Let me clarify something, I am referring to purely to the terminals when I say appallingly behind. The rest of the airport is great, they've done a fantastic job on the much-needed runway reconfiguration and I can't wait for the rest of it to be done. Same with the new consolidated rental car facility. And let me also be clear, I am not saying this in criticism of ORD, I am originally from the Chicago area and have been through ORD many times over the years, I want to see it succeed.
However, I fear that they are botching this terminal revamp and are not going far enough. Yes, most of the terminals (with the exception of Terminal 5) are obsolete in the sense that they have outdated configurations (referring to the Y shaped layouts of Terminals 2 and 3) and they lack amenities (mostly in Terminal 2). Even Terminal 1, while still nice, is showing its age in some areas. All I want ORD to do here is to think big (not be incrementally-minded) and use this once-in-a-generation opportunity to revamp the airport so it can remain a top airport for years to come. You may hate it, but rebuilding ORD into an ATL-style "cattle car, truck-loading-pier" style terminals would improve traffic flow at the airport much better than anything they could do with the existing layout. This being said, I know this probably won't happen.
I took a second look at the current preliminary plans, and they don't look that bad on second glance. The only things I have an issue with are the fact that nothing is being done with Terminal 3 (still will retain its Y shaped layout) and they are a little vague about western access (they mention some sort of western parking/screening facility, but nothing concrete).
I understand where you're coming from: I don't mean to come off too defense or argumentative. I do think everyone in this thread has some interest in seeing ORD (and MDW) thrive and everyone has different thoughts on how to get there. I guess my point with my terminal rant was that every major airport in America has its warts and they are all in varying stages of terminal improvement. I love T5 and I think T1 is still pretty nice, but sure, it could use a nip/tuck: fresh carpets, new chairs, and a good window cleaning and I think it'd be good as new. Subjectively, I don't think T3 is that
bad but I can see where one would think it's not quite up to speed, and I agree: T2 is the worst of the bunch.
However, I'm not convinced the Y terminal layout is as obsolete as you do, and I'm further not convinced that the pier-style is the best appropriation of space. I would reference the new Changi design to show how they plan to use the Y shape to great affect, and the same is true for Hong Kong as well.
Speaking of improvements, Crains has a new image that details the revamped food court and terminal entry hall. I think it looks awesome! I love the promenade-like area with the trees. I'm mind-boggled by the folks complaining about the lack of fast food: I think they new layout will be great, and glad to see some higher-calibre dining options. If the Dunkin Donuts stays, I'll be even happier! Haha