Chicago's public schools are broke, property taxes are sky high, savage gang wars rake the South and West sides, and so on and so on. So here comes Mayor Rahm Emanuel ballyhooing an out-of-sight costly subway to link the Loop and O'Hare Airport with high-speed trains. (Here and here.)
Irresponsible. Nutty. Insane.
The cost, disruption and time it would take are incalculable. An honest cost-benefit analysis would doom the project before visionary billionaire Elon Musk of SpaceX and Tesla (Emanuel's man to get the job done) could toss the first shovel-full. To make it financially possible, the price of the subway ride to O'Hare would probably cost more than a flight to New York City.
Have we already forgotten about the $300 million that was literally sunk into the site of the old Block 37 to build a fancy subway station for former Mayor Richard M. Daley's dream of high speed trains running on the CTA's Blue Line. A station that was abandoned after it was built and now sits empty in the basement of a high-rise. How's that for a measure of how well Chicago is governed--building the station before having an idea of how an express train could operate on the Blue Line.
This is part of a larger story, the continuing determination by Chicago politicians and the special interests to continue to pour billions into turning O'Hare into a functioning airport. Start with Daley's 2001 promise that the O'Hare Modernization Program would cut delays the airport by up to more than 90 percent and double its capacity. Now, more than 15 years, at least $14 billion and five new runways later, on-time performance hasn't improve one bit and the airport traffic hasn't increased one iota.
Thanks to Daley, the solution that aviation experts from three states agreed on--a south suburban airport--has stalled. An airport that contractors were committed to plan, finance, build and operate at virtually no cost to taxpayers. Near the end of the Metra electric line, which could have more efficiently been used as a route for high-speed travel between the airport and the Loop.
The only reasonable, less expensive and cost-effective way to connect O'Hare and the Loop is to utilize the Metra line that already goes there. But no, that would mean that Emanuel's CTA would be left out of the picture, and he would not reap the billions in jobs and contracts that would come from the high-speed dream.
Hell, even the dream of the ground-level high-speed train service pushed by rail fans in Illinois, California and elsewhere has proven to be way too expensive. And now we're thinking of putting it in a more expensive tunnel?
When is this lunacy going to stop?