Tentative deal set on O’Hare western access

Western Access O'Hare

Article by: Greg Hinz, Crain’s Chicago Business, See Original Article 

After three years of bitter public feuding, the Illinois Tollway and the Canadian Pacific Railway have reached a tentative deal that finally should clear the way for long-awaited western access to O’Hare International Airport.

The tollway board has scheduled a special board meeting for tomorrow afternoon to vote on a “letter of intent” with Canadian Pacific Railway.

Tollway officials declined further comment in advance of the meeting. But a source close to the matter tells me that, a year and a half after the tollway sued Canadian Pacific Railway before the U.S. Surface Transportation Board and the two resumed talks, a framework compromise has been reached under which the tollway’s new Elgin-O’Hare Expressway will be allowed to cross over the huge Canadian Pacific Railway Bensenville rail yard just southwest of O’Hare, but at a different point than under previous designs.

Construction on the road could begin next year, a year later than originally planned, if negotiations for a final contract to implement the tentative deal are successful. The road would run from I-90 south and west past O’Hare, eventually joining with I-294.

It’s not known how much the redesign of the southern end of the proposed expressway will cost. But some land swaps likely will be needed, so that Canadian Pacific Railway can regain some operational flexibility it would lose with a huge highway crossing over its Bensenville yard.

The tollway a decade ago thought it had gentleman’s agreement with Canadian Pacific Railway that, when it became time to build the expressway, a usage agreement would be quickly reached. But the railroad’s position stiffened when it got new management, with the Canadian firm insisting it could not afford to give up any of its property.

Since then, management has changed again and big-name Illinois politicians have become involved, including Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., DuPage County Board Chairman Dan Cronin and U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Schaumburg.

DuPage hopes to win an economic development windfall with western access, replicating what happened in Rosemont on O’Hare’s eastern end. But while the latest O’Hare expansion plans call for development of a large entry point and parking lots on the western side of the field, development of a western terminal is not envisioned in the near future.

Related Article: Please, no O’Hare without Western Access