USA: The City of Chicago expects to select a contractor in March to develop designs for the proposed O’Hare Express Rail link, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced on February 14. The route is intended to offer a faster service over the 30 km between the city centre and O’Hare International Airport than is currently offered by CTA’s Blue Line.

‘O’Hare is an essential economic engine for the City of Chicago’, said Emanuel. ‘By providing passengers with a faster, smarter, and more efficient way to connect between O’Hare and downtown, we will take it to the next level.’

The Chicago Department of Aviation has so far received three bids from prequalified firms. Proposals will be evaluated on a ‘best value’ approach, with the winning bidder selected to analyse and develop conceptual designs and project timeline. A contract for final design, construction and financing could be awarded as early as next year 2017.

Cost estimates for the project are still to be finalised, but the city aims to fund work without taxpayer contributions. The project would be co-ordinated with planned airport expansions.

Pointing out that previous schemes for an express rail link would have used existing alignments, Emanuel said that alternative approaches are being sought to overcome the obstacles that would have made this unfeasible.