CTA Board votes to expand 3 lines

August 12, 2009 (CHICAGO) The CTA is hoping to expand its rail service to the edges of the city and beyond, but it could be years before construction is completed.

Wednesday's vote was unanimous; the CTA board gave the green light to expanding the Red, Orange and Yellow lines. But it won't be happening overnight. Even under the best case scenario, the earliest these expansions could be up and running is 2016 -- the same year Chicago could be playing host to the Olympics.

The proposed Red Line expansion, which is 40 years in the making, would take it from 95th Street, where it currently ends, all the way out to 130th Street on the Far South Side. The cost- more than $1 billion.

The CTA board only heard a big "thumbs up" from south siders.

"Chicago doesn't stop at 95th Street, there's a community out there that needs to have access to the city lines," said Melinda Kelly, Chatham Business Association.

The project would also connect the Red Line with the South Shore commuter train and Metra's proposed southeast service commuter rail.

The Orange Line would be expanded from Midway Airport to near the Ford City Shopping Center on the Southwest Side.

There was no opposition to that plan either.

However, there was criticism regarding the proposed Yellow Line expansion, which would extend the train from Dempster Street close to the Old Orchard Shopping Center in Skokie.

"We do not want a train rumbling through our neighborhoods when this could be routed a different way in terms of rail access," said Marda Dunsky, Skokie resident.

Dunsky has a list of 183 Skokie residents who've signed a petition against the current plan. They favor expanded bus service instead, saying it's cheaper and quieter.

"We still have a long way to go before we've actually identified the exact route that any of these would take, but allows us to get in line for more federal dollars," said Carole Brown, CTA Board chairman.

The total cost of the expansions is more than $2 billion. The vast majority of the money is expected to come from federal dollars.

"Sure, I'd love to have it in the next 5-10 years...whether that's reality, and at what pace identify money from the federal government, I don't know," said Richard Rodriguez, CTA president.

The CTA will hold public hearings and conduct environmental studies before any work begins. The approval on Wednesday was just a small step in the long road ahead.

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