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CTA Red Line Extension Plans Moving Ahead

Red Line Train

A CTA Red Line train near Belmont. (Credit: CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) - The Chicago Transit Authority is now armed with federal funds to move ahead with a plan to expand Red Line train service to the Far South Side.

Late last month, the CTA received $250,000 in federal funding to conduct an environmental impact study for the expansion, the Chicago Tribune reported.

A southward extension from the current 95th Street terminal has been under discussion for many years. Tribune reporter John Hilketivch wrote in his Getting Around column that even when the Red Line was extended to 95th Street in 1969, the plan was always to build it out to the city’s southern border.

Under plans unveiled last year, the trains would run west along the median of Interstate 57 after departing 95th Street, before veering off about half a mile later to the Union Pacific Railroad tracks. The line would run adjacent to the Union Pacific tracks south to 130th Street, with stops at 103rd, 111th and 115th streets, according to CTA documents.

The line would run on elevated tracks from I-57 to 119th Street, and at grade level from south of 119th Street to 130th Street, according to the CTA.

Groups have been calling for an extension to the Red Line for several years, arguing that the Far South Side is underserved by public transit compared with other parts of the city.

But, as the blog The Transport Politic points out, not everyone favors extension of the Red Line as the best way to expand service to the Far South Side. For several years, Chicagoan Mike Payne has been touting his “Gray Line” plan to turn the Metra Electric line through the city’s South Side into a CTA train line that would provide service to Hyde Park, South Shore, Pullman, and several other neighborhoods now without CTA train service.

On his Web site, Payne claims such a conversion would cost only $200 million, while the Red Line expansion plan would cost $1.4 billion.

The Red Line extension is one of many projects the CTA has floated in recent years. Among the others are an extension of the Yellow Line to the Old Orchard mall, the Orange Line to Ford City, and express service on the Blue Line from downtown to O’Hare International Airport.

The CTA is also planning improvements for the other end of the Red Line between Addison and Howard streets, and the Purple Line north to Linden Avenue in Wilmette. The tracks and stations on the North Red and Purple Line corridor date from the 1920s, and by the CTA’s own admission, most of the stations are in “deteriorate condition, have very narrow platforms and are not accessible.”