Downtown Chicago
Jean-Baptiste Rabouan / laif / Red​ux

O’Hare International Airport in Chicago is one of the most important transportation hubs on the earth. With 2,700 flights a day and more than 80 million passengers a year, it is one of the United States’ busiest airports and the world’s second-biggest connector airport, linking flights to points across the globe. It is also, in certain crucial areas, old and outdated; some of the runways and terminals have gone decades without an overhaul. And when O’Hare gets clogged up, the rest of the country does, too.

When Chicago last renegotiated the lease agreements for airlines operating at O’Hare, in 2011, the federal government provided nearly a billion dollars in funding. But in 2016, when the city took urgently needed steps to modernize the airport? Crickets.

Chicago didn’t have the luxury of postponing and waiting, fingers crossed, for federal help that might never materialize. Instead, the city took matters into

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