Elon Musk’s plans to build an underground express system for Chicago are super vague and people are mad about it. The Illinois-based Better Government Association (BGA) announced in a report yesterday that it’s filed a lawsuit against the city to release public records behind its $1 billion deal with the Tesla CEO. In June, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Musk unveiled their grand vision to create a tunnel that would allow commuters to traverse 15 miles from the Loop in downtown Chicago to O’Hare International Airport in just 12 minutes. Musk promised to use untested digging equipment to build it and to introduce the new electric rail system in as little as 18 months. But that’s pretty much all that's been publicly revealed about it. The BGA argued that the secrecy behind the proposal’s logistics goes against the statutes of public policy that require such developments to solve clear problems in a clear way before receiving approval or funding. The watchdog organization reached out to the Emanuel administration to obtain public records detailing the meetings between the mayor and Musk, but the city simply claimed the initial discussions on the project were “pre-decisional.” This means no firm deal has been struck between the two parties even though the plan went public this summer. The BGA also pointed out that Musk has already completed a short tunnel project beneath Los Angeles’s Hawthorne neighborhood, but used conventional sewer drilling technology to make it, not the as-promised, untested tech. Musk claims that he can begin construction on the Chicago tunnel by the end of this year and complete it quickly thanks to the new (non-existent) digging equipment. But the head of the Chicago Infrastructure Trust, which green-lighted the project according to the BGA, said a more realistic construction time is four years. Even so, major infrastructure projects generally take a decade or more to finish (see: New York’s Second Avenue Subway) and Chicago has already spent over $250 million under former Mayor Richard M. Daley on a failed plan to complete an underground superstation on the way to the airport. Improving upon the 45-minute commute via rail from the Loop to O’Hare is a top priority for the city, but no real plans from Musk or the mayor have been outlined as of late for locals to review. If the BGA’s lawsuit moves forward, Chicagoans could get a peek at the plans sooner rather than later.
Posts tagged with "O'Hare International Airport":
On the heels of the news that Elon Musk’s The Boring Company will dig a high-speed rail link from Chicago’s Loop to O’Hare International Airport, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has kicked off an international competition to design O’Hare’s massive expansion plan. The city has issued a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) to potential lead architectural designers—available here—for what Mayor Emanuel has coined O’Hare 21. All of the proposed work falls under O’Hare’s Terminal Area Plan (TAP), a sprawling plan to modernize the airport with a new global terminal (OGT), global concourse (OGC), and Satellite Concourses One and Two. The $8.7 billion expansion plan of O’Hare is the first in nearly 25 years and will increase the total terminal coverage from 5.5 million to 8.9 million square feet. To get there, O’Hare’s aging Terminal 2 will be torn down and replaced with the new “O’Hare Global Terminal,” an updated terminal that can handle larger international planes. Terminals 1 and 3 will undergo renovation, and Terminal 5 will be expanded. The resultant global terminal would house both international and domestic flights from United and American Airlines, the first terminal in the country to do so. Passengers flying out of O’Hare eight years from now will also be met with dozens of new gates and a streamlined security system. “This is an opportunity to write the next chapter in Chicago’s legacy of architectural ingenuity,” said Mayor Emanuel, according to the Chicago Sun Times, “while sharing the iconic architecture and design Chicago is famous for with visitors from across the country and around the world.” The Chicago City Council has already approved $4 billion in loans to get the project rolling, which will eventually be paid back through higher landing fees and terminal rents for United and American. Interested firms have until August 9 to apply, and the City of Chicago Department of Aviation’s evaluation committee will recommend teams for the shortlist. Those invited back will be given the opportunity to answer the Request for Proposal, as well as a $50,000 stipend.
Speaking to a crowd of union workers last week, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel reiterated his intentions to have a high-speed express rail built between O’Hare International Airport and the city’s downtown. Details, however, remain unclear. It was almost exactly one year ago that Emanuel announced that the city would be spending $2 million to investigate new and existing proposals for the rail, which would carry passengers 17 miles in under 30 minutes. Currently, there already is a train, the CTA’s Blue Line L train, that travels from the airport to Chicago's downtown in about 50 minutes. Critics of the proposed express train argue that the costs of building a new rail system far outweigh the benefits of cutting that trip's time in half. The mayor argued for the need by pointing out the success of express airport rails in other cities, such as London, Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Toronto. While the latest announcement did not include an idea of the cost, earlier studies into the rail have estimated the price at anywhere between $750 million and $1.5 billion. Those numbers come from a 2006 report commissioned by Emanuel’s predecessor, Mayor Richard M. Daley. Daley also made multiple attempts to kick start the express rail project, but with little success. The wide price range for the project is based on the major options for the path of the train. The more affordable option would see the train sharing space with the existing Blue Line, possibly running on an elevated level above the slower local train. The more expensive route would follow an expressway and existing freight rail lines that run west out of the downtown. While that 2006 report estimated passenger tickets at $10, twice the current price to take the Blue Line, many believe tickets would have to be much higher. Similar rails around the world charge anywhere from $30 to $60. This latest mention of the proposed express train came packaged in a speech celebrating the 5th year anniversary of Emanuel’s “Building A New Chicago” initiative to rebuild Chicago’s infrastructure. In those five years, the city has been busy. According to the mayor’s speech, renovations have happened at 40 CTA L stations, 108 miles of protected or widened bike lanes have been added, 1,600 miles of city streets have been repaved, 500 miles of water mains have been replaced, and over 300 neighborhood parks have been renovated. O’Hare itself is also set to receive $3.5 billion in city bonds to build a new runway and make other improvements in the coming years.
The City of Chicago has announced a plan to remodel and expand portions of O’Hare International Airport. Part of a multi-billion capital investment program, the plan calls for a 25% expansion of Terminal 5 and a major redevelopment of Terminal 2. O’Hare is one of the busiest airports in the world, and has recently been plague with delays related to TSA passenger screening. The redevelopment of Terminal 2 would add updated amenities to the centrally located terminal, making it a hub for the entire airport. A new U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility as well as additional TSA screening areas would be major additions to the Terminal. New concessions, passenger amenities, and a new concourse are also part of the initial plan. The proposed improvements are part of the city’s O’hare 21 initiative to improve the airport as an international gateway. Mayor Rahm Emanuel commented, “From adding more gates and improving the international terminal to constructing the most efficient runway system in the country, we are ensuring that O’Hare continues to be an economic driver for the city of Chicago long into the future.” O’Hare 21 is a collaboration between the federal, state, and city agencies, the airport, multiple airlines, and organized business and labor groups. O’Hare 21 also outlines workforce guidelines for the redevelopment, with a focus on local, minority, and women-owned businesses given priority. Though the announcement did not specify details, the redevelopment is planned to be completed without the help of taxpayer dollars. The planning process for the Terminal 5 and 2 projects is expected to last into 2017. O’Hare is also in the process of adding three new hotels, a new runway, additional gates, and other necessary airfield projects, all under the O’Hare 21 initiative.