Mayor Emanuel, CTA Announce Next Steps in Modernizing the Red Line, CTA’s busiest rail line

April 17, 2014

CTA Unveils First Phase of its Red and Purple Modernization Program That Will Ultimately Rebuild the Northern Section of the Red Line and the Parallel Purple Line

Red Line Extension Plan to Extend the Red Line South of 95th Street to 130th Street Moves Forward with its Environmental Process

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and CTA President Forrest Claypool today announced the first phase of its Red and Purple Modernization (RPM) program, which will completely rebuild the northern section of the Red Line and the parallel Purple Line, and beginning of the next step in a federal process to secure funding for the Red Line Extension plan, which would extend the Red Line south from 95th Street to 130th Street.

These are the latest steps in the ongoing modernization of the CTA under Mayor Emanuel.

“As a world-class city, Chicago has a world-class transit service to connect residents to jobs, education, culture and above all opportunity,” said Mayor Emanuel. “CTA is investing in modernizing the Red Line as part of our strategy to create a seamless, safe, and reliable transportation system for every neighborhood.”

The CTA’s Red Line, which runs 24/7 along 23 miles of tracks, is Chicago’s busiest rail line with about 75 million annual rides.

The Red and Purple Modernization program and the Red Line Extension project are the latest in a series of Red Line projects to modernize and extend the backbone of the CTA’s rail system that have been undertaken since 2011.

With a significant portion of the Red Line built more than a century ago, the improvements would address the current need to expand capacity by building new infrastructure to accommodate growing ridership. Additional Red Line modernization projects under Mayor Emanuel include:

  • Successful $425 million replacement of the Red Line South railroad in 2013, as well as station rehabilitations.
  • $86 million renewal and rehabilitation of seven far north side stations in 2012.
  • $240 million new 95th Street Terminal, work beginning in late summer.
  • $203 million Wilson station reconstruction and track and signal replacement, major construction to begin this fall.

“These projects are the next steps in our overall vision to rebuild, modernize and expand the entire Red Line,” said P President Claypool. “We’re already kicking off Red and Purple Modernization by beginning reconstruction of the Wilson station this fall and continuing progress on the South Side by starting the new 95th Street Terminal this summer, following the successful completion of the Red Line South reconstruction last year. With both the Red and Purple Modernization and Red Line Extension projects, we’ll replace outdated infrastructure with a modern, efficient rail, and build more than five miles of new track. Together these improvements will offer CTA customers faster, more reliable service, and increasing access to quality rail transportation for thousands of future riders.”

The CTA is also moving forward with its proposed Red Line Extension plan by beginning the second step of its environmental process to ultimately finish the Environmental Impact Study, which is required to begin engineering on the plan to extend the Red Line south of 95th Street to 130th Street. Both projects will include a broad community outreach process that will begin next month to solicit community feedback on both projects and provide updates on the funding process for each project.

About Red and Purple Modernization

The RPM program will proceed in phases to fully replace old, deteriorating infrastructure and stations along the entire north branch of the Red Line and the parallel Purple Line, and will pave the way for CTA to significantly increase train capacity for the next 80 years. 

This section of the Red and Purple lines carries one out of every five CTA rail rides and serves customers in some of the densest, most diverse neighborhoods in Chicago. Rush-hour ridership has jumped 40 percent in the last five years alone.

Most tracks and bridges along the Red and Purple lines are nearly 100 years old. Despite rising demand, the CTA is unable to increase capacity because of the current infrastructure’s age and structural limitations. Continuing to operate a busy rail line on this outdated infrastructure results in high maintenance costs, the need for frequent repairs that disrupt service and slow travel, as well as outdated stations that can’t accommodate elevators or other necessary and modern amenities.

RPM will create a completely rebuilt rail line, resulting in faster, smoother rides, modern, fully ADA accessible stations along the entire corridor and more frequent train service to alleviate overcrowding.

The first phase of the RPM improvements will include two main components:

  • Station and track modernization, Wilson to Bryn Mawr: Completely rebuilding the Wilson, Lawrence, Argyle, Berwyn, and Bryn Mawr stations and rebuilding all tracks, support structures, bridges and viaducts for the Red and Purple lines between Lawrence and Bryn Mawr. Replacement of the Wilson station and surrounding infrastructure begins this fall. These stations were built originally between 1908 and 1923 and the elevated support structures date back to the 1920s. The Bryn Mawr station was last updated 40 years ago, in 1974; the remaining three stations received interim station renewal work in 2012. Reconstruction of these stations will include adding elevators at each to make them accessible to customers with disabilities. The project also includes rebuilding the tracks, signals and support structures, which will significantly improve train speeds and service reliability on the slow zone-plagued stretch. (The Wilson station project is already funded from state, federal and local sources, and is currently proceeding through a separate Environmental Assessment process.)
  • Construction of a Red-Purple bypass. Construction of a bypass north of the Belmont station to eliminate delays and speed up train service where the Red, Purple and Brown lines currently all intersect. The current configuration requires trains on three of four tracks to stop and wait for Brown Line trains to cross, which results in more than 40 percent of weekday trains being delayed by as much as three minutes. About 150,000 rides travel through this intersection each weekday, all of which are slowed down because trains must stop and wait for signal clearance. The structure’s original 1907 design makes it difficult, under present day and service demands, to provide reliable service and makes adding service extremely challenging.

“Modernizing Red Line rail service and stations strengthens our neighborhoods by making transit more reliable and ultimately generating new economic development near revitalized stations,” said Ald. Harry Osterman. “We’re pleased that Mayor Emanuel and the CTA recognize the importance of safe, reliable transit in neighborhoods near the Red Line, including Andersonville, Edgewater and Uptown, and look forward to working closely with the CTA on this exciting program.”

Future phases of RPM will bring the same level of infrastructure and station improvements to the remaining sections of the Red and Purple lines, from north of Belmont station to Linden station in Wilmette.

Estimated cost for the first phase of RPM is $1.7 billion.

In November 2013, the CTA became the first transit system accepted into the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) new Core Capacity Program that provides funding to transit systems to add capacity on existing infrastructure for future ridership growth. The RPM project is eligible for 2014 Core Capacity federal funding approved by Congress earlier this year.

About RLE

The 5.3-mile Red Line Extension project will extend south from the 95th Street Terminal through the greater Roseland community. Plans include construction of four new stations near 103rd Street, 111th Street, Michigan Avenue/116th Street and 130th Street, all with bus and parking facilities.

The RLE project will provide rapid transit rail access to a low income, transit-dependent Far South Side area that does not have direct CTA rail service.  An extended Red Line will provide up to a 20-minute time savings to downtown by providing one-seat service, as opposed to the current bus-rail trip from 130th Street.  It will also improve access to jobs and education, and foster economic development.

In 2011, the CTA received funding from the FTA to conduct the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the RLE project—a major, important step in the multi-step federal process to secure approval and funding of the $2.3 billion dollar project.   

Public Input and Next Steps

The CTA will meet with community groups and host public open houses to share details and seek input on the proposed RPM and RLE projects. Members of the public can submit formal comments directly to the CTA or at public open houses where CTA and representatives will provide additional information on RPM and RLE project plans. For each project, CTA is seeking community input on the location, design, and social, economic, and environmental effects of the proposed improvements.

The Lawrence to Bryn Mawr Modernization Open House will be held Wednesday, May 21, at Truman Community College, 1145 W. Wilson Ave. from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

The Red-Purple Bypass Open House will be held Thursday, May 22, at the 19th District Police Station, 850 W. Addison St., from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

The RLE Open House will be held Tuesday, May 13, at Palmer Park Gymnasium, 201 E. 111th St., between 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

Comments for either project can also be submitted by email or postal mail to:



Chicago Transit Authority
Strategic Planning, 10th floor
Attn: RPM Project or RLE Project
567 W. Lake Street
Chicago, IL. 60661-1465

Following public input, the CTA will deliver draft environmental studies for both RPM Phase One and RLE to the FTA as part of the process to request federal funding. Timing for construction starts on each project is dependent upon the receipt of funding for each project. By the beginning of May, the CTA will release a request for Letters of Interest and Qualifications (LIQ) for Preliminary Engineering (PE) services for Phase One of RPM.

For more information about the Red Purple Modernization and Red Line Extension projects, visit transitchicago.com.


More Information

Red Line Extension Project: http://www.transitchicago.com/redeis/

Red and Purple Modernization Project: http://www.transitchicago.com/rpmproject/


Current Red-Purple and Brown Track Intersection Configuration


RPM Bypass Track Configuration


RPM Bypass Track-Level View Concept


RPM Bypass Street-Level View Concept


Bryn Mawr Station Interior Concept


Bryn Mawr Platform Concept


Bryn Mawr Station Entry (Street View) Concept


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