CTA to pay another $1 million for electrical work in Block 37 "hole"

(Crain's Chicago Business photo)

Block 37 now "resembles a large, unfinished basement."(Crain's Chicago Business photo)

The CTA has agreed to pay Commonwealth Edison just over $1 million for electrical work they did six years ago on the failed "super station" under Block 37, according to the Sun-Times.

The Block 37 project was former Mayor Daley's pipedream to runan express train from the station between the Blue and Red lines out to O'Hare Airport. That cost us $218 million.

ComEd was paid $3.2 million for their work at the time, but came back with another invoice for almost $2 million. Recently, ComEd and the CTA finally agreed on just over $1 million, and the CTA board approved that at its meeting last week.

So now the CTA has a $219 million hole that "resembles a large, unfinished basement,’’ CTA spokeswoman Tammy Chase said Wednesday.



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    "...an express train from the station between the Blue and Red lines out to O'Hare Airport."

    That's actually a pretty great idea. It would be nice to be able to jump on a train at O'hare and get off at Jackson Station in 20 minutes and vice-versa. Why was it put on hold? Lack of funding?

  • In reply to Peter Kozak:

    Cheryl has the correct story for the original "direct" service.

    The consultant said that the second step, for the real express in time for the Olympics would cost about $1.5 billion in 2006 dollars, and would involve either demolition to bypass stations on the Logan Square connector (which is now supposedly being fixed) or a new elevated structure over the UP NW line, with either to Jefferson Park, and then having to move I-90 to either side so that there would be enough room in the median for 4 tracks.

    That was in the days of Ask Carole (CTA Board Chairman Carole Brown), when she first said that she didn't endorse the "direct service" without a path to the "express service" and she didn't endorse anything if it would interfere with current Blue Line operations.

    Needless to say, no private investor came up with the $1.5 billion, we didn't get the Olympics, and Daley had an attack of ADHD and decided that he rather have a magelev.

    Carole Brown said that she supported the tunnel only because since there was nothing up top, that gave CTA an opportunity to build a connecting track, which was not built. Huberman recommended mothballing the project at this stage of expenditure.

    In that the Sun-Times article said that out of the $219 million, $171 million was CTA obligations, I believe that the City should reimburse CTA for this loss of capital funds. I believe that the CTA should get it out of Daley's hide personally.

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    In reply to jack:

    Wow... Sounds like they really counted their chickens before they hatched. Thanks for the info!

  • In reply to Peter Kozak:

    There were also other complications, such as that CTA had an agreement with Mills Corp. the developer of Block 37, to provide service, but no one said how CTA intended to meet that contract, except that Mills Corp. went bankrupt, so maybe nobody was around to enforce it.

    Roe Conn essentially picked up on Cheryl's interpretation by saying "this was only to keep the other riders from peeing on your shoes."

  • The plan was to run the "express" trains on the same tracks as the locals. It was less about getting there in a timely manner and more about not stopping at each station to let the hoi polloi on the same train as the business travelers. Of course since it was to share the tracks, it would stop every time a train in front of it stopped.

  • I wonder if the rainwater sewer lines back up into their large, unfinished basement too.

  • The best current alternative for express trains to O'Hare is the MHSRA's CrossRail Chicago plan that would use new, electrified express trains linking McCormick Place, Union Station, and O'Hare (new station near the rental car center) using the Metra Milwaukee West District line. The trip would take ~30 minutes from McCormick Place, and ~20 minutes from Union Station. See: http://www.midwesthsr.org/crossrail-chicago.

  • In reply to SpinyNorman:

    I wanted that years ago, but with the trains then continuing out to Arlington Heights & Crystal Lake along the UP NW Line.

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    Extending the line from O'Hare to Arlington Heights, Schaumburg, Hoffman Estates, and Elgin would be the next phase.

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    Is that really necessary, other than the occasional person who wants to go between Arlington Heights and O'Hare and doesn't want to use a flat rate cab?

    Also, would the junction at roughly NW Highway near the Pace garage accommodate that?

  • In reply to jack:

    The northwest corridor has a high concentration of jobs. Service would allow city dwellers to commute to jobs in the area. It's geared as an alternative to extending the Blue Line. By building service to McCormick Place via Metra Electric trackage, you would have continuous commuter service from University Park to Elgin.

  • In reply to SpinyNorman:

    Leaving McCormick Place on the table, this could be done now with the Metra North Central service, but, as usual, nobody with the city is interested in doing anything with Metra.

    There probably also is the question whether anyone from O'Hare wants to go to Dearborn St (Blue Line express) or Union Station, when the real destination is N. Michigan Ave.

  • In reply to jack:

    It's a short cab ride from Union Station to north Michigan Ave. The real winner is extending the line to McCormick place. I believe there are plenty of conventioneers who'd use the service, especially if they continue to expand the hotels near the convention center.

  • In reply to SpinyNorman:

    Probably, though, the real question is who wants to take the train and and cab vs. taking one of the airport livery buses (apparently now run by Go Airport Express). That at least stops at the arrival level, as opposed to having to take the people mover to the Metra station in the parking lot.

  • In reply to jack:

    Probably people who don't want to sit in a cab for 90+ minutes during rush hour.

  • In reply to SpinyNorman:

    1. I didn't say cab.

    2. Then the alternative is to ride the decrepit Blue Line for 45, and thus trade off dealing with the commoners vs. the travel time on the Kennedy or whatever route the airport bus takes.

  • In reply to jack:

    1. OK, ride in a bus for 90+ minutes.

    2. The alternative is an express train from O'Hare to Union Station (20 minutes), or McCormick Place (30 minutes).

  • In reply to SpinyNorman:

    Do you have:
    1. The $2 billion private investor into that for the capital cost?
    2. A commitment from CTA to subsidize Metra operating that service* or a customer survey saying that a sufficient number of persnickety riders will pay $40 a trip?**

    Need I say more about economic fantasy land? Maybe King Richard II can come up with that, but I think there is some reason that he decided to abdicate.
    *Ask "CTA Gray Line Project" about that.
    **The consultant's report on the Block 37 Express was premised on a $10 fare for about 12 passengers in the deluxe 5000 series front car, with the back car only being used for prescreened baggage.

  • In reply to SpinyNorman:

    Conventioneers don't want to be dragging their suit cases full of their underwear around the convention hall all day. They want to go to their hotel and get settled when they arrive in the city.

    And they don't want to commute to the airport daily. There might be a spike in traffic on the first and last day of a convention, but the trains would be empty at other times.

  • In reply to Castle:

    And conventioneers don't necessarily want to be in a downtown hotel when their business is primarily in and around the convention center. There are a growing number of hotels near McCormick Place, and this would certainly spur additional growth.

  • In reply to SpinyNorman:

    Which the airport livery serves. But they probably don't want to stay there if they want to see the city, as well as breastfeed at the convention.

  • this is old news reported more than a week ago at many outer news outlets

  • Jack, not sure why you bring the CTA into the discussion. The CrossRail Chicago plan would affect Metra only.

    The MHSRA'a figures show an estimate of 1.6 million riders a year on the O'Hare to Union Station segment. As a tourist and business traveler, I'd have no problem paying $10 to $25 for a 20 minute ride to downtown, as opposed to $5 for an hour+ ride on the Blue Line, or a $40+ cab fare for an hour+ ride downtown.

  • In reply to SpinyNorman:

    I brought up CTA, because this topic was the Block 37 CTA Station, so by your definition, you are off topic.

    And, you haven't justified why Metra should create an in-city service (unless you think having to run through Franklin Park makes it suburban), how Metra is supposed to pay for this when it says it already has severe capital and equipment constraints (including not enough spares or places to store them), nor how many of the estimated riders are already served by the NCS.

    Post a link to a real business case, first. At least the consultants on the 2006 Airport Express plan did, but conceded that it would need a certain level of private investment. Post a link to what private entity is willing to invest in this. It is not a free good.

  • In reply to jack:

    The initial segment would link O'Hare to McCormick Place. Follow-up segments would extend the service to Elgin, and eventually Rockford. This is certainly within Metra's area of service.

    Metra currently has no direct service from the south suburbs to the northwest suburbs. By building the McCormick to Union Station segment, they can potentially pick up south suburban riders who commute to the northwest corridor.

    In addition, there is no current high-speed O'Hare to Downtown service, so why wouldn't Metra want to pick up 1.6 million new riders?

  • In reply to SpinyNorman:

    Finally, by mentioning cab again, you seem to have a mental block against the prevalent means such passengers use "airport livery service."

  • In reply to jack:

    And you appears to have a mental block against 90+ minutes. The livery service suffers the same delays as cabs. Travel times on the Kennedy can exceed an hour during most rush hour periods, and can be longer than 90 minutes when the weather stinks. Express train service provides 20 minute rides downtown, the same thing as the Block 37 proposal, and probably faster.

    Basically, today you can spend an hour+ on the Blue line, or an hour+ on the Kennedy in a cab or bus. You really don't think travels want an option for 20 minute service to downtown? The CrossLink proposal estimates 1.6 million rides a year. That sure the heck sounds like more than just a handful of travelers.

  • In reply to SpinyNorman:

    "You really don't think travels want an option for 20 minute service to downtown? "

    Again, you seem to have a mental block to providing an actual business case that justifies the investment to provide that.

    And if you think a 20 minute ride is guaranteed, how about such Metra problems as "conflicting freight traffic," especially since part would be on CN rails, and CN has demonstrated hostility to allowing any more passenger service on its property, including fighting additional NCS trains.

    Do those passengers also want to lug their luggage on the People Mover to the remote Metra station? At least the Block 37 proposal envisioned secure baggage check in, and a station near the terminal.

  • In reply to SpinyNorman:

    Unless your final destination is Union Station, your $10 to $25 doesn't get you where you want to go. How many business travelers are coming to visit Union Station? You still have to get from Union Station to where you are really going.

  • In reply to Castle:

    So, what is your proposal, Castle? Individual train service to every hotel? Sheesh. The trip from O'Hare to downtown sucks. I believe only Dulles airport is worse. Providing express service to the downtown area is a big plus, even if it doesn't deliver the traveler to their hotel. It still beats sitting in rush hour traffic for an hour or more.

  • In reply to SpinyNorman:

    So, you are now proposing the strawman that someone else should propose something?

    I don't think that worked for the Ashland BRT, and it sure isn't going to generate the billions needed for this pipe dream.

    BTW, does every airport passenger arrive during the rush hour?

  • In reply to jack:

    Do you drive the Kennedy on a regular basis? When isn't it rush hour? Traffic has become a nightmare, even on weekends. Your proposal sure sounds like more of the same failed transportation policy, i.e. stuff more vehicles on the overloaded Kennedy.

    Have you read the proposal? It estimates a minimum of 1.6 million rides a year. Sure sounds like more than a handful of people. I didn't conduct the study, so I don't know the authors' methodology. Given the number of travelers coming into Chicago through O'Hare, and not transferring to another flight, the number seems fine.

  • In reply to SpinyNorman:

    No I don't, and when I use the airport, it is not in the direction of downtown.

    Maybe you want to jump on another of King Richard II's proposal of a rail link to O'Hare via the UP up to Lake Forest, except that the branch on which he proposed it was strictly a freight connector and doesn't have any stations. It was a proposal, after all.

    Or, maybe you want to jump on his Maglev proposal.

    Just because some rail foamer association proposes something doesn't make it feasible, either. But since you have bought the Kool-Aid .........

  • In reply to SpinyNorman:

    So you have your choice:
    1) A cab, van, limo, livery that will take you from baggage claim to your hotel.

    2) A schlep from baggage claim to the ATS, wait for an ATS which will take you to a train station where you wait 0 to 60 minutes for the next train to pick you up. The train drops you off in some area southwest of downtown where you again have to schlep your stuff through a large crowded station and find your own way to your final destination, wherever it is.

    Most business travelers whose employers are reimbursing them for the costs are obviously going to choose the second choice, right?

  • In reply to Castle:

    Gee, aren't options wonderful. The proposal estimates 1.6 million rides a year. Doesn't sound like #2 is that unappealing. Not sure where you get 0 to 60 minutes. With 30 minute service from O'Hare to McCormick place, two trainsets would allow 30 minute departure times. Four trainsets would provide departures every 15 minutes.

  • In reply to SpinyNorman:

    Where is your evidence that CN is going to allow the additional trainsets. when it gave Metra extreme grief when allowing just 11 trains in each direction on its tracks for the NCS?

    What is the operating costs for running those additional trainsets?

    I think that Castle is correct that in reality, you are proposing a two hour trip, to a destination most don't want.

    The more you try to justify this, the worse it looks.

  • In reply to jack:

    Millions of travelers visit Chicago every year, and we offer half-assed transportation from the airport to the downtown area. For a city that gave us the slogan, "Make no little plans", we sure have gotten good at making no plans, and accepting the current sad state of affairs.

    You seem content to shove more people into cabs and buses, and jam them on the overcrowded Kennedy. The fact that the CTA's express service didn't pan out doesn't mean the service isn't necessary, or can't be viable. The proposal estimates 1.6 million riders a year. That's not a small number.

  • In reply to SpinyNorman:

    But you don't seem able to make progress with the discussion other than your bare 1.6 million rider assertion, so I don't think it is worth it for us to bother any further, either. Let's say that nobody, and especially you, convinced anyone to proceed with it.

  • I can't comment on Block 37 jack -- I'll get all upset and start ranting and raving (better left unsaid). But I will say that you all seem to be ignoring the thousands of folks who work out there.

    Many times I had Copier service calls downtown, with the next call at O'Hare; and people who work at O'Hare, but live south of Downtown might value a fast limited stop service, instead of the Blue Line.

    And aren't all the Agency transit fares supposed to be integrated on this coming Jan. 1st.?

  • I'm sure you all have heard about the plan for a Lucas "Star Wars" Museum between Solder Field and McCormick Place -- some interesting statements they have to say about "improving" public transit there: http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/breaking/chi-star-wars-museum-soldier-field-parking-lot-20140520,0,4099646.story http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/breaking/chi-map-star-wars-museum-soldier-field-parking-20140520,0,545760.htmlstory

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