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CTA to spend $38 million studying Red Line extension

Monday, February 10, 2020
Chicago Tribune
by Mary Wisniewski

The CTA Board on Monday approved spending $38.3 million to study the environmental impact of a proposed extension of the Red Line from 95th Street to 130th Street.

An environmental impact statement is a necessary step in getting federal funding for the project, which would total about $2.3 billion, according to CTA officials. The $38.3 million contract, awarded to infrastructure services firm T. Y. Lin International Great Lakes, also covers planning and preliminary engineering services, the CTA said.

The extension of the CTA’s busiest rail line would fill in what activists have called a “transit desert” on the city’s Far South Side. The city has not extended an "L" line since the Orange Line opened in 1993.

The contract is the latest investment in the extension proposal. Last year, the CTA board committed $310 million of the agency’s 2020-2024 capital budget towards the local match needed to secure federal money. In 2018, the board approved a $20.9 million contract with HNTB Corp., which will oversee the final environmental review and preliminary engineering work. In a statement, CTA President Dorval Carter called the new contract award a “major step" towards building the long-discussed extension.

“CTA is committed to ensuring that every community has access to public transit and we are focused on following the federally required process to make that a reality,” Carter said.

Getting federal money could be difficult under the current administration, since President Donald Trump’s stated budget priorities do not favor transit.

The city does have the authority under state law to establish tax increment financing districts to fund transit projects, including the Red Line extension. Once the project is funded and construction begins, it could take four years to finish, the CTA said.

A less costly and more immediate alternative to increase transit options on the South Side has also been proposed. In a study last year, Cook County outlined a plan to lower fares on the Metra Electric District and Rock Island lines within the city to $2.50 — the same price as the "L" — from current Metra fares of $4 to $5.50.

Under the proposal, Metra trains would run more often, and Ventra cards could eventually be used to provide free transfers between Pace, Metra and the CTA. The proposed pilot program would allow Cook County to subsidize Metra and the CTA for ridership losses.

However, Mayor Lori Lightfoot has expressed concern that the plan would pull too many riders from the CTA.

 



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