Just in time for Thanksgiving, O'Hare train to terminals and parking is back

  • After years in limbo, O'Hare International Airport's elevated train soon will resume service with new cars and an extended route to a rental car facility.

    After years in limbo, O'Hare International Airport's elevated train soon will resume service with new cars and an extended route to a rental car facility. Daily Herald File Photo

  • O'Hare International Airport's elevated train is expected to resume service soon after years in limbo. The service will feature new cars and an extended route to a rental car facility.

    O'Hare International Airport's elevated train is expected to resume service soon after years in limbo. The service will feature new cars and an extended route to a rental car facility. Daily Herald File Photo

 
 
Updated 11/1/2021 12:34 PM

We missed you, O'Hare people mover. It feels like years since those swift elevated cars circulating between airport terminals and remote parking were replaced by poky shuttle buses.

Actually ... it has been years. The Airport Transit System was suspended on weekdays as of May 30, 2018, and entirely shut down on Jan. 8, 2019, for a rebuild. Reopening was anticipated in fall 2019.

 

"Is there any update on the people-mover/train?" Arlington Heights resident Tim Richards asked in July 2020. "That train/people-mover is a godsend over taking the buses from the remote lots for weekly air commuters."

Sadly, there was not. Until ... "the Chicago Department of Aviation is pleased to announce the reopening of the Airport Transportation Service," officials announced Friday. The official rollout is expected Tuesday following a media briefing.

Here's a recap of the saga.

The city originally approved a $310 million contract in 2015 with Parsons Construction Group to redo the ATS at O'Hare International Airport, with "substantial completion" projected by December 2018.

The project involved modernizing the ATS with larger cars and extending the system so it could connect with a multimodal facility on the northeast side of O'Hare, consolidating rental car operations and parking.

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But in spring 2018, the contract was increased by $23 million and a finish date set for September 2019. Parsons blamed Chicago for issues with building the guideways, or track infrastructure, and the Department of Aviation countered the contractor was responsible for delays, according to city documents.

The COVID-19 pandemic caused further slowdowns when travel restrictions with Canada prevented key personnel from visiting the site plus closures of factories supplying essential parts, the Department of Aviation said in 2020.

In late 2020, officials approved a cost hike of $20.6 million -- for a total of nearly $355 million -- although as of Friday the Department of Aviation could not confirm spending totals.

Ironically, the multimodal facility housing 10 rental car companies and parking for more than 2,600 cars opened three years ago in the former remote Parking Lot F at Mannheim and Zemke roads.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Richards can't wait. "It probably is my perception, but as the possible termination of the bus service has come closer the bus service has decreased significantly in the last two months," he said Friday.

Got an opinion on the people mover? Drop an email to mpyke@dailyherald.com.

One more thing

It's just a week until the U.S. enacts some major changes to its COVID-19 rules that essentially reopen the country to foreign air travelers, allowing families and friends to reunite and tourists to visit.

One new rule is that noncitizens who are not immigrants must be fully vaccinated and offer proof to fly into domestic airports. Limited exceptions, including children, will be allowed. Those travelers will also need to provide contact information to airlines before boarding.

Meanwhile, all fully vaccinated air passengers must continue to show a negative COVID-19 test taken 72 hours before getting on a flight to the U.S. Those who are not fully vaccinated must show a test taken no more than 24 hours before departure.

For more information, go to cdc.gov/coronavirus.

One more thing

If you're thinking of traveling this Thanksgiving, it's time to pull the trigger, AAA advises.

"As we get closer to the holidays, airfares often rise as availability shrinks," said Debbie Haas, vice president of travel for the auto group. Another tip is getting insurance. "We've recently seen numerous flight delays and cancellations, and even more are possible during the holidays," Haas said.

Gridlock alert

Expect delays on westbound North Avenue in Northlake when IDOT crews close two lanes to fix pavement. Work should wrap up Nov. 8.

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