CTA Publishes Environmental Assessment for Proposed Bypass as Part of Phase One of Red and Purple Modernization Program

May 19, 2015

Project would rebuild, add capacity on Red, Purple line for next 60-80 years; Bypass would be equivalent to removing a stoplight from the middle of an expressway

The CTA is moving forward with its Red and Purple Modernization Program (RPM), a transformational, multi-phase program to completely rebuild the northern sections of the Red and Purple lines and provide CTA with the ability to add trains to meet the demands of growing ridership on its busiest rail line.

As part of the federal environmental review process for RPM, the CTA today published the second of two federal documents, called Environmental Assessments (EA), that are associated with Phase One of RPM. These documents are an important step in the process of informing the public and gathering feedback about this critical project, all of which contributes to the project’s development to allow the CTA to apply for federal funding for RPM.

The CTA published a separate Environmental Assessment in April 2015 for the Lawrence to Bryn Mawr Modernization Project, which is the proposed reconstruction of four Red Line stations (Lawrence, Argyle, Berwyn and Bryn Mawr) and more than one mile of adjacent track structure.

This EA published today analyzes the CTA’s proposal to construct a fifth-track bypass that would allow northbound Brown Line trains to Kimball to travel over Red and Purple line trains north of Belmont station – where the Red, Brown and Purple lines currently intersect.

This project would allow the CTA to add trains to meet current and future ridership needs. The strain on capacity is already evidenced by the daily train delays as trains have to stop and wait for others to cross the junction, which has a ripple effect on service throughout the CTA rail system.

The current inefficient rail junction was built in 1907, and was never intended to connect three rail lines. The CTA is now at capacity on these rail lines because of the junction, meaning it can no longer add more trains to alleviate current overcrowding and meet future ridership growth. This has occurred following a nearly 40 percent increase in ridership during the peak of the rush hour over five years on the Red, Purple and Brown lines serving this corridor.

“These projects are the next important steps in Mayor Emanuel’s vision to rebuild, modernize and expand the entire Red Line,” said CTA President Dorval R. Carter, Jr. “Much has been accomplished so far: the successful reconstruction of the Red Line South and the ongoing construction of a new 95th Street Terminal, and, of course, the first major project in the RPM corridor—the reconstruction of the Wilson station that began last fall. I look forward to continuing these projects, including the Red Line Extension Project, to replace outdated infrastructure with a modern, efficient rail system and increasing access to quality rail transportation for millions of future riders.”

“This outdated track configuration is the equivalent of a traffic signal in the middle of a busy highway,” said CTA Chief Planning Officer Carole Morey. “CTA needs to add more trains to alleviate overcrowding, but we can’t do so until we eliminate the traffic light. The Red-Purple Bypass is a critical component of the Red and Purple Modernization Program that will allow the CTA to add more train service to meet growing demand on all three lines, especially at rush hour when trains are most crowded.”

According to the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, 185,000 new residents are projected to move into Red and Brown Line service areas by 2040. To meet future demand, the CTA needs to increase service in this corridor to serve more riders during rush periods, but with current infrastructure constraints it has already reached capacity. If nothing is done CTA will be unable to add more trains to accommodate more riders, trains will become more crowded and passengers will wait longer, with long-term quality of life impacts on Chicago.

CTA estimates that by building the bypass, it would be able to add up to eight more trains per hour during rush hour immediately on the Red Line alone, and ultimately serve an additional 7,200 passengers per hour on all three rail lines– that is equivalent to adding two traffic lanes on Lake Shore Drive in each direction..

Within the EA, the CTA details various alternatives considered to address capacity constraints and the reasons these alternatives were eliminated, from increased cost to a greater number of property displacements. The proposed project was selected because it provided the greatest capacity expansion while minimizing property impacts. The CTA also announced it would explore relocating the historic Vautravers building, located at 947-949 W. Newport Avenue, beyond the proposed track location.

The EA also details potential construction impacts on CTA service. CTA trains would continue to run throughout the construction of the bypass, with Red and Purple Line service on the same tracks to allow for reconstruction of tracks taken out of service as part of the project. Some temporary street closures would be necessary. CTA would work closely with local officials to provide notice of any street or sidewalk closures and would seek to keep them to a minimum.

The anticipated cost to construct and modernize the track and structure as part of the Red-Purple Bypass Project is estimated at $320 million. Additional work that would be performed as part of RPM Phase One would include bringing the Brown Line track structure west of the rail junction into a state of good repair and modernizing the signal system on the Red and Brown lines near Clark Junction. This work is included in the additional improvements expected to cost $250 million.

The proposed Lawrence to Bryn Mawr Modernization and Red-Purple Bypass projects comprise the first of multiple phases of the RPM Program, which will replace old, deteriorating infrastructure and stations along Chicago’s busiest rail line with modern tracks, signals and stations that are fully accessible. The RPM Program will add much needed capacity to a growing residential corridor, and deliver faster and smoother rides with less crowding and more frequent service.

A public hearing to collect comments on the Red-Purple Bypass EA will be held on Wednesday, June 3, 2015 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Center on Halsted (3656 N. Halsted Street, Chicago, IL 60613).

In addition to the public hearing, written comments will be accepted for the next 30 days, through June 18, 2015. Comments may be submitted via U.S. mail (Chicago Transit Authority, Strategic Planning, 10th Floor, Attn: Red-Purple Bypass Project, 567 W. Lake Street, Chicago, Il 60661) or email (RedPurpleBypass@transitchicago.com).    

A copy of the EA is available on the CTA website (transitchicago.com/RPMProject), at CTA headquarters (567 W. Lake Street, 2nd Floor, Chicago), as well as at the 44th Ward Alderman’s office (3223 N. Sheffield Avenue, Chicago). Hard copies of the EA are also available at the following libraries through June 18:

  • Merlo Library, 644 W. Belmont Avenue, Chicago
  • Lincoln Belmont Library, 1659 W. Melrose Street, Chicago
  • Harold Washington Library Center, 400 S. State Street, Chicago


The official Notice of Availability for the Red Purple Bypass EA can be found at transitchicago.com/RPMProject.

The EA for the other portion of Phase One, Lawrence to Bryn Mawr Modernization, is available on CTA’s website. Together, the EAs outline construction plans and impacts related to these projects. The CTA anticipates construction for RPM could begin as early as 2017.

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