CTA To Seek Private Sector Partners for Airport Express Service

June 11, 2008

CTA to Complete Core Work on Tunnels and Station Shell This Year

Chicago Transit Authority President Ron Huberman said that after a thorough review of the CTA's Block 37 project to develop a transit center, track connections and direct airport train service, he plans to recommend to the Chicago Transit Board that the CTA go out to bid for a private sector partner to build out the station and develop and operate the service.

"I have carefully read the business case for airport service and believe that a premium service built and operated in conjunction with a private sector partner is the way to go," said Huberman. "To replicate the success of premium service in other major cities, we really need to leverage private sector resources and expertise."

Huberman said staff will work with the City of Chicago which is partnering with the CTA to develop a request for proposals to seek that partner. In the meantime, the CTA will continue constructing underground tunnels to connect the Red and Blue Lines to the new station. It will also continue to work with Joseph Freed & Associates, the Block 37 master developer, to finish the shell of a station that would serve both lines. Scheduled work on both is expected to be completed by the end of 2008.

Huberman said that it would not make sense to completely build out the station or create the final tunnel connections until a partner is selected because final layout, technology and finishes are dependent on an operating plan.

"We have limited capital resources and would prefer to direct them toward removing slow zones, replacing aging buses, updating signal systems, and investing in other improvements to our existing system. The work we have done so far is valuable, but we don't want to spend additional money speculating on a future partner's needs," said Huberman.

The cost to complete the tunnel work and the station shell will cost an additional $45.6 million. Build out costs would be more and would depend on the needs of the future partner. The project was conceived in 2003 and the initial budget estimate was $213.3 million with a CTA share of $130 million.

Huberman has identified three primary factors that impacted the project budget: construction costs, the site conditions and the site logistics.

Since the initial budget was developed in 2003, construction and materials costs have increased by 26 percent. In addition, the CTA work occurred several stories beneath street level and construction crews encountered more challenging conditions than anticipated. There was still a significant amount of foundation and debris from previous structures on the site as well as a staggering amount of utility work.

The other factor was site staging. With two contractors and all their heavy equipment working together in a limited space, there have been significant logistical challenges that have resulted in more work being done at night and on weekends, at a higher cost.

Huberman said that he replaced the prior project management team last fall and praised the new team for identifying the problems and providing workable solutions.

"The CTA is committed to developing a premier service that will enhance Chicago's standing as a world-class city. Tapping into private sector expertise at this stage allows us to leverage our existing investment in this project, creates an opportunity for outside investment, and can bring in partners who have experience building and managing premium services," said Huberman. "It also enables us to direct our limited capital resources to some areas with more immediate needs."

 

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