CHICAGO (CBS) — Chicago wants to make it easier for travelers to get between downtown and O’Hare airport.
The city is asking for proposals to design, build and operate an express train to the airport. It would take 20 minutes or less to get from Block 37 on Washington Street to the airport, which is half the current travel time.
Mayor Emanuel said the solution to travel frustrations is a high-speed rail line between O’Hare and the city center. He announced Wednesday that that the City of Chicago, in coordination with the Chicago Infrastructure Trust (CIT) will issue a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for respondents to present their qualifications to design, build, finance, operate and maintain an O’Hare Express operating system through a public-private agreement with the City.
“Express service to and from O’Hare will give Chicagoans and visitors to our great city more options, faster travel times, and build on Chicago’s competitive advantage as a global hub of tourism, transportation and trade,” said Mayor Emanuel, in a statement. “More than a century ago, Daniel Burnham encouraged Chicago to ‘make no little plans,’ and today Chicagoans continue to make big and bold plans with an eye towards the future. Strengthening connections between the economic engines of downtown Chicago and O’Hare airport, at no cost to taxpayers, will build on Chicago’s legacy of innovation and pay dividends for generations to come.”
The Mayor said it is an idea whose time has come.
“If London and Hong Kong and Tokyo and Toronto can office this service, the city of Chicago can and must also offer it. We have been hearing from potential investors and companies from around the world about their interest in this project,” he said.
WATCH: Mayor Emanuel Says ‘Time Has Come’ For Express Train Service:
CBS 2 spoke to Deputy Mayor Bob Rivkin about the idea.
CBS: This is such exciting news in some ways, we already have the infrastructure in place after we started this back in 2006, but I heard estimates put the cost of the project at $800- to $1.5-billion. We know it is going to be funded privately but who wants to take that on?
“Well we hope a number of people will want to take that on. We are putting out a request for proposals, for qualifications for those who see the vision that Mayor Emanuel sees to bring the economic engines of our region closer together, O’Hare airport and our downtown core.
“It may come to Block 37, but it may be Union Station, it may be other locations downtown. So we think there is interest and we think that we are going to find out soon who’s willing to build it, in return for the revenues it will generate,” Rivkin said.
CBS: And when you speak about qualifications, exactly what is it that you are looking at when someone is making this bid?
“We will be evaluating the experience, the financing availability, the ability to design and operate such a system. It could be a train, it could be a tunnel, it could be something along the surface, new technologies that are just emerging. We think it is going to be very exciting to see the interest that we already know is there.”
WATCH: City Asks For Proposals To Build Express Train To O’Hare Airport:
CBS: So we may not be using the structures that have already been put in place when the project was first begun?
“There have been those who have been thinking about this project for years. It has always been Mayor Emanuel’s vision to put us on par with, or even leapfrog, our global sister cities in figuring out the best way to do an express service. So it could be to Union Station, which of course its infrastructure is already there. It could be a CTA station downtown or it could be Block 37,” he said.
CBS: Do we need it? It takes me 40 minutes if we leave from the station right here (CTA Washington Blue Line), whereas this would take 20. Is it worth a 20 minute save?
“We think it is. Our research shows that people would be willing to pay for a fast, reliable, comfortable option. That is not to say that people will not still take the CTA or Uber, or Lyft, or a taxi or drive; but we think a lot of them will shift to this mode of transit. We are excited to see this begin,” Rivkin said.
CBS: So $25 a ticket, is that what we are thinking?
“We are going to let the market decide what that could be. If you are like me and sometimes take ride-share to the airport it could be $45-50. Taxis even more, so I think that there’s a lot of leeway to price it at a place where people will want to take it.
The City and CIT intend to select one or more respondents that they consider most qualified to successfully respond to a subsequent Request for Proposals to be issued by the City and the CIT. RFQ responses are due on Jan. 24, 2018.