Lightfoot blames pandemic for stalled O’Hare train project

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CHICAGO — Mayor Lori Lightfoot responded to a WGN Investigates report Thursday that detailed how a project at Chicago’s O’Hare airport has gone far off the rails.

 The airport’s people mover trains have been offline for two-and-a-half years despite the fact the contract to upgrade and extend the train service called for minimal disruption to travelers. The old cars are collecting graffiti on the outskirts of the airport and the new automated train cars are still not safe for passenger use.

WGN Investigates obtained emails from an airport consultant that revealed the new trains failed to operate during a winter storm in February and the overall project was “simply regressing.”

Despite the fact the project was supposed to be completed long before the pandemic, Lightfoot blamed Covid border closures for slowing progress.

“The key part to get equipment up and running was in Canada and the border was closed, so we couldn’t get the part back here in Chicago,” she said.  “We can certainly get you an update on the status of the project. But the border being closed is significant problem for that progress and why it went offline.”

The U.S. Canadian border has remained open for freight shipping.

 An airport spokesperson later clarified the contractor has had trouble getting workers in from one of its bases in Canada.

The contractor has still not provided an update on when the train system may be ready to carry passengers.

An airport spokesperson issued the following statement:

While freight remained open between Canada and the United States during the pandemic, there were effects on the progression of the ATS because portions of the Contractor’s organization are located in Canada. The ATS contractor has alleged impacts associated with the pandemic on the ability for key personnel to travel to Chicago to support the testing, technical trouble shooting and commissioning. Additionally, the ATS contractor has alleged that there have been pandemic-related impacts to the supply chain for key components and parts associated with the ATS, as seen in many industries across the world.

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