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Rahm Is Pushing For An Express Train To O'Hare, Which Could Cost Billions

By Mae Rice in News on Feb 15, 2016 7:16PM

Imagine our current Blue Line, but faster (photo via Carl's Captures on Flickr)

Like former mayor, like current mayor. Mayor Rahm Emanuel wants to resurrect the city’s on-and-off plans for an express train from the Loop to O’Hare International Airport, a project first proposed in the early '90s by then-mayor Richard M. Daley.

Though the O’Hare express isn’t a transit option Emanuel can conjure single-handedly, he has hired an engineering company to review potential routes and prices for the project—which could, according to the Tribune, cost billions.

The engineering team will scope out the project for the city for 10 months, Aviation Commissioner Ginger Evans told reporters. The team's assigned goal? To finish “the engineering,” plus a plan for the route and stations that the city can put up for bidding from investors in 2017, according to the Tribune.

If the O’Hare express route comes to fruition, it's unclear exactly how it will be funded. The city hopes to pay for the project with a cocktail of private and public funds, according to the Tribune. Ideally, a private company would cover general construction and operate the train, whereas the city would fund the stations at the airport, downtown, and anywhere else the train stops en route.

The Sun-Times depicted the funding situation as even more up in the air.

“The first phase is to determine the route and station locations," Evans told the Sun-Times. "We have to do that first. Until we can define and describe with some engineering certainty a service attractive to prospective users, we can’t go out to market and determine what financing structure makes sense and what parties might be involved.”

However, Evans did tell the Sun-Times a bit about money, saying that the express line would run from downtown to O’Hare in 20 to 25 minutes, for a premium; she estimated one ride would cost $25 to $35.

Evans also said the route would not use the Block 37 “superstation,” which Daley had built as part of his push for O’Hare express service, according to the Sun-Times. This is despite the fact that that station—located roughly between State and Dearborn at Randolph—cost more than two hundred million dollars.

“We have determined fairly clearly that Block 37 is not a feasible terminus,” Evans told the Sun-Times. “It would completely disrupt the existing CTA service that uses that area. Even to get into that space, you have to use those rails lines on either side of it. Trains entering and exiting create conflict.”