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CHICAGO (CBS) — City crews are ripping out a set of old, unused railroad tracks, as they begin a new beautification project on the city’s Near North Side.
Crews are removing the single-track Chicago & Evanston South rail line that runs along middle Kingsbury Street, between North Avenue and Scott Street. The Chicago Department of Transportation says the tracks were first installed in 1872 – a year after the Great Chicago Fire – but became obsolete as the land use transitioned from industrial to residential, retail and commercial.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Bob Roberts reports
The effort is part of a greater Kingsbury Streetscape Project, which will upgrade Kingsbury Street, as well as Scott Street between Kingsbury and Halsted streets. The affected area is an old industrial district between the North Branch Channel that separates the mainland from Goose Island, and the old Cabrini-Green neighborhood.
The $4.3 million Kingsbury Street project is part of the greater $7.3 billion Building a New Chicago infrastructure project that Mayor Emanuel announced earlier this week.
The project will involve complete reconstruction of the roadway pavements, curbs and gutters, sidewalks and driveways along Kignsbury and Scott streets, as well as draining and street lighting improvements.
The city also plans to realign the intersection of Halsted and Scott streets. In its present arrangement, Scott Street jogs slightly to the north as it heads westward from Halsted Street, near the former site of the last Cabrini-Green high-rise at 1230 N. Burling St.
Also planned are new ornamental lighting, wider sidewalks, and 100 new trees.
The construction is expected to be finished in August, the landscaping in October, according to the Chicago Department of Transportation.
Kingsbury Street runs parallel to the Chicago River’s North Branch from the soon-to-depart Finkl Steel mill at Southport and Armitage avenues to Kinzie Street just west of Orleans Street in River North.
At one time, the C&E South track ran along virtually the entire length of Kingsbury Street. The C&ESsouth freight line, which once proceeded westward across the river and met up with the main Milwaukee Road tracks that lead from Kinzie Street south toward Union Station, according to ChicagoSwitching.com. North of the Finkl plant, the tracks proceed north in the middle of Lakewood Avenue to Belmont Avenue as the C&E North line.
The bridge was demolished in 1973, and the tracks south of Chicago Avenue were removed in the 1990s, according to ChicagoSwitching.com. But the Chicago Terminal Railroad still runs a freight locomotive on the C&E tracks north of the area where they are being removed, serving industrial clients in the Goose Island area.