CHICAGO (CBS) — The CTA says, contrary to published reports, it has NOT narrowed to two the list of potential routes for a Red Line extension to 130th Street. Nor is it in a position to move ahead with construction.

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CTA officials and Mayor Rahm Emanuel have made no secret of their preference for a route that would share an elevated embankment with a Union Pacific Railroad freight line. The CTA has pushed the UP alternative since 2009, and the mayor has backed it since his re-entry into local politics.

However, CTA President Forrest Claypool said an extension paralleling Halsted Street and a bus rapid transit option also remain in the running — in part because the federal government requires at least three options until certain studies are complete next year.

“Publication of the draft (environmental impact) report and then a public hearing (are) required under federal law and then, and only then, can we say that this is the alternative that we seek,” he said.

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Only then can CTA seek funding. Claypool said Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) “misunderstood” the tenor of a discussion Tuesday, when he said the list of options had been narrowed to two. Most of the discussion at that meeting was about the two rail alternatives, Claypool conceded, and said that he understood it if Beale came away confused.

One community activist told Claypool Wednesday that the extension has become a “dream deferred,” and a group of activists who back construction of the Red Line expansion met with him and other senior CTA officials Wednesday afternoon.

But Claypool said navigating the federal funding process is a marathon, not a sprint, and that CTA is moving ahead as quickly as the federal process allows.

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Because the project is an extension and not rehabilitation work, the CTA has plenty of competition from other cities for the surface transportation bill “new start” money that is needed. The existing bill runs out in September, and negotiations are underway to determine how much will be made available overall for new start projects nationwide.