CTA begins program to increase Red, Purple Line efficiency

Marissa Page, Assistant City Editor

The Chicago Transit Authority announced Tuesday it has begun a program to rebuild stations and expand passenger capacity of the northernmost part of the Red and Purple Lines.

CTA launched its Red and Purple Modernization program in order to meet projected future demand for Red and Brown line services, it announced. The already at-capacity lines could face a surge of new commuters that they are unable to accommodate, CTA said, according to a report by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning. The modernization would work to combat what CTA described as “long-term quality of life impacts” on Chicago commuters.

“These projects are the next important steps in (Chicago) Mayor (Rahm) Emanuel’s vision to rebuild, modernize and expand the entire Red Line,” said Dorval R. Carter Jr., CTA president, in a news release. “I look forward to continuing these projects … to replace outdated infrastructure with a modern, efficient rail system and increasing access to quality rail transportation for millions of future riders.”

The official first phase of RPM began Tuesday with CTA’s publication of the second of two federal environmental assessments, the operator announced. The first of the assessment documents, which focused on reconstructing and adding more than a mile of adjacent tracks to the Lawrence, Argyle, Berwyn and Bryn Mawr stations, was published in April.

Tuesday’s assessment analyzes a proposal to create a fifth-track bypass to allow the Brown Line train heading north to Kimball to travel over Red and Purple Line trains north of Belmont, where the three lines currently overlap, the CTA said.

The current rail junction, built in 1907, was never intended to connect the three rail lines, which CTA said has caused inefficiency over time. Trains at these rail lines have reached capacity following an almost 40 percent ridership increase the current junction structure cannot accommodate, according to CTA.

The Red-Purple Bypass Project would expedite travel times on the northernmost section of these lines, as well as improve current stations, CTA said.

“This outdated track configuration is the equivalent of a traffic signal in the middle of a busy highway,” Carole Morey, CTA’s chief planning officer, said in the release. “CTA needs to add more trains to alleviate overcrowding, but we can’t do so until we eliminate the traffic light.”

An open meeting to collect public opinion on the Red-Purple Bypass proposal will be held at 6:30 p.m. June 3 at the Center on Halsted, 3656 N. Halsted St. CTA will also accept written comments until June 18.

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