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Retailers gripe they weren’t in the loop on Ashland bus rapid transit

A CTA bus travels north AshlAvenue earlier this year. The CTA proposed plan for bus rapid transit - or dedicated

A CTA bus travels north on Ashland Avenue earlier this year. The CTA proposed a plan for bus rapid transit - or a dedicated bus lane - along 16 miles of Ashland Avenue. | Sun-Times files

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Updated: January 12, 2014 6:42AM



A group of retailers, including Costco, used an “open house” about plans to put a dedicated bus lane down 16 miles of Ashland Avenue as a chance to chastise the Chicago Transit Authority on Tuesday for not contacting them about the massive project.

Looking around at dozens of display boards, Adam Cole of Advance Auto Parts said several national retailers on Ashland have not been informed about the project and “we’re realizing there’s significant momentum” for the $160 million plan.

“None of us have even been approached and we represent significant business interests on Ashland,” Cole said.

Steve Ftacek, general manager of Costco at 1430 S. Ashland, said he could “stay here all night” reading the two five-inch thick appendices to the environmental assessment of the impact of a bus rapid transit line down the center of Ashland, from 95th to Irving Park. However, Ftacek said he was concerned that confining cars, trucks and the No 9 Ashland bus to one lane of traffic in each direction would hurt business at the big box store that opened in June 2012.

“You don’t go to Costco in a bus. You go to Costco in a car because it’s bulk items,” Ftacek said.

One CTA official offered to meet with the national retailers and assured them the CTA was still gathering input.

Derrick Williams, 43, traveled from the South Side to Juarez High School, 1450 W. Cermak, to learn more about the Ashland BRT and walked away from the open house impressed.

“I believe it’s a good idea. They want to speed up travel time” for buses, Williams said.

Officials estimate the BRT will average 15.9 mph — closer to the 21 mph of the Red Line than the 8.7 mph of the No 9 Ashland bus during rush hour.

The plan also would ban most left turns off Ashland except for a few leading directly to expressway ramps. Even CTA display boards conceded the left turn limitations have been a major point of contention but noted that officials are “still developing the Ashland BRT design, and are considering options and modifications, including the implementation of additional left turns, based on continued feedback from the public.”

A second open house will be held Wednesday from 6 to 8 p.m. at Pulaski Park Fieldhouse, 1419 W. Blackhawk. Through Dec. 20, comments can be emailed to AshlandBRT@transitchicago.com.

Email: rrossi@suntimes.com

Twitter: @rosalindrossi



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