by: Ben Bradley
Three years after it was unexpectedly taken out of service – and two years after renovations were supposed to be completed – O’Hare airport’s passenger train system is almost ready to re-open.
The train connects passenger terminals, long-term parking and a new rental car facility. Airport officials would not reveal the specific re-opening date but a media preview is planned for Tuesday with passenger service expected to resume “soon” after that, according to an airport spokesperson.
WGN Investigates has previously reported on the airport train’s troubled redevelopment and extension. The original $310 million renovation contract called for the installation of new train cars and an extension of the service to a new rental car facility. It was all supposed to be completed by November 2019 with minimal interruption to service. Since then, problems have cascaded like flight delays during a Christmas week snow storm.
In May, WGN Investigates obtained emails between the contractors and a consultant hired to oversee the troubled project. As recently as February, the airport consultant wrote “the overall project is simply regressing.” The same email detailed difficulty the new automated train cars had in operating in snow, ice and cold. “Vehicle reliability has degraded to essentially zero,” the consultant wrote.
While the people mover has been offline, the airport has hired and deployed a fleet of buses to transport people. The cost for the bus service alone now accounts for nearly one-quarter of the project’s estimated cost.
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