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CTA open house draws foes, backers of Brown Line’s Belmont ‘flyover’

Lake View residents attend CTA open house Thursday about proposed CTA expansionthwould start Belmont station.  | Michael Jarecki/For Sun-Times

Lake View residents attend a CTA open house on Thursday about the proposed CTA expansionthat would start at the Belmont station. | Michael Jarecki/For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: May 23, 2014 9:12AM

Ellen Hughes thinks a proposed CTA project that calls for a number of buildings to be torn down on North Clark Street will destroy a bit of Lakeview’s soul.

“I love Clark Street and I think all Chicagoans should love Clark Street,” Hughes said Thursday night at an open house held in a police station just east of Wrigley Field, where residents wandered past architectural renderings and talked to CTA employees.

“As you go through every neighborhood, Clark Street kind of defines your neighborhood, and it’s kind of cool, like in Andersonville and Lincoln Park,” she said.

The CTA Belmont Flyover project calls for nearly 20 buildings to be town down, many of them on Clark, between Belmont and Addison. The project would create a ramp for northbound Brown Line trains to travel over elevated tracks that handle Purple Line and Red Line trains in order to alleviate a clogged intersection near Belmont Avenue and help do away with a delays that range from 30 seconds to 4 minutes — with an average of 84 seconds. It would cost $320 million — funds that have not been fully secured.

“Yes, the character of the street will change,” said Carole Morey, CTA’s chief planning officer, but it will also be rife for new development.

New development is a nightmare for Steve Johnson. Seven years ago, he bought a penthouse unit in a newly-built six-story building that’s on the demolition list.

“It’s my dream home,” said Johnson, who is fighting the plan, which he called an unnecessary “federal money grab.” Johnson, 38, who will receive fair market value from the city for his property, has sat at his window with a stopwatch to test the CTA’s statistics on train delays.

“The bottleneck doesn’t exist,” he said. “There are some delays during rush hour but no more than waiting for the average train in front of you.”

Johnson, who started a block club and worked with police to get prostitutes off his block, is toiling with the question of whether or not he should reinvest his time and money back in the neighborhood, or move to the suburbs. “At what point is enough, enough?” he asked.

Not everyone was against the project.

“I think it’s great,” said Maria Diecidue, who lives in Lakeview and is a communications manager for IBM. “I think its about time we had something progressive ... we don’t do enough progressive things to rebuild the infrastructure.”

As for property owners affected: “My heart goes out to those folks. I wouldn’t want it to be my house, so that is a real problem and I hope we’ll be able to address it as gracefully as possible,” said Diecidue, who admitted her stance might change if her house were on the demolition list.

The bypass is expected to end delays heading in and out of the Belmont station, speed up travel times on all three trains and increase the number of trains that can run on the three lines. Work won’t begin until 2017 at the earliest

Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) said he supported the project to update the section of track that was built in 1907, but noted it was important to do it in a way that would lessen the impact of adjacent property owners.

“CTA ridership is the economic engine for our city,” Tunney said. “This project is not about 2014. This project is about 2014 to 2050.”


Twitter: @mitchdudek

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