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CTA To Begin Overhaul Of 7 Aging Red Line Stations

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CHICAGO (CBS) — The Chicago Transit Authority is set to begin a major overhaul of seven stations on the heavily-traveled Red Line ‘L,’ in the Rogers Park, Edgewater and Uptown neighborhoods.

Three of the seven stations are proposed for elimination in two different plans to rebuild the stretch of the Red Line that runs through the city’s north lakefront neighborhoods. But they are receiving upgrades anyway.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Mike Krauser reports

As WBBM Newsradio’s Mike Krauser reports, the stations are among the oldest in the system, Mayor Rahm Emanuel pointed out in a news conference.

“Morse train station – opened in 1908. Jarvis – 1908. Granville –1908. Thorndale –1915. Berwyn station – 1916. Argyle – 1908. Lawrence – 1923,” Emanuel said.

The stations are all located in high-density neighborhoods with a high volume of passenger traffic. And many of them have less-than-stellar reputations among CTA customers.

The Jarvis stop, in particular, is infamous for smelling of urine.

“If the station doesn’t smell like urine (as another reviewer pointed out), it smells overwhelmingly like bleach,” a Yelp critic wrote. “Even on the driest days, there’s always a puddle outside the stairwell — I don’t even want to think about the explanation for that one.”

The Morse station also has a reputation for being smelly and for having what a Yelp critic called “sketchy broken-down turnstile areas.”

CTA President Forrest Claypool agreed that the stations up for renovation are in a shameful state.

“These are literally the worst stations in the system,” Claypool said.

Claypool said some inconvenience to riders is inevitable as the upgrades move ahead.

“With progress comes a little of bit pain. You can’t have one without the other. So we’re going to try to minimize that pain, obviously, and obviously, there will be no more than one station at a time shut down for no more than six weeks,” Claypool said.

A total of $80 million of the $86 million price tag for the project is coming from the federal government.

Plans to renovate the stations were announced in February.

The work to be done includes waterproofing, viaduct repair, new doors and windows for the stations, and tuckpointing. Work is also planned for the roofs of adjacent station buildings, so that inside concession spaces can be leased and begin to generate revenue for the cash-starved agency.

The waterproofing will cause the delays. It will require CTA crews to take up tracks adjacent to the stations so that a waterproof membrane can be put in place beneath the surface.

The work is expected to conclude late this fall or in early 2013. It will not include installation of elevators. Claypool said in February the current footprint of many of the stations is too narrow to allow for elevators. He said that will be addressed in the full-scale modernization, which is still in its planning stages.

Back at the beginning of last year, the CTA announced plans for that modernization, which would affect the Red and Purple lines north of the Addison stop. No specific plan has been approved yet, but two of the blueprints call for closing three of the stations now being renovated – Jarvis, Thorndale and Lawrence.

These plans also call for eliminating the South Boulevard and Foster stops on the Purple Line, and downgrading Purple Line express and Red Line local service by maintaining three or four tracks.

In place of the shuttered stations, 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. For example, a commuter living on Ainslie Street in the Uptown neighborhood may now walk one block north to the Argyle stop or south to the Lawrence stop. Under the subway plan, the commuter would have to walk two and a half blocks north to Winona Street or three blocks south to Wilson Avenue to catch the Red Line.

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.

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