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Lessons Learned From the Chicago O’Hare Modernization Program

Industry experts and the general public alike are skeptical of success when it comes to large-scale infrastructure projects. This skepticism is reinforced by a reality facing the industry: “Both older and more recent projects have been marked by a consistent pattern of substantial cost increases between authorization and completion.” Not only do projects often cost more but schedule delays, plan changes, and other factors can disrupt project completion and even leave key elements of the program unfinished.

Not all mega-projects are subject to the same fate, however. The modernization project at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago is an example of a modern transportation investment that is performing well. The multi-billion dollar project at O’Hare has managed to finish key aspects of the work under budget and ahead of schedule. Streamlining efforts have ensured that the project received a timely review process and was not delayed by federal regulatory requirements. The success of the O’Hare Modernization Program (OMP) is one in which much can be learned. Applying the lessons from the OMP can help construct other large, important infra- structure projects in a timely and fiscally responsible manner. Paul Lewis, 18 pp., 2012

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