CTA modernization project included in leaked Trump infrastructure plan


Daily file photo by Sean Su

A Purple Line CTA train pulls into the Dempster Street station. On Tuesday, a leaked document appeared to show the Red and Purple Line modernization project as among President Donald Trump’s infrastructure priorities.

Nora Shelly, City Editor

A document leaked Tuesday appears to show the Red and Purple Line modernization project as among President Donald Trump’s administration’s infrastructure priorities.

According to documents obtained by McClatchy’s Kansas City Star and The News Tribune, the administration has a preliminary list of 50 projects they are looking to prioritize, originally provided to the National Governor’s Association. According to the document, the modernization project will create 2,100 jobs and cost $2.1 billion.

The modernization project already received a $1.1 billion grant in the final days of the Obama administration for the first phase of the project. Construction in the first phase will include overhauling about a mile of track, adding elevators to every station and creating a “flyover” for the northbound Brown Line where it intersects Red and Purple Line tracks near the Belmont Station.

The project, which will likely occur in three phrases, is intended to reduce overcrowding and delays on one of the busiest and oldest lines in the system. Additional phases will include rebuilding tracks between the Belmont and Linden Street stations.

According to the McClatchy article, a White House spokesperson did not confirm the veracity of the documents.

Kyle Whitehead, government relations director for Active Transportation Alliance, a nonprofit advocacy organization that advocated for the project, told The Daily that traffic near the Belmont station becomes a “chokepoint” for the entire system.

“If you get a delay on the North Side often that can have ripple effects throughout the system and downtown and throughout the West and South Sides,” he said. “We think the system as a whole will operate more effectively if you upgrade the infrastructure on the north side.”

Whitehead and the Active Transportation Alliance helped Chicago secure local funding for the project. Chicago created transit tax-increment financing districts to help pay for the project.

City manager Wally Bobkiewicz said Evanston was in communication with CTA officials about the project and will likely start discussing specifics at the end of the year, as the project moves into planning for the second phase.

It is not yet clear how the city will come up with matching local funds for the project. Bobkiewicz said they were hoping state matching funds would be available when it came time for the Evanston portion of the project.

Although Evanston is eligible to create transit TIFs as created by the state legislature, the discussions of which funding route to take would not start until the end of this year or the beginning of 2018.

“In the meantime, we are remaining in touch with the CTA, and they know our desire to make sure the project continues through the city,” Bobkiewicz said. “We’re going to continue to be vigilant. The Purple Line is a critical element of the transit in this community.”

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Twitter: @noracshelly