Fifty new computer tourism “kiosks” will be installed throughout O’Hare International Airport, Mayor Richard Daley announced Monday.
Travelers at the airport will be able to use the touch screen-computers to access the city’s 2-month-old tourism site, explorechicago.org.
The computers, which provide information in several languages, will provide many functions once performed by the red-jacketed greeters the Daley administration recently laid off to help address the city’s budget deficit.
“Technology has really changed that,” Daley said at a news conference at the airport. “This gives more information than any people can have. You can get more information off this system than any one individual could have at O’Hare Field.”
Daley said most of the $315,000 cost will be covered by Hewlett-Packard, which manufactured the computers.
Daley’s 2009 budget cut the positions of 29 airport customer service representatives who had translated and answered questions for passengers for decades.
Laying off the greeters, who were paid annual salaries of between $38,000 and $58,000, will result in savings of about $2 million, city officials said.
At the news conference, Daley also said he was satisfied with receiving $12 million in federal stimulus package funds for improving a runway and taxiway at O’Hare.
“It’s better than nothing. Let’s be realistic,” he said.
Walsh Construction was the low bidder for the project and will proceed now that funding has been obtained, said Daley’s newly appointed aviation commissioner, Rosemarie Andolino.
Andolino said the city would pursue additional stimulus funding for the airport. But she and Daley said the criteria for the stimulus funds prevented Chicago from getting federal dollars for O’Hare’s expansion.