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O'Hare CTA station
Photograph: CC/Flickr/Dino Quinzani

Mayor Emanuel is trying to make the O’Hare express train happen (again)

Zach Long
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Zach Long
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Like Mayor Richard M. Daley before him, Mayor Rahm Emanuel can't seem to shake the idea of a direct express train to O'Hare International Airport that would transport travelers from the Loop to the far North Side in 20 minutes or less. According to the Sun-Times, the mayor and his Chicago Infrastructure Trust will issue a request for qualifications today, seeking out parties interesting in building, financing and operating an express train in partnership with the city. Emanuel has previously insisted that taxpayer funds won't be used to make the project happen, which means that the city needs to find someone willing to make (or gather) a sizable investment.

Speaking to the Sun-Times, Deputy Mayor Bob Rivkin identified three potential routes for the express train that the city is pitching, including a route that corresponds to the CTA Blue Line (built above or below the existing tracks), the Metra North Central line and a combination of freight railroads that run west to Forest Park and north to O’Hare. Bidders who answer the request for qualifications are required to include plans for a station in the Loop, a station at O'Hare and a maintenance facility.

Earlier this year, the Mayor's office seemed enthusiastic about creating an O'Hare express train route with the help of Tesla founder Elon Musk, using his new underground drilling technology to create a tunnel that would ferry passengers to and from the airport at speeds of up to 125 miles per hour. Rivkin told the Sun-Times that he is hopeful that Musk will formally submit a bid during the request for qualifications process, which concludes on January 24, 2018.

Mayor Emanuel announced the plan to begin seeking out express train partners from the Block 37 superstation, an unused piece of infrastructure that former Mayor Daley sunk $200 million into while pursuing his own version of the high-speed O'Hare connection project. Chicagoans will have a better idea of the feasibility of 20-minute train rides to O'Hare when the city announces which respondents it will request proposals from next year. Until then, take this latest push with a grain of salt—the days of giving yourself plenty of extra time to arrive at the airport won't be ending anytime soon.

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