Director of Government Reform
If taxpayers thought high-speed rail was a boondoggle, recently announced upgrades to O’Hare International Airport’s people-mover system might raise a few eyebrows, too.
Last week, a mayoral aide announced upgrades and expansions to O’Hare’s 2.7-mile people-mover system that will add 2,000 feet of track. The project will cost $340 million.
With a track length of nearly 3.1 miles, taxpayers are looking at footing a cost of almost $110 million per mile.
There are also plans for a $360 million improvement to O’Hare’s rental car campus, putting the overall cost of the upgrades at $700 million.
For comparison’s sake, the 2009 estimated cost of the 360-mile Illinois high-speed rail corridor is $1.26 billion, an average cost of $3.5 million per mile.
Aviation Commissioner Rosemarie Andolino said that adding an $8 fee to car rentals out of O’Hare will cover the project costs.
For those counting at home, that means it will take at least 87.5 million car rentals to cover the $700 million project costs, not including interest on the construction bonds.
While officials haven’t announced a rental car tax hike yet, city hall has said in the past that higher fees would be necessary to upgrade the people-mover system.
Why does this project cost so much? Perhaps someone should ask AOR Transit, a clout-heavy contractor with connections to former Mayor Richard M. Daley and Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Earlier this year, Chicago Sun-Times headlines touted AOR Transit’s questionable contract, after the city awarded the contractor a five-year, $115 million no-bid contract to operate and maintain O’Hare’s people-mover system.
Only in Chicago.
image credit: Heather Charles, Chicago Tribune 2011