The newsletter of the Active Transportation Alliance
Vol. 2, Issue 8 - September 2009
By Jennifer Groen
CTA has moved into the second of five stages for the recently announced train line extensions.
In early summer, CTA announced its continued pursuit of three train line extensions:
CTA has been working on these proposals since 2006 (the Red Line, well before) and is now in the EIS (Environmental Impact Study) stage.
Since publishing its plans to extend service, CTA has been met mostly with resounding cheers and optimism. There have been a few expected concerns voiced, such as costs, noise levels, neighborhood infringements and disruptions. Some Skokie residents attended a recent public meeting and voiced their concerns about the project’s usefulness.
Other community outreach programs continue to embrace the service expansion.
Developing Communities Project, a faith-based community-organizing agency that has served the Chicago Community Areas of Greater Roseland since 1986, has been very active in getting residents to attend the meetings for the Red Line extension project.
“Bring it on!” said John Paul Jones, the organization’s director, at a recent public meeting on the project. “The residents have been needing and wanting this for a long time,” citing the 38,000 supportive votes cast behind a 2004 referendum. Developing Communities Project has been heavily involved throughout the process, helping to facilitate communication amongst residents, community leaders and CTA, as well as touring the proposed corridors to understand the potential neighborhood impact.
“We’ve strongly advocated for the Union Pacific Railroad railway as the preferred option. We will continue to work alongside partners, like (the University of Illinois Chicago), to help study and strategize the balance of program to surrounding communities.”
Active Trans is excited at the level of public involvement in the project thus far.
CTA has been hosting public meetings at each stage to involve residents and there is still opportunity for the public to learn about the projects and what it means to Chicago’s transit system.
The rail extensions will certainly make transportation more efficient.
For example, the Yellow Line extension will reduce the trip from Old Orchard to Howard on the Red Line from 35 minutes to 24 minutes.
“Despite the modest time improvement, this extension would provide more service and better access to jobs at Old Orchard Mall and the Cook County Court House just to the west,” said Kevin Stanciel, Active Trans board member and former CTA planner.
That expansion can transform a neighborhood.
“One train stop instantly creates a way to reach that neighborhood without a car,” said Active Trans Director of Advocacy Adolfo Hernandez. “Residents are no longer tied to the cost – both financially and environmentally – of having to drive everywhere. Now there will be an option.”
Now the question is what happens next. First CTA will solicit federal funds in spring 2010. Under the New Starts Federal Fund program, which makes funds available for these type of urban rail expansions, money would be distributed and continue for two consecutive years.
The entire project can take up to 20 years to complete, but it is certainly on the right track. Stay tuned and we will let you know about any updates.
Jennifer Groen is a ModeShift contributor.