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CTA plans Red Line improvements on North, South sides

An artist's rendering shows how Bryn Mawr statiCTA's Red Line would look after improvements.  |  Provided by CTA

An artist's rendering shows how the Bryn Mawr station on the CTA's Red Line would look after improvements. | Provided by CTA

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Updated: May 19, 2014 2:03PM

North and South Side riders of the CTA’s busiest rail line — the Red Line — should see improvements under plans outlined Wednesday.

For North Siders, the CTA could begin work as early as 2017 on a $1.13 billion plan to upgrade track and rehab four stations, from Lawrence to Bryn Mawr.

The stations are among the oldest in the system, officials said. Bryn Mawr was built in 1908, when the Cubs last won the World Series.

The project is contingent on funding, but the CTA hopes to bankroll it with new federal “core capacity” money that can be tapped by older transit lines.

For South Siders, President Forrest Claypool insisted Wednesday that the CTA is “putting the pedal to the metal” on a long-awaited plan to extend the south end of the Red Line from 95th Street to 130th.

One CTA user, Phyllis Johnson, told CTA board members Wednesday that the extension once promised by former Mayor Richard J. Daley after the Red Line opened in 1969 is “becoming the dream deferred.’’ Other lines have been extended or created while the Roseland community, which would be affected by an extension, has sat by with no transit developments, Johnson said.

The layers of requirements needed to win federal money for the $2 billion project are “onerous,” Claypool said, but Mayor Rahm Emanuel is “putting this on a faster trajectory than previous administrations.’’

Emanuel campaigned on extending the Red Line and has emphasized the project since his election, Claypool said.

“Mayor Emanuel’s mandate to us is to modernize the Red Line, from top to bottom, from north to south, and that’s what we’re doing,’’ Claypool said.

The CTA’s “preferred” extension method would be to run an elevated track from the 95th Street station, along Interstate 57 to 98th Street, where the elevated tracks would run parallel with some Union Pacific freight tracks to 130th Street, Claypool said. The tracks could run to the east of UP’s right of way or to the west, CTA officials said. The CTA also had considered building inside the UP’s right of way, but UP has ruled that out, a UP spokesman said.

Although the UP route is the top option, the CTA must give federal authorities at least two more, Claypool said. They include running the rail extension down Halsted Street — something local Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) opposes — or doing a less expensive bus-rapid transit route to 130th.

Beale said Tuesday he was briefed on only two plans — the UP route and the Halsted route, leading him to believe the CTA had only two options under active consideration.

“I can see how he might have perceived it that way because that’s where the focus of the conversation was,’’ Claypool said. “But there’s always been a federally required third alternative, which is the BRT.’’

Claypool conceded that land will have to be acquired as part of the extension project, although it’s too early to say where or how many parcels.

The next step involves publication of the final environmental impact study in 2015, Claypool said.

On the North Side, the planned improvements are part of a larger project to rejuvenate the Red Line and Purple lines, from the Belmont station to the Linden Station in Wilmette. Project estimates have ranged from $2 billion to $4 billion.


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