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CTA Puts Yellow, Orange Line Extensions On Hold

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CTA Train (Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images)

CTA Train (Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images)

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CHICAGO (CBS) — The Chicago Transit Authority is putting two proposed rapid transit extensions on hold as it tries to cope with its latest financial crisis.

As WBBM Newsradio 780’s Bob Roberts reports, Red Line reconstruction and extension is a priority. But CTA President Forrest Claypool told Newsradio 780 that proposed Orange and Yellow Line extensions won’t get past the planning phase without a turnaround in the agency’s finances.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Bob Roberts reports

He said the agency has too many other needs that are far too urgent.

“What we need now is a state of good repair,” he said. “We have slow zones now on the Red Line, south side, that are 15 miles an hour. The slow zones north? You get cattle cars because of that.

CTA officials have said that they have unmet capital repair and reconstruction needs that approach $10 billion.

He said the Orange Line and Skokie Swift extensions are not dead. Rather, he said, planning will continue so they can “be taken off the shelf” if finances improve.

The Orange Line extension would take the line from Midway Airport to the Ford City shopping mall. The CTA had the land for the extension before it built the original line in the early 1990s, but even then lacked the money to complete it.

Likewise, the Skokie Swift would be re-extended to Old Orchard Center, which is also a short distance from Niles North High School and the Cook County Circuit Court’s Skokie courthouse.

The Yellow Line extension is particularly controversial because CTA identified a plan to build a single-track, elevated extension to the line between Dempster Street and the Old Orchard terminal. The proposal generated intense opposition from neighborhood residents and the District 219 Board of Education, because it would cut through the Niles North property and usurp its parking lot.

CTA union contracts are also up for renegotiation this fall, and Claypool said he has already warned union leaders over lunch that this “is not a normal year” and that he will seek a series of work rule changes, not unlike the changes sought by Mayor Rahm Emanuel from city unions.

The last time the unions were asked to make concessions, they chose layoffs and service cuts instead.

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