Chicago’s Midway Airport set for $248 million makeover | WBEZ
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Chicago's Midway Airport set for $248 million makeover

Chicago’s Midway International Airport is getting a $248 million makeover.

The city’s aviation officials and Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced Thursday that the Southwest Side airport will get expanded concession facilities, 1,400 more parking spots and a much larger security checkpoint area.

“Efficiency” is the goal of this project, according to the city’s new Aviation Commissioner Ginger Evans; and that will apply to everything from trying to create shorter security lines to adding more quality and quicker food options. Officials say the redevelopment project will be paid for with federal funds and by the airlines, which includes airport revenue bonds and what’s known as a Passenger Facility Charge, or PFC, that comes from airline ticket purchases.

Anyone who has arrived at Midway a little too close to their departure time knows that the security checkpoint area is frequently packed and bottlenecked, with lines snaking back as far back as the escalators to the ticket counters. Aviation officials said the plan is to widen that bridge from 60 feet to 300 feet, which will provide room for up to 27 security lanes and new concessions space.

As for which restaurants and shops will land at Midway, Evans said the bid process hasn’t started yet. She said her team is looking for broader retail shops, more “quality” food options, menus that change more quickly and, possibly, places that will deliver food to travelers while they sit at their gates. They’re also expecting larger seating areas with more comfortable chairs and more places to charge smartphones.

Emanuel said right now, Midway customers spend $3-4 less on concessions than customers in comparable airports.

The terminal parking garage expansion is already in the design phase and, as of now, officials say the city will add four levels and 1,400 premium parking spaces so travelers can get in and out of the airport more quickly.

Alderman Mike Zalewski, head of the City Council Aviation Committee, said this could be a big help for passengers who find themselves having to park in the off-site lots around the airport, because the daily spots near the airport are often full. Zalewski said the new parking structure will also connect to the Chicago Transit Authority’s Orange Line.

The mayor’s office said the project will create 1,000 construction jobs and around 700 permanent concession jobs. The entire project is expected to be completed by 2020.

Lauren Chooljian is a WBEZ politics reporter. Follow her @laurenchooljian.

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