Four vendors emerge in Chicago quest to connect passengers to O'Hare airport easily

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Chicago's O'Hare International Airport
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CHICAGO — Four separate venture groups, encompassing entrepreneurs, investors, contractors, and Amtrak, are in the bidding to finance, build and operate a new high-speed transit system between downtown Chicago and O’Hare International Airport.

The objective is to cut the travel time between the city’s center and O’Hare by 50 percent, to about 20 minutes or less, via shuttles every 15 minutes.

The project, boosted by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, is the latest iteration of a concept that has been floated for decades, but without success. Emanuel lauded the four bidders as “visionary.”

“Strengthening connections between the economic engines of downtown Chicago and O’Hare airport will build on Chicago’s legacy of innovation and pay dividends for generations to come,” the mayor said in a statement.

The four groups are:
•The Boring Company, founded by Elon Musk, the high-profile CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, which launched its first Falcon Heavy rocket last week. The Boring Company is reportedly planning to build a two-mile test tunnel at the site of its headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif., and is seeking permission to dig a 6.5-mile tunnel between Los Angeles and Culver City, Calif. The tunnels would supposedly carry personal cars or multi-passenger “pods” at 100-plus mile-per-hour speeds. Aides to Emanuel met last year with Musk, who outlined a vision of underground tunnels providing high-speed public transportation.

•Oaktree Capital Management, a Los Angeles-based investment management firm specializing in corporate and distressed debt.

•O’Hare Express Train Partners, comprised of OHL Infrastructure, part of an international concessions and construction corporation; Kiewit, an Omaha-based construction, mining and engineering firm; and Amtrak. In a response to Trains News Wire, Amtrak directed all questions to OHL.

•O’Hare Xpress LLC, comprised of Meridiam, an infrastructure management firm; Antarctica Capital, a global investment manager; JLC Infrastructure, an investment management firm formed by Earvin “Magic” Johnson involved in other major airport projects; Mott McDonald, a global transportation engineering firm; and First Transit, which provides contract public transit services.

The four groups responded to a request for qualifications from the Chicago Infrastructure Trust, an organization headed by civic, business and labor leaders and created by the city to provide “transformative infrastructure projects” via private funding. The trust would not provide further details on the bids.

According to the 125-page request for quotations, the O’Hare Express could run along existing freight rail corridors such as Canadian National and CSX Transportation rights-of-way; a Metra commuter rail line; the CTA’s Blue Line, or “an alternate surface or subsurface corridor.”

The request for quotations requires that the O'Hare Express Service must include a downtown station, an O’Hare station and one maintenance facility.
Chicago-area transportation experts have repeatedly pointed out that in order for such a service to succeed, it must include intermediate connections, since not all potential users would want to shuttle only between downtown Chicago and the airport.

Rail advocates say the downtown terminus must easily connect with Amtrak and commuter rail agency Metra to be viable.

There is no cost estimate yet for the project. The request for quotations stipulates that the express service be funded solely by revenues such as fares and advertising and financed entirely by the concessionaire.

The trust and the city said they will now begin to evaluate the statements of qualifications. After the review, qualified respondents will be permitted to continue in the process, and a request for proposals will be issued to qualified bidders.

The city says that the current total daily number or air passengers traveling between O’Hare and the Chicago central business district is approximately 20,000 and is forecast to grow to at least 35,000 daily air passengers in 2045.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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