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Ultimate Failure-Chicago spent over 400 Million dollars on a Subway Super-station to nowhere

Ian Harvey

If you’ve ever been to Chicago, you will notice the many trains, subways, and traffic that fills the city. However, did you know there is a secret train under one of the most famous routes in the city?

The site is right under Block 37 between State and Dearborn at Randolph. Nearly 10 years ago, the Chicago Transit Authority wanted to launch a non-stop train service from the Loop to O’Hare and Midway airports.

However, the only service that came out of this idea was a mass transit “superstation” that sits unused deep below Block 37 between the Red and Blue subway lines. The project was ended after a large overrun of cost, and the many questions that started piling up about the funding and whether or not the project would even work. Here is the worst part yet; after 10 years, the public is still paying for the failure of this project.

One of the workers at the Civic Federation, Lawrence Msall, said that the whole idea was a terrible plan and was not thought out properly; the idea should never have been considered. He said it is quite hard to describe the incompetence of the people who thought it was a good plan.

The original idea of the superstation was so that people could have special trains just to take them to Chicago’s airports. The idea was to provide non-stop service, including specially-designed cars with provisions for luggage and better comfort than existing subways and trains. Seems like a good idea right? No. People who gave the superstation a try soon realized that it had to travel behind every train that made frequent stops – the new train traveled no faster than the regular train, and the new idea didn’t save travelers any time whatsoever. The full express service was also expensive for travelers and for the taxpayers. The superstation was never fully-funded or even fully-engineered. What would have happened if something went wrong on the train?

Estimates at the time, which was in 2006, put the cost of this superstation at $771 million and $1.5 billion. Not only is the cost outrageous for basically another slow-traveling train, it would have also required heavy construction for 3.7 miles on the Kennedy Expressway. It would have also required re-engineering of at least 11 overpasses and two dozen on ramps and off ramps. In order to have train stations at both major airports, construction would have been needed which would have resulted in tens of millions of dollars. The land, the tracks, and the cars would have cost $100 million. The study done before the construction began had estimated that the train line would’ve needed nine specially-equipped train cars, which would have added $67 million alone.

Msall and the Civic Federation have estimated the project and the cost, so far, at $400 million and counting. Msall added that the original bonds would have gone for 12 years. If the Chicago Transit Authority would have refinanced those bonds, they would’ve pushed those payments out for another 12 years. That money is still being paid back and the station remains unfinished, locked up, and in the dark. The trains will never be used, yet people are forced to pay the immense amount back to the company.

Msall expressed that the taxpayers and riders of the CTA will be paying for this failed project for 20 years and more. He said that it won’t be paid for anything beneficial or operational; people are paying for something broken and discontinued.

Just tossing out the rest of the company’s plans for the train cost $40 million. The management of the company claimed that it was a necessary amount to be paid in case a private vendor were to come forward to attempt the completion of the project.

Only a select few have seen the actual project. One photographer said that it was an endless dark space and you can’t see the end of it. It’s literally a concrete platform that doesn’t look like anything that could cost so much.

One excuse given to reporters stated that the idea and construction of the superstation was made under a previous administration which had halted the construction nearly seven years ago; the current CTA administration has no involvement in the decisions. They also added that there were no new additions to the funding going toward the superstation.

The CTA currently does not have any new plans for the superstation but they claim that it may have some future value. Some of the focus is on rebuilding what exists at the current station. They also added that since 2011 the superstation and other projects include the $425 million Red Line South reconstruction. The company believes they’ve finished it on time and within budget.

The mayor of the city at the time explained that there was a desire to do make the superstation a success but this was never accomplished. Msall believes that this is a prime example about having the public decide whether or not a project is necessary or useful. Something as disastrous as this plan could have been prevented. He added that these people began construction before having an idea of how they would pay for it.