by Ben Joravsky
I hope the International Olympic Committee saw Greg Hinz's recent story in Crain's Chicago Business about the latest development in the ongoing debacle of Mayor Daley's dream to build a superstation below Block 37.
According to Hinz, the project is so far behind schedule and over budget that the city's going to have to spend another $20 million in TIF funds just to pay off existing debt.
Again, this $20 million is just to pay back off existing debt. It isn't to complete the project -- the city still hasn't figured out how they're going to pay for that. With the new expenditures, the project -- originally budgeted at $213 million -- will have consumed about $320 million.
"Until even more money is found," Hinz writes, "the semi-completed station will be mothballed, much like an unfinished basement in a home whose owners has poured the concrete but can't afford to install carpeting, paneling and other finishing touches."
And even when -- or if -- the city figures out how to complete the project they still can't use it because it doesn't have any tracks to run on. The line is intended to provide high-priced express service for tourists, business execs, and other high rollers zipping between the Loop and Midway and O'Hare. But there are no tracks on which to run the express service. Eventually the city plans to seek bids from private companies looking to build the tracks and operate the line. Either that or the express service will have to share existing Blue and Orange line tracks so the high rollers save a few extra minutes on the ride downtown.
I remember when the City Council passed the funding for this project back in 2005. A few aldermen told me they voted for it because they had no choice--it was one of the mayor's pet projects. Keep in mind, the Olympics is another one of Mayor Daley's pet projects -- which everyone, including Barack Obama -- feels compelled to endorse.
Let's hope the IOC gives the games to Rio. It will be a miracle if this bunch gets through the games without driving us bankrupt.