Chicago’s Red Line was built in 1969, but 48 years on and after years of patching things up, Barack Obama urged that $1.1 billion should be invested to improve one of the busiest lines in the country. Mayor Rahm Emanuel is expected to sign a funding agreement for the project with Senator Dick Durbin and Federal Transit Administration Acting Administrator, Carolyn Flowers. The beginnings of the line were first built in 1900. The Red Line serves the North side of the region through to the Southern side and was agreed to be managed by Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) in 1947. Passengers are transported along the rapid transit system 24 hours a day and 365 days of the year. It accounts for 30% of the total ridership among the CTA’s eight train lines and this figure will only continue to rise. But already the line has proven that it is not able to keep up with the growing ridership and its infrastructure has started to break down. As the backbone to the railway, it has been agreed that improvements to the Red Line will begin between Belmont and Howard in late 2018 and is expected to take around four years to complete. This investment is believed to eliminate one of the biggest bottlenecks across the entire CTA system and solve overcrowding for both now and the future.
Upgrading plans were first proposed in 2012 when the route was offering a very poor service. The CTA even mandated ‘slow zones’ caused by the ageing rolling stock and safety concerns. 2.6 miles of track were limited to speeds of just 15 mph at certain points on the route. With the continuously inefficient service the CTA decided to cancel service on sections of the line which would affect 80,000 daily journeys over a five month period. It was intended to be a quick renovation procedure which would replace ten miles of degraded track. The CTA closed nine stations in May 2013 as part of the Red Line South Track Renewal Project. In place of the transit, bus shuttles transported passengers around the Dan Ryan region until October 2013. It was estimated that this decision saved the region approximately $75 million rather than carrying out maintenance work at weekends over a period of four years.
Since then, Obama has stressed that further funding needed to solve the dangerous issue of overcrowding and outlined that the money will be used to reconstruct Lawrence, Argyle, Berwyn and Bryn Mawr stations as well as overhaul about a mile of nearby track and support structure, CTA spokesman Brian Steele confirmed. The project will also provide economic advantages to create 6,000 jobs.
Additionally, the funding will also create a flyover for the northbound Brown Line tracks where they intersect with Red and Purple line tracks north of Belmont avenue. This decision is expected to allow 15 more trains every hour to run between these different lines.
“This type of investment in transit is an investment in Chicago’s residents and neighborhoods, connecting them to jobs, education and more. I want to commend everyone who worked throughout this process to make this project a reality,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a statement.
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The federal money will be matched by several sources of local funding that will include CTA bonds as well as a new TIF fund from property owners within half a mile of the Red Line between North Avenue and Devon.
“The line is 100 years old. The rail line is crumbling literally. It’s been patched and duck-taped. On an annual basis over the last 20 years, CTA has spent over $50 million to do repairs on slow zones. What we’re doing here is to solve that problem for the next hundred years,” Far North Side Officer Harry Osterman said.
With a line that transports over 240,000 CTA riders on an average weekend accounting for over 40% of all current CTA rail station entries, these improvements aim to deliver:
- An increased ridership
- 5 more miles of track
- 41 existing stations
- 4 new stations
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