Q: Which alignment option did CTA select?
A: Based on additional project planning and engineering work conducted over the last year, CTA selected a Preferred Alignment. The Preferred Alignment is a combination of the previously presented Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR) East and West Options and would run along the west side of the Union Pacific Railroad tracks from I-57 south to approximately 108th Place, then would cross the Union Pacific Railroad tracks and run along the east side of the tracks until crossing the Metra Electric tracks near 119th Street and continuing south to 130th Street. See the project map.
The Preferred Alignment would capture the benefits and minimize the impacts of either option and incorporates the public and agency feedback received on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The Preferred Alignment would have fewer impacts than either the East or West Options. It would affect fewer residences than the East Option, and fewer businesses and jobs than the West Option. Noise and vibration impacts would not be greater than those anticipated under either the East or West Option.
Q: Is CTA still considering alternatives for rail service along Halsted Avenue or other Bus Rapid Transit improvements?
A: No. These alternatives were considered early in the environmental review process as potential alternatives. These alternatives have been eliminated based on additional technical analysis and public input received. In August 2014, CTA announced that the Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR) Alternative is the NEPA Preferred Alternative. CTA prepared a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), which analyzed the benefits and impacts of locating the line either to the east or west of the UPRR tracks. Based on public input and further planning and engineering conducted, a UPRR Preferred Alignment has now been selected. The Preferred Alignment is a combination of the previously presented East and West Options. See the project map.
Q: Previously, CTA was considering using the existing Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR) right-of-way to construct RLE. Is that still under consideration?
A: No. CTA had previously considered an option that would have used the existing UPRR right-of-way for the elevated CTA track structure. This option was added in 2012 in response to the Chicago Department of Transportation feasibility study looking at moving UPRR freight operations out of the existing UPRR corridor before the RLE Project. The Right-of-Way Option would only be feasible if the separate project were implemented before implementation of the RLE Project. Coordination between local agencies and the railroads indicted that relocation of UPRR freight operations from this corridor presents considerable challenges; therefore, this option is no longer feasible. Estimated travel times and ridership were the same for the Right-of-Way Option as for the East and West Options.
Q: For the Preferred Alignment near the Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR) tracks, has CTA talked with Union Pacific Railroad representatives?
A: CTA has had preliminary conversations with UPRR and will continue to coordinate with the railroad as the project moves forward. UPRR requires that the CTA tracks be located at least 50 feet from the existing freight tracks because of safety considerations.
The Preferred Alignment and Proposed Service
Q: When would the extended Red Line be open for use?
A: Depending on funding availability and federal approvals, the earliest that the Red Line Extension is expected to begin construction would be in 2022 and service is anticipated to start in 2026.
Q: What are the proposed operating hours for the Red Line Extension?
A: The operating hours for the proposed extension are anticipated to be the same as for the current Red Line, which operates 24 hours every day of the year.
Q: What portion of the extension would be elevated?
A: The Red Line Extension would operate on an elevated structure from approximately 95th Street to 118th Street, where it would transition to an at-grade profile and then continue at grade before terminating near 130th Street. The 103rd Street, 111th Street, and Michigan Avenue stations would be elevated, and the 130th Street station would be at-grade.
Q: Will there be places to park near the new stations?
A: Yes, to accommodate passengers arriving at the Red Line Extension by car, park & ride facilities would be constructed near each station. A total of 3,700 parking spaces would be available along the corridor.
Q: Why is so much parking needed near the new stations?
A: CTA estimated parking demand based on travel demand modeling performed in 2009. CTA will conduct additional analysis and review of parking needs near stations and as part of next phases of project development and engineering.
Q: Would this extension connect to existing Metra Electric or South Shore services?
A: There is potential for connection of the proposed Red Line Extension to the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District (NICTD) South Shore Commuter Rail Line near 130th Street, where the two lines would be adjacent to each other. Currently, the NICTD South Shore commuter service does not have a 130th Street station and at this time future plans do not include a 130th Street station. This potential connection will be explored in further detail during the engineering phase. A connection between the Red Line Extension and Metra Electric District at Kensington/115th Street station is not possible because the proposed Red Line Extension routing crosses the Metra Electric District Line approximately ½ mile south of the Kensington/115th Street station.
Q: Is CTA coordinating with Metra on the Red Line Extension Project?
A: Yes, CTA is coordinating with Metra on our progress with the Red Line Extension Project. Metra is a participating agency in the environmental review process for the Red Line Extension Project.
The NEPA Process
Q: What is NEPA?
A: The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) is a federal law that mandates the consideration of environmental impacts that may have significant impacts on the environment before a project is approved to receive federal funding. The NEPA process provides a decision-making framework to consider the purpose and need for a proposed action, potential design solutions, project costs, and relative benefits of a proposed project.
Q: What is a Draft Environmental Impact Statement, or Draft EIS?
A: A Draft Environmental Impact Statement, or Draft EIS, summarizes potential impacts to the natural environment and community. The Draft EIS describes the potential environmental benefits and impacts of a proposed project, and identifies measures to avoid, minimize, and mitigate adverse impacts. A copy of the Draft EIS is available here.
Typically, environmental reviews for proposed transit projects address the following resource areas:
- Land use and economic development
- Displacement and relocation of existing uses
- Neighborhoods and communities
- Visual and aesthetic
- Noise and vibration
- Safety and security
- Historic and cultural resources
- Hazardous materials
- Air quality
- Water quality
- Vegetation and wildlife habitat
- Threatened and endangered species
- Geology and soils
- Environmental Justice
The Draft EIS: Benefits and Impacts of the RLE Project
Q: Would CTA need to purchase private property because of the location of the proposed extension?
A: Yes, CTA would need to purchase private property to construct the Red Line Extension. For more information and additional FAQs related to displacements, please see the Potential Property Displacements page.
Q: How would the proposed extension affect noise and vibration in the community?
A: Section 4.5 of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) evaluates the potential for noise impacts to the surrounding community. The analysis shows that all potential severe and moderate noise impacts due to the project would be mitigated by including welded rail, closed deck structures, and noise barriers as part of the final design of the project. Based on the analysis, the project would result in no impacts from vibration. The Preferred Alignment would have similar noise and vibration impacts and mitigations to those for the Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR) East or West Options discussed in the Draft EIS.
Q: What are the potential economic benefits or impacts of the proposed extension?
A: Section 4.1 of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) evaluates the economic benefits and potential impacts of the proposed extension. As part of the public review of the Draft EIS, the public had the opportunity to review and comment on the analysis. The proposed project could spur economic revitalization and the development of more livable, transit-supportive communities near the proposed stations. The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning states that the RLE Project would increase access to jobs; access to jobs within 1 hour of the proposed 111th Street station would increase by 56 percent. Additional jobs would be created with investment in the Red Line Extension Project.
Q: How would the proposed Red Line Extension affect current CTA services, both during construction of the new service and during operation of the new service?
A: Once the proposed extension is complete, existing bus routes may be changed to complement the new high-capacity transit service. Depending on the specific route of the service, the number of routes feeding into the 95th Street Terminal may be reduced, which would also reduce congestion in and around this facility. More detailed construction schedules will be developed as additional engineering is completed for the project, after the environmental review. CTA’s general guidelines minimize the effects of construction on existing transit services; however, bus reroutes are possible.
Q: How does work on the other Red Ahead projects affect progress on the Red Line Extension?
A: The Red Line Extension Project is one part of the Red Ahead Program to extend and enhance the entire Red Line. The Red Ahead Program consists of separate projects with their own separate sources of potential funding and timelines. These projects are mutually beneficial and are combined into the Red Ahead Program such that they are coordinated efficiently.
Q: CTA is renovating the 95th Street Terminal. Would the Red Line Extension be possible after the 95th Street Terminal improvements are complete?
A: Yes, the 95th Street Terminal improvements and the Red Line Extension Project would function together seamlessly to provide improved transit service throughout Chicago’s Far South Side. More information about the 95th Street Terminal Improvement Project is available here.
Q: What are the next steps for the project now that the Draft EIS has been published?
A: The next steps are completing additional engineering and analyses required and preparing the Final EIS on the Preferred Alignment. The Final EIS will include and address all comments received during the public review period. The Final EIS will document the results of the Draft EIS process, confirm the Preferred Alignment, and include a list of committed final mitigation measures.
Concurrently with preparation of the Final EIS, CTA will also request entry into the FTA New Starts Project Development phase, which is the proposed federal funding source for this project. The FTA New Starts Program is highly competitive federal funding program, and the RLE Project will be evaluated by the federal government for potential selection into the program.
After completion of the Final EIS and FTA New Starts Project Development phase, CTA intends to apply to the Project Engineering phase, which will include design and engineering. Upon receiving a full funding grant agreement from FTA, the project will move into construction, which is expected to last about 5 years.
Q: How would CTA fund the Red Line Extension Project?
A: The Red Line Extension Project would require an estimated $2.3 billion in capital costs. CTA is pursuing a wide range of federal, state, and local funding sources with the help and support of the community. CTA intends to pursue federal New Starts funds for the RLE Project. Local matching funds would be required to secure federal funding. CTA is considering a number of options at this time. Options include the recent creation of a special transit-only tax-increment financing district, authorized by the General Assembly in June 2016, which could provide a portion of the local funding for the Red Line Extension Project.
Q: What is the federal New Starts program and why does CTA have to go through such a lengthy process?
A: FTA’s New Starts Program is a discretionary funding source that helps fund major transit capital investment projects. New Starts funds are available for projects that expand rail service into an area that is not within the current transit footprint, and therefore entail a relatively longer environmental and planning process. CTA must compete with other New Starts projects from across the country that are already in line for funding.
Q: How can I receive updates and stay involved throughout the entire process?
A: Anyone can request to be added to the RLE contact list by sending an email to RedExtension@transitchicago.com. Members of the contact list will receive upcoming meeting notices, as well as future updates about the RLE Project. Updated information about the RLE Project will continue to be available on this project website.