Daley’s Superstation

Former CTA chief Frank Kruesi is being fitted for the jacket for the absolute disaster that is the CTA Superstation – and maybe he’ll even do his boss a favor and wear it. But how does Rich Daley escape from responsibility for once again bungling a big project? Paging the IOC!

“With the new expenditures, the project – originally budgeted at $213 million – will have consumed about $320 million,” writes Ben Joravsky at Clout City.

“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.”

(As if he ever opposed a Daley project. Can anyone name one?)

“Let’s hope the IOC gives the games to Rio,” Joravsky writes. “It will be a miracle if this bunch gets through the games without driving us bankrupt.”

Of course, the Children’s Museum is another pet project destined to go the way of the Superstation, Soldier Field, the expensively screwed-up expansion project at O’Hare, the five-years-behind-schedule CHA “transformation,” the massively overrun 911 center and on and on . . . including Millennium Park, whose mesmerizing Bean seems to have put a spell on everyone who thinks it’s the model of urban planning. And all that is just for starters. (The city is TIF’d to the hilt; consult Joravsky for the skinny on that scheme.)

Is it too pat to say the emperor of city management has no clothes? I mean, I haven’t even mentioned torture, Meigs Field, Robert Sorich, the criminal response to the 1995 heat wave, the police department, or Daley’s Friends & Family Program, which conveniently slips the minds of all those Todd Stroger bashers.

Paging Mike Madigan! I think we’ve got a bill of particulars for impeachment must stronger than the stew of incompetence and corruption emanating from the governor’s office.

Let’s take a closer look at the Superstation, just to get a whiff.

“Faced with runaway costs, the CTA and City Hall slammed the emergency brakes Wednesday on ambitious plans to build a ‘super station’ in downtown’s Block 37 to speed express trains to both Chicago’s airports,” the Tribune reports.

(Memo to Tribune: Slamming the emergency brakes on a train project is not clever writing; nor are highway bills that speed through a legislative chamber or airport plans that take flight. It’s dumb, stale, boring, wholly unoriginal and formulaic.)

“A combined $213 million has been spent on the project, yet there is not much more than a massive hole in the ground to show for it. At least an additional $100 million would be needed to complete the subterranean station, the CTA estimated.

“‘The Block 37 curse continues,’ said Joseph Schwieterman, a transportation and urban planning professor at DePaul University who has for years doubted the viability of the transit project.”

A nice quote, but you know what? There are no such things as curses. Why does it take 14 paragraphs before Daley’s name appears?

“Daley previously voiced optimism that airport express service would launch long before 2016, when the city hopes to be host city for the Summer Olympics. But on Wednesday, the mayor said the decision to mothball the Block 37 station ‘has nothing to do with the Olympics.'”

Well, only in the reverse. He certainly wanted this station built for the Olympics, so shutting it down has to be a huge disappointment. It doesn’t make sense that he would shut it down because of the Olympics.

“I concurred with them delaying it because you cannot go with an old switch system,” the mayor said. “The technology has to be there.”

So this whole project – which will consume at least $320 million – was premised on technology that doesn’t yet exist? That makes Daley unacceptably reckless or a liar.

“The CTA overextended its reach,” Schwieterman says.

No, the mayor extended his reach. Go ahead, say it. You won’t turn to stone.

“Although the CTA board voted 6-1 to spend the extra $45.6 million, several members accused Frank Kruesi, Huberman’s predecessor, of misleading them to believe the project had been proceeding on time and within budget. The super station and express train service to the airports had been Kruesi’s pet project.”

The only pet projects of this size Kruesi – or anyone else – is allowed to are the mayor’s pet projects.

“‘This project has been a disaster,’ said board member Susan Leonis, who cast the lone vote against spending more money. ‘Some of us wanted to put this money into [transit in] the neighborhoods instead.'”

Let’s be clear about who didn’t: Richard M. Daley.

“‘Time after time we were told that everything is great,’ said CTA Chairman Carole Brown, who indicated she had tried in vain to get straight answers from Kruesi and his staff.”

And as an oversight board under sway to Daley, you don’t ask questions.

“In calling for the indefinite delay, Huberman blamed escalating construction costs and higher expenses related to building a major project in the middle of a busy downtown area.”

As opposed to all other downtown projects. Paging the Children’s Museum!

“Contractors also did not anticipate the difficulty and extent of underground utility relocations that would be required, and they had to excavate deeper than planned, Huberman said.”

Paging the Children’s Museum!

“The original cost of the station was pegged at about $213 million in 2003. The CTA’s share was $130 million. Chicago paid more than $42 million and Mills Corp., the original developer, paid almost $41 million. Mills exited the project early last year.”

If only they took us with it.


2 responses to “Daley’s Superstation

  1. How wonderful, Chicagoans are doubly robbed of tax dollars that are wasted/embezzled by unbelievably incompetent governments: the Bush administration pours billions in the black hole of Iraq, robbing our schools, transit, and other social infrastructure of federal funds; and at home, the mayor burns millions of tax dollars on his DOA pet projects or siphons them into his mysterious TIF slush funds. There’s a small chance that we might get relief on the federal level, but the bloodletting of Chicago may never end.

  2. Unindicted Co-conspirator

    I never understood the demand for the CTA to have an express line to O’Hare.

    Metra already operates the North Central service there.

    All that’s needed is to extend the airport rail system [ATS] to the Metra’s North Central O’Hare Transfer station. That station is about 3/4ths of a mile from the current end of the ATS.

    That’s not too complicated, is it?
    Or doesn’t Daley want to give up anything to Metra, which he doesn’t control.

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