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Mayor Daley: Chicago needs high-speed train from downtown to O'Hare

(The following story by Fran Spielman appeared on the Chicago Sun-Times website on September 27, 2010.)

CHICAGO — Mayor Daley is back from his week-long trade mission to China and Korea more convinced than ever that Chicago needs a high-speed train from downtown to O’Hare Airport and that there’s enough interest from foreign investors to make it happen.

“They’re all interested. … Everybody’s interested. ... They want to design it. They want to build it, operate and maintain it … with people working here,” Daley said Monday at an unrelated news conference at Columbus Park.

Asked whether he’s convinced the project will someday get done, the lame-duck mayor said, “Yes. Much faster. Definitely. I firmly believe that. But, you have to work on the financial terms and agreements. ... It’s very complicated.”

Won’t foreign investors be somewhat reluctant to invest in massive Chicago infrastructure projects when the only mayor they’ve ever known is leaving office and they don’t who will succeed him?

Not according to Daley.

“They have confidence in the business community. They have confidence in the history of Chicago. ... This is not one town represented by one person. I’m sorry,” he said.

“I’ve loved this. I’ve worked hard. But, there are many, many people who have made a commitment to build Chicago just as much as I have and they’ll continue to do that — generations of people. It’s not just those in politics and government, but those in the business community.”

In 2008, the CTA mothballed plans for express trains to O’Hare and Midway amid more than $100 million in cost overruns on the super-station that was supposed to be built downtown beneath Block 37.

At the time, Daley said he would search for a private partner to complete the station.

His latest plan — announced just weeks before he chose political retirement over the quest for a seventh term — is far more ambitious.

It calls for private investors to complete the station, lay the separate track down the Kennedy Expy. needed to make the trains express and to run the system in exchange for premium fares.

On Monday, Daley noted that his entourage hopped on a high-speed train at the Shanghai airport and arrived at a stop just outside downtown seven minutes later.

“You have to have a high-speed train from your international airport to downtown. ... That will rebuild our commercial market and our hospitality industry,” he said.

“Great cities have [a] high-speed train from the airport downtown. ... Once you make that contact from the airport downtown, it keeps building your downtown businesses, jobs and taxes, and that’s what you have to have.”

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

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