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Daley Appoints Group to Plan Private, High-Speed Transit from O'Hare to Loop

By Kevin Robinson in News on Aug 19, 2010 2:00PM

Photo of an abandoned El platform, by BWChicago.
Mayor Daley announced the creation of a blue-ribbon committee (literally - it's called the "O'Hare Express Blue Ribbon Committee") to study the feasibility of building a privately financed and operated high-speed train from O'Hare to Block 37. “It has to be almost a separate private system,” Da Mare said in a press conference at City Hall. He's hoping that the 17 member panel, made up of local civic, labor and business leaders and led by Lester Crown of Henry Crown and Co, can figure out a way to build and operate a system parallel to the Blue Line without any city or government money. “The mandate from the mayor is: ‘No city money. No government money.’ ” Crown told the Sun-Times. “There’s already interest by private investment funds, foreign investment funds,” Daley said. “They’ve come to see me, I’ll be very frank, talking about this. That’s exciting.”

When who the private investors that have shown interest might be, Daley told the press that “The Chinese, Japanese and Middle East already," are interested. "And that excludes other investment funds here in America. Once you start this, once you announce it through the media, then we’ll get more and more interest.” Of course, financing the Block 37 super station fantasy with private funds isn't a brand new concept. Ron Huberman proposed a similar idea when he was president of the CTA:

"I have carefully read the business case for airport service and believe that a premium service built and operated in conjunction with a private sector partner is the way to go," said Huberman. "To replicate the success of premium service in other major cities, we really need to leverage private sector resources and expertise."

Block 37 already has a "super station" just waiting to be used for such transit development. CBS2's Mike Parker got all urban explorer on it last fall, giving himself a tour of the empty and unused station that cost Chicago a quarter billion dollars to build. Regardless, Daley is touting his new blue ribbon panel as "all about creating jobs and looking to the future," telling the Sun-Times that "These are not pork-barrel projects. This is private money coming in to invest with a decent return in regards to putting people back to work." That remains to be seen.