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CTA puts brakes on public funding of Block 37 superstation

President Ron Huberman recommended to board members Wednesday that the CTA seek private funding to build out the Block 37 superstation and develop and operate direct service to the city's two airports.

Still, Huberman had to ask the board for almost $46 million in additional funding to finish construction of just the shells of the subway tunnel and station.

And board members were not happy about that.

"This project has been a disaster," said board member Susan Leonis, a long-time critic of the project first developed by former CTA President Frank Kruesi.

Crain's Chicago Business reports:

"At an occasionally testy board meeting, CTA President Ron Huberman blamed inflation in building materials, logistical woes and the unexpected difficulty of relocating a century’s worth of utility lines on the block, located between the Daley Civic Center and Macy’s State Street flagship store."

CTA President Carole Brown laid blame for this fiasco squarely at the feet of Kruesi. “Time after time, we were told everything is great, everything is on time and on budget,” Brown said. “Ron and his staff have done the best he could in carving a solution to a very, very bad situation.”

Huberman deserves credit for cutting his losses. But it sounds like Kruesi pulled a fast one on the board. And here's the CTA's spin on the story.


Oh please, this thing was Daley's baby from the beginning. Kreusi's responsible for it like I'm responsible for how short my bus stops.

But the subway tubes, including the stations, are the property of the City of Chicago, and not the CTA. So why, since this is a subway tube and station, is the cost for this coming out of the CTAs budget instead of being paid for by the City of Chicago?

Can any major development happen in this city without significant mismanagement, widespread corruption, and mindboggling cost overruns? Have we forgotten Millenium Park? The CTA needs to start working on more immediate tasks (finishing up the Brown Line, eliminating slow zones, getting newer equipment, etc) before chasing these pipe dream ideas.

The CTA is working on completion of the Brown Line project (even accelerated track/platform work at Belmont and Fullerton). They are also working on fixing slow zones on Red, Brown, and O'Hare branch of the Blue Line. New rolling stock has been on order for some time.

The B37 superstation project is a leftover from Kreusi who stonewalled the board over what it was really costing and the realistic prospects for actually starting service. Huberman and the board did the only justifiable thing by completing the shell and mothballing the station to await further funding.

It never was a terribly worthwhile project to begin with IMO. The several hundred million poured into this would have been better spent on the West Loop Transportation Center and the Carroll Ave circulator.

what a waste! $300 million to re-renovate a perfectly good station so it can support a seldom used airport express line.

That was enough money to build any of the extensions (Red, Orange, Yellow) that have been in the planning stages for so long, and which would have been a much better use of money than making life nicer for the already well-off. We haven't really heard from Huberman yet what his expansion priorities are, but if money goes to the Circle Line ahead of extending service to underserved areas - especially the Red Line extension and the Mid-City Transitway El (O'Hare to Midway to the Red Line at 87th) - then we'll know Daley's pattern of helping those who least need it is intact.

Weren't these "express" airport trains just going to run on the main lines, behind the regular trains (and their myriad of predictable delays and issues) anyway? I'm not seeing the point in paying a higher price to be on an "express" train when I would still have to wait behind other trains on their normal routes...wouldn't I just get there around the same time anyway? I can imagine a pretty maddening train ride, if so...or am I missing something?

Oh, I can hear the announcements now!

"This is a Circle Line train to nowhere."

Anyways, what is the deal with loops and circles in transit? Does anyone actually believe that this works? Just take a look at any large, enclosed shopping center (like Woodfield). There are no roads that actually go to the mall, only around. Traffic is forced to go around in circles when, in reality, people are simply trying to get to the mall. Instead of transit plans that take people around where they are trying to go, the plans need to be for getting people TO where they are going.

The system needs to be O/D-based, not hub-and-spoke. Otherwise, train stations are going to start resembling O'Hare during a snowstorm.

This pork-barrel project should not have been allowed to start. Tax dollars should not have been used to build something that would only benefit tourists. $300 million dollars to build a one-block tunnel? *Sigh* Our tax dollars at work.


Speaking as someone who's been to Moscow - yes, it most certainly does (though, parodoxically, the Moscow subway system has grown so large and so complex that it's begging for another circle line further out)

Circular lines in cities that have them are hugely popular. I have spent quite a bit of time in Madrid, and circular line 6 is very, very busy. So much so that some major interchange stations have dual platforms where doors open on both sides of the train at the same time. If the circular line cuts across most of the radial lines at their mid-points and has easy transfers, a circular line can cut trip length/travel time in half. I couldn't imagine the Madrid system working as well as it does without the circular line. Not every trip is into the center of the city.

Strannik, yup I know what you mean...Madrid is also planning another semi-circular line further out that would connect the outer ends of most lines in the East of Madrid.

So is there any possible way that Kruesi can have criminal charges filed against him? He has proven to be a scumbag through and through.

Add Berlin to the list of popular - and successful - Circle Line trains.

While it may or may not have been the impetus for this project back in 2003, I wonder if Daley's interest in pushing this airport train boondoggle is to provide a one-seat connection ride between O'Hare and the various Olympic sites that would be in the general vicinity of the Dan Ryan branch of the red line? That's one of the few things this cross-over tunnel would accomplish, and it would give Daley something to show the IOC by way of transportation improvements.

Otherwise, it's hard to imagine what the point of this express service would be. Business travelers are going to take cabs to and from the airport. Maybe they shouldn't, but since they're spending somebody else's money, they will. I suppose there are also tourists, but are they really going to pay $10 a head to go to the Loop? (For a family of 3 that's $30, and to get to most hotels they'll still need to transfer to a cab once they get downtown, saving them approximately... nothing.)

Or maybe Daley has long dreamed of having Forest Park trains go to Evanston?

Hard to figure.

"Tax dollars should not have been used to build something that would only benefit tourists."

People who travel to Chicago either for business purposes or as tourists bring an immense amount of money into the city and are essential to maintaining the economic health of the city. Therefore spending tax dollars on things that benefit travelers benefit the city.

Carole Brown didn't trust Kruesi but seemed to sign off on everything he wanted to do, Brown and the board never seem to perform their due diligence to get to the truth and then seemed perplexed that a politician would spin them. Its either an act or idiocy.

I have a rubber stamp. Where's my $50K.

I think an airport express is a great idea - after other transport improvements. I think, however, that most of the other airport express lines that are privately run were still publicly built or subsidized.

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