Chicago to spend $86M on transit line upgrades
CHICAGO – Pushing forward with an overhaul of Chicago’s aging roads, rails and airports, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced Friday that $86 million in repair work was set to transform century-old stations along the rail line that forms the backbone of the city’s transit system, the second largest in the nation.
Joined by Gov. Pat Quinn and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, the mayor said the project on a section of the Red Line running through the North Side was crucial to keeping the metropolis of 2.7 million people moving.
As with his other sweeping infrastructure plans, he said the project was about more than reducing congestion and would ripple through the area’s economy, creating 250 jobs and spurring development in neighborhoods along the route.
“It’s a multiplier for economic growth and job creation,” Emanuel told reporters at a theater steps away from one of the stations.
The money, nearly all of which comes from federal funds, will go to fix seven stations along the Red Line’s northern stretch that are badly in need of repair. Viaducts are missing chunks of concrete, stairs and support columns are badly rusted from water leaks, bulkheads are corroded and crumbling ceilings are pockmarked with holes.
“These are literally the worst stations in the system,” said Forrest Claypool, president of the Chicago Transit Authority.
Four of the stations were built in 1908 – when Teddy Roosevelt was president, Emanuel noted – and have barely been touched since.
“I think after 100-plus years, it’s time for a face lift,” Emanuel said.
The work is part of a larger $1 billion project by the transit authority to refurbish the entire 23 miles of the Red Line, which is the busiest route in the system with 250,000 riders a day. Work on the seven stations will start in late May and is expected to be finished in early 2013.
Improvements will include everything from new station doors, windows and turnstiles, to the replacement of platforms, tracks and lighting. More security cameras will be installed. The seven stations are Jarvis, Morse, Granville, Thorndale, Berwyn, Argyle and Lawrence.
The federal government is providing $80 million of the cost, and Durbin noted that the project is an example of how important it is to get Congress to pass a long-term transportation funding bill.
The last such bill was passed in 2005, and disagreements over a successive one have forced temporary short-term extensions since then to prevent a widespread shutdown of construction projects.
The most recent extension expires in June.
“We are now in the midst of debating whether this money coming back to Chicago and Illinois and other states will continue,” said Durbin, who has a seat on the committee of Senate and House members trying to work out a new version of the bill.