CTA announces $1 billion plan to improve Red Line

Marshall Cohen

The Chicago Transit Authority on Thursday announced a $1 billion project to “rebuild and repair” the Red Line and to upgrade parts of the Purple Line in Evanston.

Performance-enhancing power systems will be installed on a “significant portion” of the Purple Line, according to a CTA news release. The crossbars that hold the tracks together, known as railroad ties, will also be replaced on the Purple Line rails from the Linden to Belmont stops.

The Purple Line originates at Linden in Wilmette. During certain weekday hours, the Purple Line Express travels through Belmont on its way toward the Loop in downtown Chicago.

Paul Schneider, Evanston’s director of transportation and engineering, said the Purple Line upgrades were “of a limited nature” but “definitely necessary.”

“The CTA is currently replacing three of the viaducts in town under a different program,” Schneider said. “Even with that, there are still quite a bit of upgrades that are required to bring the stations up to standard and certain sections of the track up to standard.”

Still, Schneider said he understands the $1 billion project will concentrate primarily on repairing the Red Line because the CTA has “great needs but limited funds.”

CTA representatives did not respond Monday to questions about the project.

During a press conference Thursday, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn voiced his support for the plan, which received $646 million in state funding.

“Since I became governor, I have focused on creating jobs and improving transportation service for our citizens,” Quinn said. “This major investment in the CTA’s Red Line does both.”

Most upgrades will be made to the southern section of the Red Line. All tracks between 18th Street and where the line ends at 95th Street will be completely replaced. Other dilapidated segments will be rebuilt in order to eliminate what the CTA calls “slow zones,” or areas where trains must operate as slow as 15 mph at times due to outdated tracks.

More than 60 percent of the Dan Ryan branch would be forced to operate as slow zones without the planned upgrades, according to the news release. This branch of the CTA’s busiest line starts at the Cermak-Chinatown stop and ends at 95th/Dan Ryan, the last stop.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he appreciates taxpayers for picking up some of the tab for the project, which will receive more than $44 million from the city.

“From slow zones to station fixes … the Red Line must be fixed,” Emanuel said at a press conference Thursday. “We’ve made the tough choices to invest in this development.”

Schneider added the viaduct construction program in Evanston was “a good start,” but he pointed to an unaddressed viaduct at Davis Street. He also suggested residents would like to see upgrades to some of the nine CTA stations in town.

“The city looks forward to future upgrades from the CTA,” Schneider said.

Construction on the project will begin next year and is expected to be completed in 2015, according to the governor’s office.

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EDITOR’S NOTE: This article has updated to clarify CTA officials did not respond to requests for comment Monday. The Daily regrets the error.