Rahm’s dream of an express train to O’Hare is like a nightmare from Trump | Politics | Chicago Reader

Rahm’s dream of an express train to O’Hare is like a nightmare from Trump 

Is a 20-minute ride to the airport really worth $30 and millions of dollars of taxpayer money?

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Several weeks ago, Donald Trump went on a trip to Paris, saw a big military parade, and rushed back to the White House with big dreams racing through his little brain.

He wanted a parade. A huge parade. Huger than the one in Paris. With soldiers and tanks clamoring through the streets of Washington. And planes flying overhead. And everyone bowing down to the commander in chief.

And the aides said: Yes, sir, Mr. President, sir!

Or words to that effect—I can only surmise what Trump and his aides say to each other.

In any regards, the president is moving ahead with his parade plans even though . . .

We can't afford it because his tax cut for the rich will add at least $1.5 trillion to the national debt—he's already proposing cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and social security to pay for the tax break. And he still hasn't figured out how to pay for his great wall, speaking of big dreams racing through little brains.

When I talk about all of this with my liberal friends in Chicago, they scornfully laugh at Trump supporters and ask, how can they be so stupid as to support this man?

Well, I hate to say it, folks, but a similar thing is happening right here in Chicago with Mayor Emanuel's great dream of an express train to O'Hare.

Actually, in Rahm's defense, the express train was Mayor Daley's idea from about 2005. On a trip to China, Mayor Daley rode an express train that zipped him from the airport to the central city in no time at all.

And when he returned to Chicago, he could barely contain his excitement, leading to an exchange on the fifth floor of City Hall that probably went something like this.

Daley: I want an express train to O'Hare and Midway, and I want one now!

Aides: Yes, sir, Mr. Mayor, sir.

This just shows you how much Trump and Daley aides have in common—at least in my imagination.

And so Daley launched the express trains dream without study or analysis by arm-twisting the CTA board and the Chicago City Council into spending about $400 million to construct a downtown station under Block 37 for the service. Even though . . .

There's no need for an express service, 'cause we already have trains that run from the airports to the Loop (the Blue Line and the Orange Line). And Chicago, then as now, was hard up for money, so we really could have used those millions on something else. And there was no track for those express trains to run on.

I think that last point reveals more about the mentality of Chicago under our autocratic mayors—Daley and Rahm—than just about anything else.

One more time: there was no track for the train to run on, yet the City Council, bowing to Daley's command, voted to spend millions in TIF dollars to construct an underground station that would probably never be used. As, for the last time, there were no tracks for the trains to run on. So essentially, the city spent hundreds of millions of dollars digging a big hole in the ground.

I remember voicing my incredulity about this to a former Daley aide. And he sheepishly shrugged and said something along the lines of "The mayor's not very good at handling things he doesn't want to hear."

This brings me to a Trump-like announcement Mayor Rahm made just a few weeks ago, as he declared that Daley's express-train folly to O'Hare lives on, though the mayor has dropped plans to build an express service to Midway.

As the mayor put it in a press release: "More than a century ago, Daniel Burnham encouraged Chicago to 'make no little plans,' and today Chicagoans continue to make big and bold plans with an eye towards the future."

Be wary of any mayoral press release that quotes Burnham.

"Strengthening connections between the economic engines of downtown Chicago and O'Hare airport, at no cost to taxpayers, will build on Chicago's legacy of innovation and pay dividends for generations to come."

Here's how the mayor intends to deal with the trackless issue. The city had solicited proposals from four corporations (including Elon Musk's Boring Company) that have pledged to build the aforementioned tracks. In exchange, the city will allow the winning corporation to receive the proceeds from operating the express train service.

It's a little like the infamous parking meter deal of 2008. In the parking meter deal, a consortium of investors lent the city $1.16 billion dollars. And in return the city allowed them to keep all the money you feed the meters for 75 years—a bounty that's expected to reach as much as $10 billion.

Actually, this may even be worse than the parking meter deal. In that one, we at least we got the $1.16 billion. In this case, I'm not sure we get anything. The express service is expected to cost upwards of 30 bucks a trip, meaning it's way too pricey for most Chicagoans.

So some rich guy gets to zip into the Loop in a jiffy. And the winning corporation gets to keep the fares. And we, the people, get—nothing. Such a deal!

The mayor does say the express train will help convince Amazon to build its headquarters here, as though the $2.25 billion handout he and Governor Rauner have already offered isn't good enough.

And, yes, the mayor swears up and down the O'Hare express will cost no taxpayer money.

Well, I'd just like to point out that the service has already cost us roughly $400 million for the underground station—though it's not clear if it will be connected to the proposed routes. Beyond that, anyone who thinks this project won't cost more taxpayer money is about as gullible as a Trump voter in Michigan who still thinks Mexico's paying for that wall.  v

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