Community input vital to CTA project

By Lauren Kelly

To better accommodate under served areas of the city, relieve traffic congestion and create jobs, the Chicago Transit Authority voted on Aug. 12  to approve a $2 billion project that would extend the Red, Orange and Yellow Lines. The CTA hopes to get federal funding for as much as 80 percent of the project.

The proposal is a smart move for the CTA. As long as the cost of the project does not fall on riders, extending rail lines benefits commuters, workers and the entire city. It will increase ridership, create jobs in construction as well as railcar operator positions and connect the outer limits of the city to downtown while eliminating automobile traffic.

The rail extensions would add more than five miles of track to the Red Line, moving the last stop from 95th Street/Dan Ryan to 130th Street near the I-94 freeway exchange, adding four new stations to the route. The South Side after 95th Street is the only part of the city where public transit does not serve those living within city limits. The Red Line extension is the most important part of the plan because it affects the most people.

Currently, the last stop on the Orange Line is Midway Airport. The only way for commuters to reach Ford City Mall is by transferring to a bus at Midway, causing massive congestion and delays at the airport. Adding an extra stop near Marquette Road and Cicero Avenue would ease congestion for those shoppers. This extension would also benefit the private company that owns the mall, CBL & Associates Properties, Inc.   The company, in turn, could contribute to some of the project’s funding.

The only portion of the plan that is not essential is the Yellow Line extension, which was met with hesitation from the Skokie community it affects. The extension would add an extra stop at Old Orchard Road near Westfield Old Orchard Shopping Center. However, residents claim the noise the trains would cause, as well as their general appearance, would be a disturbance.

Adding a second stop on the Yellow Line might make it worth operating and would provide Chicagoans access to the Old Orchard mall, helping their pocketbooks with decreased sales tax.

But the CTA should listen to the community. If Skokie residents do not want the extension, their voices should be heard. More public forums and discussions sponsored by the CTA will be scheduled in coming months to get feedback from riders and residents, creating a vital discourse to determine what is best for the community.