Ginger Evans, now Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Aviation, has a long and accomplished career in aviation and engineering, working on major airport construction projects in Denver, Washington D.C., and in the private sector at Parsons Corporation. Evans earned both her Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering (1977) and a Master of Science in Civil Engineering (1979) from Colorado State University.
She secured her first high level position in 1986 as the Associate Director of Aviation and Chief of New Airport Construction for the Denver International Airport (DIA), now the country’s largest airport by land area. Evans was a young engineer, 30, when she took control of the massive construction project that ended up spanning decades. At the time, Denver’s main airport, Stapleton, was far too small for the city’s increasing flight traffic. City officials pitched a bigger, more efficient airport, and voters approved the new airport in 1989. However, within a few years of approval, the cost of the new airport went $1 billion over budget, to $3.2 billion.
While Evans was credited with cutting through red tape and fast tracking bids, early construction of the Denver airport was problematic. DIA was supposed to have 12 more jetway gates than Stapleton, but despite the ballooned budget, the new airport could only afford 88 gates, about 20 less than the old airport. Denver’s most popular carrier, United, demanded that there be a sophisticated baggage handling computing system. The $193 million system was installed, but widely panned for being unworkable, leading to lost or shredded luggage. It was scrapped for manual baggage handlers.
Despite the controversy, Evans was largely credited for the airport’s quality and completion time. “That airport wouldn't have been done in the time frame it got done and to the quality that it was done without her," Shaun Yancey, a DIA contractor who worked with Evans, told the Denver Business Journal. DIA has since earned plaudits as one of the best run airports in the country. Evans departed from the DIA in 1994, but continued to be involved in the construction process as a contractor with CH2M Hill, where she worked from 1995 to 1998.
Evans moved on to become aviation manager at the private consulting firm Carter Burgess working on major aviation projects in Europe, the Middle East, and Latin America, and rail projects in New York and Washington DC, where she created start up offices. Her clients included Columbia University, American Airlines, United Airlines and the New York City Department of Environmental Protection
In 2013, Evans was tapped to oversee the $1 billion construction of a new, enclosed concourse at Reagan National Airport. Evans’ purview included transportation projects that connected the Dulles Airport to local transit lines: the DC MetroRail Silver Line train extension that connected to the airport, and maintenance of the Dulles toll road.
Evans’ extensive background in complex aviation projects and civil engineering made her Emanuel’s first choice for the Chicago Department of Aviation, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. “As an engineer, Ginger Evans understands the structures and systems that make our airports run, but also their importance as economic drivers for the city – making her the right leader at the right time,” Mayor Emanuel said of picking Evans after a 7 month search. Evans replaced Commissioner Rosemarie Andolino, who left her post in November of 2014. Andolino, first appointed by Mayor Richard M. Daley in 2009, had no previous aviation experience.
Evans was responsible for several thorny aviation initiatives, including the O’Hare Modernization Project, which had been in the making for more than fifteen years. O’Hare faces many of the same problems that confronted DIA, including a high price tag during near insolvency. When first envisioned in 2001, the O’Hare Modernization Program had an expected budget of $6.6 billion and was aimed at reducing delay times. She was also tasked with upgrades at Midway Airport, including renovations expected to cost $250 million with the aim of reducing security lines and wait times; building a pedestrian bridge over Cicero Avenue; and improving baggage claims. The modernization program is still in the design phase.
Since her official appointment in June of 2015, Evans has faced continuing pressure over noise at O’Hare from local groups. She will also oversee gate and runway expansion at O’Hare, western access, noise abatement, and Mayor Emanuel’s goal for an O’Hare express connecting downtown to the airport via express, non-stop service.
- Colorado State University, B.A. MSc
Important Political Events
- 2015, Appointed Commissioner of Chicago Department of Aviation
- 2013, Chosen to oversee projects at Reagan, Dulles airports in Washington DC
- 1992, Tapped as director of aviation for the Stapleton International and Denver International Airports