LaHood: O'Hare deal is a 'big deal' not just for Chicago

LaHood, a former congressman from Illinois, was credited with helping broker a deal between O'Hare and United and American airlines on a modernization plan that includes two new runways, the expansion of an existing runway and construction of a new terminal.

At one time the world's busiest airport, O'Hare is currently number two in terms of air traffic. United and American provide more than 80 percent of the flights to and from the airport.

The modernization project, which was proposed by outgoing Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, is expected to cost $3.4 billion. The portion agreed to by the airlines Monday will cost $1.17 billion. The sides agreed to revisit the remaining $2.35 billion by March 2013.