Remember the Star Line? Some grand transit plans never became reality

 
 
Posted6/15/2018 5:33 AM
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  • Schaumburg officials in 2011 pulled the plug on a tax increment financing district near the convention center and hoped-for STAR rail line.

    Schaumburg officials in 2011 pulled the plug on a tax increment financing district near the convention center and hoped-for STAR rail line.

Elon Musk announced an imaginative plan Thursday to bore a tunnel under Chicago and offer 12-minute trips between the Loop and O'Hare International Airport.

The underground express would be built without public funds and is "the fast lane to Chicago's future," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said, countering doubters by pointing to historic engineering feats from the 1900 reversal of the flow of the Chicago River to completion in 1973 of the then-tallest skyscraper in the world.

But for all the successes, there are projects that never came to fruition, including these transportation initiatives.

The STAR Line

The suburb-to-suburb STAR Line rail system was intended to loop from O'Hare to Hoffman Estates to Joliet along tracks formerly owned by the EJ & E railroad, providing an alternative to the suburb-to-city commuter lines.

But Canadian National Railroad bought the EJ & E in 2008 and moved freight traffic onto those tracks, effectively putting the STAR Line on ice. In 2011 Schaumburg pulled the plug on a special taxing district meant to spur development around the convention center, which had been envisioned as a STAR Line hub.

Prairie Parkway

The Prairie Parkway would have circled Chicago's outer suburbs, linking I-88 near Elburn to I-80 near Minooka. The Illinois Department of Transportation began studies in 2003, and in 2005 President George W. Bush came to Montgomery to sign a highway funding bill and call the Prairie Parkway "crucial for economic progress for Kane and Kendall counties."

Opponents organized and sued. The highway's patron, former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert of Plano, was accused of profiting from land buys near the proposed highway. And in 2012, the Federal Highway Administration rescinded its approval of the right of way. It was only in March that IDOT canceled the corridor.

Peotone Airport

Around 2001, the state began buying land for a major international airport to be built near Peotone as an alternative to O'Hare. Former Gov. Pat Quinn was a strong backer, but federal transportation authorities were lukewarm.

As the project lagged, residents complained they were in limbo, unable to sell their property and unwilling to make improvements if they might soon find themselves in a flight path. Last year, IDOT put out a call for private entities that might be willing to build and operate the airport. Some responded but called for a clearer political commitment and complete land acquisition before they jump in.

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