Reporting Bob Roberts
EVANSTON, Ill. (WBBM) — Evanston CTA riders ranging in age from college freshmen to senior citizens turned out for the last of four nights of meetings on proposals to renovate the Purple Line and the northern end of the Red Line.
A number told CTA employees that they don’t want any ‘L’ stops closed, and want any reconstruction plans to preserve Purple Line express service.
On one point, all seemed in agreement — something must be done.
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“The most basic improvements looks like it’s going to cost on the order of $2.4 billion, so it’s not cheap but it’s a necessary service,” said a rider named Chris.
And he considers the Evanston Express necessary.
“It would be quite a loss if they lost the express service downtown,” he said.
Northwestern University Family Institute Senior Vice President Cheryl Rampage said options that would close the Foster Purple Line stop would make visits for many of the 6,000 mentally-challenged patients the institute sees each week difficult if not impossible.
“It’ll be a hardship for them if they can’t get off and walk three blocks to the institute,” she said.
Although the walk is a bit farther, St Francis Hospital coordinator Nancy Stermer has the same concerns at the South Boulevard station for fellow employees and the new mothers she assists.
“The proposed alternative would be that people get off at Howard Street, and Howard Street (station) is very far from the location of the hospital,” she said. “Just trying to have people come to work, that’s really important, isn’t it? It’s going to help the state of Illinois.”
Three of the six alternatives, unveiled Monday, would close the Foster and South Boulevard stops on the Purple Line, and the Jarvis, Thorndale and Lawrence stops on the Red Line.
One option would do minimal repair and restoration work, although three badly deteriorated bridges would be replaced.
Another would renovate all existing structures and embankments without making substantial changes.
A third option would add new transfer stations at Wilson and Loyola, replacing about a mile of embankment and “L” structure with a concrete aerial structure. Express trains would then stop at Loyola and Wilson, in addition to Belmont and Brown Line stops south into the Loop.
Under those three options, no stations would close and express service would be preserved or enhanced.
A fourth option would largely rebuild the structure or replace the embankment from Belmont north to Howard with four tracks, closing the stations but enhancing express service. A fifth would reduce the line to three tracks, closing the stations and eliminating reverse-commuter express service. The sixth option would replace the embankment and ‘L’ structure with a two-track subway; that would kill express service.
A CTA spokesman said he was pleased to see so much “passion for mass transit” expressed by riders. CTA hopes to settle on a plan and seek construction money of up to $4.2 billion in the next federal surface transportation bill, which is expected to be approved next year.
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