$1B available for CTA Red Line rehab project

Image of the CTA's train system. (AP Photo).

November 3, 2011 2:52:24 PM PDT
Chicago's busiest transit line is getting an overhaul. Governor Pat Quinn and Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced Thursday that more than $1 billion in government funds are now available for the rehab of the CTA's Red Line.

Politicians have waited a long time--some for a couple of years--for the announcement that the CTA's Red Line will get a rebuild. Governor Pat Quinn -- who played a major role raising most of the money needed for the project -- actually rode the Red Line train to the news conference waiting at the Lake Street station with other passengers. On a southbound train he explained to several commuters why the $1 billion project is long overdue.

"There's some parts of this line that are only fifteen miles an hour," Quinn said. "That's not fast enough. A lot of the track is dilapidated so we need to fix it up and make it 21st Century ready."

At 35th Street, the governor was joined by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, nearly a dozen aldermen, several state lawmakers and CTA President Forrest Claypool. He said the combination of state, federal and city dollars also would be used to rehab el stations.

"Virtually every station will be touched in some way. Some for minor cosmetics all the way up to major facelifts all the way up to complete reconstruction," Claypool said.

Where does the money come from? $646 million of the $1 billion was generated by bonds sold after the governor signed the 2009 Illinois Capital Bill. Mayor Rahm Emanuel says rehabbing the 79-million passengers-a-year Red Line, which is considered the backbone of Chicago's light rail system, will help attract businesses.

"When you invest in the conditions or economic efficiency of a city or a state, [the] private sector grows," Mayor Emanuel said.

The actual reconstruction will begin early next year and continue for another two to three years.

"2,700 new jobs fixing up an important part of our transportation network," Gov. Quinn said.

Meanwhile, Claypool refused to discuss the possibility of a general train and bus fare increase if unions don't agree to givebacks next year in contract talks.

"I'm not, I'm...we've been...this is old stuff. We got new stuff, guys. . . Thank you," Claypool said.

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