weeks of summertime," said Chicago Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot. "We're especially thrilled to welcome visitors at our airports and to our great city during this time so they can experience all that Chicago's 77 neighborhoods have to offer."
Compared to the same Labor Day travel period last year, O’Hare is expected to see a passenger increase of 7.3% and airlines project that Monday, Sept. 5 will be the busiest day. Airlines project that Midway will experience an increase in passengers of approximately 49.9%, with Friday, Sept. 2 being the busiest day.
As a part of the Lower Level Utilities and Pavement Repairs project, crews worked quickly over the past year to complete underground infrastructure work beneath the arrival lanes of Terminals 1, 2 and 3 at O’Hare, installing a new 12-inch water main and new fire hydrants that will be critical in the event of an emergency. Additionally, the reconstruction of roadways and sidewalks includes Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)-compliant crosswalks and handrails.
The $48.8 million project was completed in phases in order to maintain the pedestrian connections between the terminal facilities, elevated parking structure, and transportation infrastructure to and from the city.
The newly-repaired roadway supports arriving passengers in the main O’Hare terminals as they transfer to taxis, commercial vehicles, and privately owned vehicles, with dedicated lanes to each of the specific transportation types. Additional ADA compliance work is set to be finished early next year.
“I’m happy to announce the Lower Level Utilities and Pavement Repairs project is nearly completed, and newly reopened lanes will substantially reduce traffic for Chicagoans picking up passengers at O’Hare,” said CDA Commissioner Jamie L. Rhee. “But it’s always good to plan ahead, and consider using the CTA, the Kiss ‘n’ Fly or our cell phone lots to reduce traffic congestion at both of our hometown airports.”
Meanwhile, O’Hare crews finished construction this week on the Main Parking Garage, which has faced intermittent closures since work began in September 2020. The $25.5 million project included pavement repairs and structural support work that will prolong the life of the 49-year-old garage another 10 to 15 years.
Visitors and residents traveling through O’Hare and Midway International Airports this weekend should be mindful of the following tips:
Prevent Traffic Congestion
Traffic back-ups into both O’Hare and Midway can come early and often on Labor Day weekend.
The following tips this weekend can help keep congestion to a minimum:
- Consider taking the CTA Blue Line to O’Hare and the CTA Orange Line to Midway to avoid the curbside crowds. Metra’s North Central Service offers weekday service from downtown Chicago’s Union Station to the O’Hare transfer station next to the Multi-Modal Facility, with access to the Airport Transit System (ATS).
- Kiss n’ Fly drop-offs are located at both airports. At Midway, passengers can be dropped off at West 59th Street and South Kilpatrick Avenue and take a short walk into the terminals. At O’Hare, passengers can be dropped off at the Multi-Modal Facility, 10255 W. Zemke Blvd., and board the ATS for a short ride to Terminals 1, 2 3 and 5.
- Cell Phone Lots are completely free and available at both airports. Avoid circling the curb zone area and wait in the convenient parking lots until arriving passenger call to say they are ready for pickup. The O’Hare Cell Phone Lot is at 560 N. Bessie Coleman Drive, and the Midway Cell Phone Lot is located at West 61st Street and South Cicero Avenue.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) may experience longer than usual wait times at security checkpoints during the holiday weekend given the influx of travelers. Real-time updates for O’Hare checkpoints are available at FlyChicago.com.
Check Parking Updates Before You Leave
On busy travel weekends, economy lots at O’Hare often reach capacity. Passengers looking to park are encouraged to check the status of available parking before leaving for O'Hare at flychicago.com/ORDParking. Reserved parking is also available on a limited basis for certain O’Hare lots, visit FlyChicago.com for more information.
Chicago remains at a “Medium” risk level for COVID-19, according to the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH). While there are no current mandates, the CDPH strongly recommends wearing a mask in public indoor spaces. Current federal guidance also recommends all employees and travelers ages 2 and up wear a well-fitting mask or respirator while at indoor transportation facilities, including airports. The CDA reminds all passengers and staff to be courteous and respectful to each other.
Access to airport terminals at both O’Hare and Midway is restricted at all times to ticketed passengers, those assisting passengers, badged employees, and others with legitimate airport business.
New Amenities for Families on the Go
One new Mamava portable lactation pod was installed at O’Hare’s Terminal 1 this summer, in addition to the nine existing pods throughout Terminals 1, 2 and 3 and one existing pod at Midway. The pods are freestanding spaces intentionally designed with easy-to-clean surfaces and app-enabled access to provide a comfortable and private option to breastfeed or pump. The pods supplement the six Mother’s Rooms available at O’Hare and one Mother’s Room at Midway.
Earlier this year, contactless vending machines from Oops! Diapers 2Go also opened in Terminals 1, 2, and 3 at O’Hare, providing a 24-hour option for traveling families to purchase diapers, wipes, pacifiers, formula, bottles, snacks and children’s activity kits.
Keep an Eye Out for Construction
As noted, O’Hare’s Lower Level Utilities and Pavement Repairs project is substantially completed, with one final ADA upgrade still pending. All lanes and curbs are open in the main terminals arrival area at O’Hare, which should improve traffic conditions for pick-up compared to holiday weekends earlier this summer.
Passengers will find that construction continues elsewhere at O’Hare, especially in and around Terminal 5. While these projects create temporary impacts to airport operations, they are essential as the CDA works to fulfill “O’Hare 21” — a curb-to-gate transformation that meets the traveling public’s needs for the 21st century and beyond.
Look Out for New Upgrades
These continued investments will deliver the airport of tomorrow while creating economic benefits for travelers and residents in all of Chicago’s 77 neighborhoods. More background about the need for this massive infrastructure investment is available in a recent CNN Travel piece. Key construction updates include:
- The passenger tunnels between the CTA Blue Line at O’Hare and Terminals 1, 2 and 3 have been fully replaced with new, modern designs that provide a welcoming atmosphere for visitors to Chicago.
- The $1 billion investment being made by the City of Chicago into Terminal 5 is beginning to bear fruit ahead of a formal grand opening this fall. New security checkpoints and gate space have opened up in the past year to handle new passenger traffic from major carriers, and additional upgrades will open in phases over the next six to 12 months.
- The CDA broke ground in June on a new, six-story parking garage for Terminal 5 that will double parking capacity on site.
Travelers bound for Chicago’s airports can make the most informed decisions about how to access any of the above airport services by visiting flychicago.com. The website contains real-time information about flights, parking updates, taxicab wait times, available concession businesses, and other special alerts for the traveling public. The update “My Flight” search page shows specific flight updates along with amenities located near the flight gate and other targeted travel resources.
About the Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA): The Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA) is self-supporting, using no local or state tax dollars for operations or capital improvements at O’Hare and Midway International Airports. Chicago’s airports offer service to over 250 nonstop destinations worldwide, including 47 foreign countries, combined. Together, Chicago’s airports serve more than 105 million passengers each year and generate approximately $70 billion in annual economic activity for the region. Please visit flychicago.com to learn more about the Chicago Department of Aviation.