CHICAGO Transit Authority invited proposals on February 16 for consultants to assist with developing dedicated Airport Express services which would use existing metro lines to link the city centre with the region’s two principal airports. Bids were due by March 11.

CTA envisages the construction of a dedicated in-town Airport Express terminal in the city-centre Loop, as part of a new mixed-used high-rise development planned for a block bounded by State, Randolph, Dearborn and Washington streets. Non-stop trains would run to both O’Hare and Midway airports using the Blue and Orange lines respectively. Selected sections of both routes would be rebuilt with a third track to allow the express trains to overtake the regular stopping services. Journey times to both airports would be halved.

CTA is seeking consultants to develop a business plan for the project, which is likely to be financed from a combination of sources including the federal government, the city, CTA, commercial borrowing and private-sector partners. The investment would be recouped by a higher fare, with passengers paying between $10 and $15 for the faster journey and other benefits including city-centre baggage check-in facilities and dedicated trainsets with more comfortable seats and extra luggage racks.

As well as recommending financing options and the optimum fare level, the consultants will also have to consider operating details such as the service frequency, scheduling requirements and the best locations for installing the overtaking loops.