The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) is an independent governmental agency created by Illinois state legislation. CTA operates the second largest public transportation system in the United States and provides bus and rapid transit rail service to the City of Chicago and 40 surrounding suburbs. CTA's trains provide on average about 500,000 passenger trips daily. CTA operates approximately 1,190 rapid transit rail cars on more than seven routes spanning 222 miles of track at 144 stations Systemwide. CTA operates approximately 2,041 buses on more than 150 routes spanning 2,429 route miles. Buses serve 12,000 posted bus stops, making about 1 million passenger trips daily.
The CTA began reconstruction of the Paulina Connector in March, 2003. This project received federal and state funds in the amount of $33,875,000. The scope of the construction included the replacement of the existing guideway structure from Van Buren Street to Washington Boulevard over Paulina Street. New track, ties, and aluminum clad third rail from Congress Parkway to Lake Street over Paulina Street were installed, increasing the Connector from one to two track operation. The signaling system was upgraded to a full two track train control system (cab signals). The interlockings at each end of the Connector were enhanced for two track operation. The traction power system has been reinforced with the addition of a new substation located at Washington and the Paulina Connector alignment. The signal interlocking system modifications to Tower 18 were also performed. The construction of the Paulina Connector project has been completed.
Presently, West Side Blue Line branches, Cermak (Douglas) branch and the Forest Park branch, have less frequent service than all other CTA rail lines. Each of the West Side's Blue Line branches is restricted to half the service frequency of the O'Hare branch, because the current service pattern alternates between O'Hare-Forest Park and O'Hare-Cermak trains. During off-peak hours, when CTA's service efficiency standards call for 7.5-minute train intervals to and from O'Hare, the interval between trains on the West Side branches is limited to every 15 minutes. Un-coupling the Cermak (Douglas) branch from the O'Hare branch by routing trains over the Paulina Connector allows for increased frequency on the Cermak (Douglas) branch to more closely match customer demand. This service change would have the added benefit of also increasing service frequency on the Forest Park branch.
There is a need for improved rail and bus service throughout the West Side of Chicago. Currently, there is a lack of adequate service and transfer connections available to customers. Historically, service on CTA's Cermak (Douglas) and Forest Park branches has been limited to half that of the Blue Line from Racine to O'Hare. There is a need to provide a direct, faster, and more reliable connection to the Loop for West Side residents. There is a need to connect the Cermak (Douglas) branch customers to other transit lines for greater service flexibility. Also, there is a need to improve frequency of train service for both the Cermak (Douglas) branch and Forest Park branch customers.
The CTA is proposing to utilize the Paulina Connector for revenue service to provide, direct, faster, and more frequent rail service from the West Side of Chicago to downtown Chicago and O'Hare Airport. This new service will be implemented as a 180 day experiment to allow for customer feedback and service adjustments. Should the 180 day experiment be successful CTA would make this service change permanent.
The EA is comprised of six sections and are as follows:
? Section I: Need for and Description of Proposed Action
" Section II: Alternatives to the Proposed Action
" Section III: Environmental Impacts
" Section IV: Community Involvement
" Section V: Agencies Consulted
" Section VI: Exhibits
Five alternatives were examined. For each alternative service times and a map have been provided. This information is located in Section II of the EA.
Purpose of the Environmental Assessment
The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has identified three classes of action that require different levels of environmental analysis and documentation. The proposed project is the subject of an Environmental Assessment (EA) because it is a Class 3 Action (i.e. transit or intermodal terminal) for which the significance of impacts on the environment is not clearly established. The EA has been prepared to determine the probable impacts. According to National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations, an EA is a concise public document prepared to determine whether the proposed action has the potential to cause significant environmental effects (40 Code of Federal Regulations 1508.9 [a]). The purpose of an EA is to:
? Briefly provide sufficient evidence and analysis to determine whether an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) or Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) should be prepared;
" Aid a federal agency's compliance with NEPA when no EIS is necessary;
" Facilitate preparation of an EIS when one is necessary.
The specific purpose of this EA is to provide FTA with sufficient information to allow ready determination of the environmental impacts related to the use of the Paulina Connector for revenue service to provide faster and more frequent rail service from the West Side of Chicago to downtown Chicago and O'Hare Airport. The evaluation of the information in this EA and other pertinent material should result in a decision concerning the environmental significance of the proposed project.
The draft EA will be available for public review and comment for a 30 day period. At the conclusion of the public review period, the EA will be revised to reflect changes in the proposed action or mitigation measures in response to comments received on the EA and any impacts resulting from the changes. CTA will submit the revised EA to FTA... If it is determined that the proposed project would not have a significant impact on the environment, then a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) will be issued. If it is determined that the proposed project would have a significant impact on the environment, an Environment Impact Statement (EIS) will be prepared.
Copies of the draft Environmental Assessment will be available for public inspection, in standard size print, and the draft Environmental Assessment Summary will be provided in large print and in alternative formats available upon request, between 8:00 A.M. to 4:30 P.M., Monday through Friday, May 5, 2006 through June 5, 2006, at the CTA reception desk, second floor, Chicago Transit Authority, 567 West Lake Street, Chicago, Illinois, 60660. In addition, copies of the draft Environmental Assessment will be available at the following locations: the Federal Transit Administration, Regional Office, 200 West Adams Street, Third Floor, Chicago, Illinois, and the Harold Washington Library Center, 400 South State Street, Chicago, Illinois. The draft Environmental Assessment Summary will also be available on CTA's website www.transitchicago.com.