CHICAGO (CBS) — President Barack Obama has approved nearly $1.1 billion in federal grant funding for the CTA to improve sections of the Red, Brown, and Purple lines on the North Side.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the City Council rushed through a deal to create a new mass transit tax-increment financing district in November, to secure the local matching funds that were required to obtain the grant.
The new transit TIF is expected to generate more than $850 million for the project over the next 17 years. The CTA also has approved more than $400 million in borrowing for the upgrades.
The entire project carries a $2.1 billion price tag, and the city wanted to guarantee the federal funding it had sought before President-elect Donald Trump takes office.
The project would provide a much-needed facelift for the CTA’s oldest and busiest rail line. The funding would go toward reconstruction of the Lawrence, Argyle, Berwyn, and Bryn Maw Stations; overhaul of about a mile of nearby tracks and supports; and creation of a new “flyover” for northbound Brown Line trains just north of Belmont Avenue.
The new flyover would eliminate a bottleneck for Brown, Red, and Purple line trains by allowing northbound Brown Line trains to travel above southbound Red and Purple line tracks, rather than crossing through them. The flyover would allow the CTA to run up to 15 extra trains an hour on the Red, Brown, and Purple line tracks.
At a formal announcement of the funding at the Argyle stop on the Red Line, CTA President Dorval Carter said the Argyle station and the three others that will be rebuilt will get elevators.
“Though it has received modest improvements over the last 96 years, some of its original features still exist, including the absence of an elevator that will make this station fully accessible,” he said.
Commuters who rely on the busy train lines said the upgrades are sorely needed.
“I’m all for it. These are really old train lines, obviously,” Steven Vendeland said. “They need to really refurbish what we have, and renovate, and expand.”
Yulia Burkina said some of the tracks on the North Side are in very bad shape.
“Sometimes it’ scary to ride them, because it feels like it’s going to get derailed,” she said. “I don’t drive. I take a train every day, so it will be nice to have nicer train stations.”
The reconstruction project is expected to create about 6,000 jobs. Construction should begin next year, and take four to five years to complete.