CTA seeks private capital for 4G subway upgrade

The Chicago Transit Authority is seeking a private sector partner to finance all or part of a $27m wireless upgrade across its subway system.

The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) is “aggressively seeking to partner with private sector entities” to pay for all or part of the modernisation of the city’s underground wireless network despite having the funds to do so itself, the city agency said in a statement.

The effort to upgrade the city’s subway wireless service to 4G, a goal set forth by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, began in 2013 with a two-step Request for Proposals (RFP) process launched by CTA.

According to the statement, the Chicago Transit Board will vote on Wednesday (July 16) to award Aldridge Electric, a Chicago-based civil and electrical contractor, a contract to build and install the new system.

Work is expected to begin in November even before a private sector partner is found to finance all or part of the $27 million cost. The agency is able to start the project without private capital since it planned the project as part of its annual capital programme.

“However, we are seeking private sector partners to recoup all or some of our costs,” a CTA spokesperson told Infrastructure Investor.

The city agency will continue to own the network as it does now, licensing the network to six major wireless service providers, which generates $1.8 million of annual revenue.

In addition to offering better service to commuters, the upgrade to 4G will also improve communication between CTA personnel and emergency responders, the agency said.

The upgrade will affect Chicago’s Blue and Red Lines, which cover 11.4 miles of underground subway as well as underground facilities.

The current wireless network will remain operational while the project is underway – expected to last 12 months – and CTA will continue to receive revenue from the six wireless carriers that currently provide services in the subway system.