Federal funding speeds up transit line project


Gabriel de la Mora

Federal funding speeds up transit line project

By Jacqueline Murray

Plans for renovating the Red and Purple Line stations north of the Belmont stop have been in the works since April 2015, but a proposed $1 billion to come from federal funding will now help to put the plans into action.

The proposed $2.1 billion project calls for a $1 billion local match, which will come from a mix of CTA funds and new transit tax increment financing funds, according to a Jan. 9 press release from the mayor’s press office.

The project is seen as a major improvement by many Chicagoans who are living and working in the

affected neighborhoods, including Martin Sorge, executive director of Uptown United an organization with the mission to build up and strengthen Uptown’s economy and business community. 

“We have to invest in our infrastructure if we want it to last,” Sorge said, emphasizing the importance of the Red Line for commuters and local businesses. 

The proposed renovations include rebuilding the Lawrence, Argyle, Berwyn and Bryn Mawr Red Line stops. These stations will now have wider platforms, better lighting, modern amenities and will become accessible and ADA compliant, according to the CTA.

In a 2011 poll performed by the 48th Ward, which covers a majority of the area that the renovations affect, 96 percent of respondents said accessibility was an important factor when deciding how to spend money in the ward.

“[The project is] big because it helps bring shoppers from different parts of the city up here to patronize businesses,” said Nick Wolff, Andersonville Chamber of Commerce’s director of Economic Development and Business Services—a neighborhood accessed by the Berwyn Red Line. “It’s important because it’s a quick way for tourists that are staying in the Loop to get up to North Side business district.”

The CTA expects the project to break ground in late 2018 and for construction to last an estimated four to five years, according to a Jan. 12 email from spokeswoman Irene Ferradaz.

Because the transit TIF funds are part of the $1 billion local match needed to fund the project, Chicago residents will be investing in Chicago’s future. According to Ferradaz, the match will be composed of $622 million in transit TIF funds and $428 million in CTA funds. Getting the TIF approved by Chicago City Council in November 2016 paved the way for securing the federal loan, according to the CTA website.

The TIF will work by determining a “base value” on properties in the neighborhoods surrounding the target reconstruction areas and then freezing that value, according to the CTA website. The TIF is then created by the growth in property value.

Though the RPM will now receive outside funds, other modes of Chicago transportation need attention too, according to Richard Wronski, editor of the Chicago Transportation Journal, a website covering transportation news. 

“Every transportation system in Chicago is in need of what you might consider a huge overhaul,” Wronski said. “The CTA, Metra and Pace all have billions of dollars in capital need that have gone neglected for many years.” 

Kyle Whitehead, government relations director of the Active Transportation Alliance, said there is an increased interest in riding transit, and it is exciting to see city support.

ATA supports the Red and Purple Line modernization project because of  how it will improve train transportation across city, he said.

“It benefits not only people riding transit on the North Side who were dealing with issues of congestion [and] packed trains, but people throughout the whole system,” Whitehead said. “When there’s a delay in one part, it often has a trickle down effect elsewhere.”