The CTA unveiled the first phase of its Red and Purple Line modernization program that will ultimately rebuild the northern section of the Red Line and the parallel Purple Line. The beginning of the next step in a federal process is to secure funding for the Red Line extension plan.
The CTA's Red Line, which runs 24/7 along 23 miles of tracks, is Chicago's busiest rail line. Most tracks and bridges along the Red and Purple Lines are nearly 100 years old.
In addition to rebuilding four stations on the North Side as the first phase of this project, there are plans to build a bypass north of the Belmont station to eliminate delays and speed up train service.
"We are going to address that bottleneck by building a bypass over the Red and Purple tracks so Brown Line trains do not have to stop, Red and Purple Line trains don't have to stop," said Tammy Chase, CTA spokesperson.
"I think it is a good idea because the Red Line is very busy," said Alexa Goodloe, passenger.
Right now, it appears that Belmont bypass would require the CTA to buy and demolish 16 buildings in the area, which is both commercial and residential.
"We have identified 16 properties that will need to be acquired to do the bypass," said Chase. "We are in the process of notifying the property owners now."
It is a controversial issue and not everyone is in agreement.
"It is stupid because you are breaking up every building," said A.J. Ortiz, passenger.
"I have never had a problem with getting on the train in time so I don't really understand why that's necessary," said Emily Becher, passenger.
The CTA is its early stage to get funding for the project, which is estimated to cost $1.7 billion, one of the largest historic projects ever.
"Sometimes you have to have change for good things to come in, so it sounds good to me," said Matt Ivy, passenger.
Chase added that modernizing Red Line rail service and stations will improve the neighborhoods by making transit more reliable, efficient, safe and eventually, generating new economic development near the stations.
Late Thursday, 44th Ward Alderman Tom Tunney said in a written statement: "I have serious concerns about this project and will work vigilantly with our neighbors to review the full plans and designs for the bypass. My office is coordinating meetings with the CTA, neighbors and businesses that would be affected by this."
The earliest for the construction to start will be 2017, and that is contingent on getting the money.