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Emanuel lays out big plans for Chicago transit, including express line to O’Hare

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The mayor says that express train service between O’Hare and Chicago’s downtown is essential for the city’s future

Flickr Creative Commons/Jinjian Liang

Yesterday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel held a press conference to provide a lengthy update on the state of Chicago infrastructure. The mayor’s speech comes at the five-year anniversary of the announcement of the $7 billion “Building a New Chicago” infrastructure campaign which has seen major investments and improvements to vital transit systems, hubs, and recreation spaces such as the CTA modernization, O’Hare expansion, and the new Chicago Riverwalk extension, to name a few.

During the address, the mayor provided a thorough update on what has been done over the last five years, but also offered a vision for Chicago’s future, including the construction of an express rail line between O’Hare and the city’s downtown. The concept is not new, as Mayor Richard M. Daley originally envisioned such an express high-speed connection to O’Hare back in the early ‘90s. However, Mayor Emanuel resurfaced the idea back in 2011 and last year tapped outside engineers to help explore the possibility for the rail line.

However, this week, Emanuel announced that the city has brought on Bob Rivkin, an exec who has previously served as general counsel for the CTA, the U.S. Department of Transportation, and Delta Air Lines, to help drum up support and find partners to make the new O’Hare express line a reality. The plan, which is expected to cost billions, would require major support from private investors and Rivkin’s new job is to help line up partners and to lay out a legal framework for the ambitious project work.

Renovation activity happening at the Wilson Red Line station
Curbed Chicago Flickr pool/Nitram242

The mayor says that Chicago must offer this type of service to keep up with the pace of other major global cities.

“If London, Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Toronto can offer this service, the City of Chicago can and must offer it too,” Mayor Emanuel suggested. “Creating faster connections between the economic engine of our central business district and the economic engine of O’Hare will pay dividends for generations to come.”

The iconic underground pedway leading to the United terminal
Flickr Creative Commons/Erik Wolf

Emanuel pointed to Chicago’s place in history as a major rail center and then later as a busy international aviation hub and suggested that continuing this tradition of focusing Chicago’s efforts on maintaining its influence and status as a global transportation terminal is vital to the city’s success and economic growth.

“Because we are investing in our future, every year for the last three years more companies moved their headquarters to Chicago than to any other American city,” the mayor stated. “Building the best public transportation system, the most efficient aviation system, the strongest road system, the most modern school system and greatest park system, that’s how we secure our place as a world-class city for this century.”

Curbed Chicago Flickr pool/Milosh Kosanovich

And it’s not just shipping freight and moving business people around, Chicago has become one of the top tourist destinations in the U.S. and is seeing more and more international leisure travelers each year and the mayor suggests that improved transportation to and from O’Hare as well as new runways, expanded terminals, and new hotels at O’Hare will help service both business travelers and tourists.

“Infrastructure isn’t just about moving everyone around the city. It’s about moving our city forward, connecting the people of our city to each other and to opportunity, and giving everyone a chance to be part of building a new Chicago.”