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Durbin Announces Federal Funds For CTA Red Line Upgrades

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Loyola Red Line Stop

The Loyola stop on the CTA Red Line. (Credit: CBS)

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UPDATED 07/25/11 1:11 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) on Monday announced federal funds geared toward upgrading the Loyola CTA Red Line station in Rogers Park, as well as modernizing and extending the line in the future.

As CBS 2’s Kris Habermehl reports, the Loyola stop, located at Sheridan Road just north of Devon Avenue near the Loyola University campus, has been growing rusty and has fading paint.

With that in mind, Durbin announced $18.5 million – including $11 million in federal funding – that will be used to upgrade the “dilapidated” Loyola station and begin an environmental study on a broader extension and modernization of the CTA Red and Purple lines.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Nancy Harty reports

The funds geared toward the Loyola stop will be used for upgrades to the viaduct over Sheridan Road, a new station entrance, and a plaza that will provide more space between pedestrians and vehicular traffic.

Work on the Loyola station is set to begin next year, Durbin said in a news release.

“If we don’t make an investment in the infrastructure of America, we cannot build our cities, build our towns, communities and neighborhoods with jobs for the future,” he said at the event.

The broader plans for modernization of the line have been in the headlines for several months, and have drawn controversy.

In January, the Chicago Transit Authority held hearings in Uptown, Edgewater, Rogers Park and Evanston, on six plans to redevelop the aging ‘L’ system between the Belmont stop in Lakeview and the Linden stop in Wilmette — a stretch which also includes the Purple Line through Evanston.

The CTA has developed six plans for the system. Two call for downgrading Purple Line express and Red Line local service by maintaining three or four tracks. These plans also call for eliminating the Lawrence, Thorndale and Jarvis stops on the Red Line, and the South Boulevard and Foster stops on the Purple Line.

In their place, new entrances would be added to other existing stations – including an Ainslie Street entrance at the Argyle stop, a Hollywood Avenue entrance at the Bryn Mawr stop, entrances to the Howard terminal at Rogers Avenue, and an entrance to the Noyes Street Purple Line stop at Evanston’s Gaffield Place.

The current concrete ground embankment structure would also be replaced with a new concrete elevated structure, as seen on the Orange Line.

An even more radical plan calls for getting rid of the ‘L’ structure altogether between the Belmont and Loyola stops, and replacing it with a subway. New subway stations would be located at Addison, Irving Park, Wilson, Foster, Bryn Mawr and Glenlake.

Under that plan, the Argyle, Lawrence, Berwyn, Thorndale and Granville stops would vanish, in some instances without a new entrance in close proximity to replace them. The subway plan also calls for the elimination of the Jarvis stop, as well as the South Boulevard and Foster Purple Line stops.

Another scenario would replace the existing four tracks with three tracks, which would eliminate reverse-direction Purple Line Express trains.

But three of the plans do not call for eliminating any stops at all. Two of them instead merely call for transfer stations between the Red and Purple lines at Loyola and Wilson.

Separately, the CTA is already moving ahead with preliminary studies to extend the Red Line south to 130th Street. Its current terminal is at 95th Street and the Dan Ryan, the farthest south any CTA ‘L’ line goes.

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.

Durbin emphasized the importance both of the modernization of the old ‘L’ infrastructure, and the extension to 130th Street. He pointed out that as it is, the Red Line is the busiest CTA line with 250,000 riders per weekday.

“The Red Line is the heart of the CTA rail network. But it is also one of the oldest CTA rail lines and most in need of repair,” Durbin said in the release. “The Loyola CTA Station’s problems are systematic of problems all across the Red Line, which is why the federal funds announced today are so important.”

Durbin said gas prices are not going down over the long haul, and public transit will grow more important as time goes on.

“This funding will help the CTA move forward with their vision for a newer, more modern Red Line, and put us in the best position to provide world-class mass transit services in the future,” he said in the release.

Chicago Transit Board President Terry Peterson says funding the environmental impact study for the Red Line upgrades will put the CTA closer to securing even more federal dollars.

“This is a multi-year process. It won’t happen overnight, but I want to assure everyone invested in the rail line extension that this process is a priority,” he said at the event Monday.

Peterson said he believes the extension and repairs to the century-old system are feasible, despite $10 billion in unmet capital needs.

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