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Farewell O’Hare Modernization Program – A Trip Down Memory Lane
Farewell O’Hare Modernization Program – A Trip Down Memory Lane

On September 9th, the City of Chicago commemorated the completion of the runway construction for the O’Hare Modernization Program (OMP). After nearly 19 years, this massive $8 Billion program reconfigured O’Hare’s outdated runways into a more modern, parallel configuration resulting in reduced delays, increased capacity, and enhancement of the region’s economy. Primera is proud to say that we were there from start to finish, as was our Aviation Senior Civil Engineer, John Antonoglu.

This past week we sat down with John to discuss his 17-year stint on the project as part of the Master Civil Engineering team. It was bittersweet ending for him knowing that he helped play such an important role in the modernization of one of the busiest (and in our opinion, one of the greatest) airports in the world. Primera Engineers was selected as a member of the BPC Airport Partners joint venture, which by the end, amounted to a $124M Master Civil Engineer contract for this program. “I remember the day we first learned of the award in late 2002,” says Antonoglu. “Primera’s then owners – Michael DeSantiago, Pedro Cevallos-Candau and the late Michael Gonzalez – made the announcement to the office. Immediately after, an impromptu happy hour broke out that afternoon celebrating the largest contract Primera had ever been awarded in its then 15-year history.”

In OMP’s heyday, Primera had 30 employees working exclusively on the project. Primera was involved in nearly every aspect of the design process through a wide array of projects including conceptual design, general scheduling and phasing, runways and taxiways, public and private roadways, railroads, electrical vaults, drainage structures, utility survey and design, stormwater management, electrical distribution design, facility relocations, sustainable design and construction management, and standards and specification development. Although civil engineering was our primary focus, Primera also provided MEP, fire protection, and architectural support, when needed, bolstering our full-service engineering credentials.

Some key project facts include:

  • Designed over 43,000 feet of new runways and over 70,000 feet of new taxiways
  • Maintained the entire airport’s base utility mapping
  • Designed the stormwater drainage for 11 square miles of airfield and surrounding area
  • Developed, implemented, and maintained the Chicago Department of Aviation’s (CDA) sustainability program
  • Moved six cargo and hangar facilities, and other ancillary structures
  • Developed the energy model for the North Air Traffic Control Tower in support of its LEED Silver certification (the first for a Federal Aviation Administration tower in the country)
  • Designed a 48-acre, 20-aircraft centralized deicing facility and ramp control tower
  • Moved two waterways – Willow Creek and Bensenville Ditch
  • Moved two railroads – Union Pacific and Canadian Pacific

When Primera started this work, we were a Chicago-based company of 70 employees with some early aviation experience on the O’Hare World Gateway Project. Sadly, the OMP had to come to an end, but we always looked to the future. Primera is now leading the civil engineering airfield development of the O’Hare21 Program – the program to redevelop and add new terminals and concourses to O’Hare. We are now a company of 240 employees, with a robust aviation group, and a presence in a half dozen states. As a result of these projects, Primera has been able to develop and grow into the aviation market. We now have a dedicated Aviation Group of engineers and planners that provides consulting services to Commercial Service, Reliever and General Aviation airports. Since turning an eye toward a national aviation practice in 2019 we have been awarded work at O’Hare International, Midway International, Dallas/Fort Worth International, Tulsa International, Louisville Muhammed Ali International, Lewis University and Fulton County (Georgia) Airports.

When asked to reflect on his time with the Master Civil group working for the CDA and the OMP, Antonoglu had this to say, “I have spent the better part of my career with Primera at the OMP. I had the privilege of being the last project manager for the Master Civil Engineer of the program. I learned everything I know about airports from this program and from those that mentored me over those 17 years. I want to sincerely thank everyone that was part of this endeavor. Look at what we accomplished together!”

Primera would like to congratulate John Antonoglu, our Master Civil partners, the City of Chicago, the Chicago Department of Aviation and the hundreds of consultants and thousands of contractors that helped make the OMP such a successful program.

Farewell O’Hare Modernization Program – A Trip Down Memory Lane

From technical lead to senior engineer to Master Civil Engineer program manager, aviation engineering expert, John Antonoglu (pictured above), has been involved with the OMP from start to finish. The photo on the left shows the O'Hare runway in 2002, a month prior to the OMP work beginning, and how it looks today, after the program's completion.