City transit system a concern in Olympic bid

June 6, 2008 3:53:29 PM PDT
The city of Chicago celebrated Friday an announcement that the city is now on the short list to win the bid for the 2016 Summer Olympics. One of the key points the Olympic Committee may consider when making its final decision is Chicago's mass transit system. Will CTA funding and operation issues weigh negatively on the city's chance at winning the games?

Chicago has always taken great pride in itself as a great hub of transportation, despite the age of some of its systems, lack of funding and other bumps in the road. So, it came as something of a belly punch when the IOC ranked Chicago fifth among its 2016 contestant cities in what its calls "transport concept."

The IOC says that "most of the Olympic venues along the Lake Michigan coastline are well connected by roads and motorways, but appear to be some distance from rail stations."

"There are clearly challenges ahead, and we'll be addressing those challenges head on," said CTA President Ron Huberman.

Huberman, who celebrated Friday the finished remodeling of the Brown Line station at Armitage, says the IOC report means that "everything is on the table."

"There may be opportunities to think of creative ways to get modernization of the system to occur," he said.

Building rail lines or spurs off of existing lines is enormously expensive, and bus transport is seen by the IOC as less desirable than rail. The IOC also questions the city's expectation on spending $27 billion on transit projects by 2016, saying that figure was not consistent with the city's formal application, which calls for $2.7 billion in transport spending. It's not just a missed decimal point, but involves some money forecasting that the Chicago committee will have to clear up.

But the message from the IOC is that, if you're promoting Olympic venues that are compact, they'll need to be easily accessible by athletes and fans.

"They are always going to find something wrong. They don't want you to get complacent and think you've got it in the bag," former Olympian Jackie Joyner-Kersee told ABC7 Chicago.

The governor's office Friday reminded that the IOC's observations on Chicago transit are yet another reason for lawmakers to pass the stalled $30-plus billion capital plan. That plan does call for funding various CTA projects, but nothing like new rail lines or stations to accommodate hopes for the Olympics. Also, the capital plan, as it exists now, is not ripe for passage.

Ron Huberman used the word "creative," which can sometimes mean looking to private sources for funding.


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