AVONDALE — Mayor Rahm Emanuel visited Avondale Friday morning to cut the ribbon on the new $17 million Belmont Blue Line station, the first major project under the city’s “Your New Blue” plan.
Standing underneath the station’s massive new glass and steel canopy designed by lauded architect Carol Ross Barney, Emanuel said the station “sends a message of strength of our neighborhoods.”
But some residents said they’re disappointed the city didn’t use the project to make noticeable improvements to the inside of the station, which could’ve used substantial upgrades.
Gladys Moreno, 68, has lived in Avondale for 50 years and always gets on the train at the Belmont Blue Line station.
Moreno said while the canopy is nice, the inside of the station looks the same as it did 50 years ago.
“It’s like cleaning the outside of your refrigerator without cleaning the dirt on the inside,” Moreno said of the city’s renovation project.
Like Moreno, 58-year-old Celeste Garcia said she likes the canopy, especially because it will protect train and bus users from the elements, but didn’t notice any changes to the inside of the station.
Garcia, who lives at Belmont and Cicero avenues, said she also wishes the city had installed an ADA compliant elevator.
“I’m nervous about going down those stairs. They’re steep. Sometimes my knee goes out without warning,” Garcia said.
Asked why the city did not make installing an ADA compliant elevator a priority, Emanuel said, “It is a priority,” before deferring to CTA President Dorval R. Carter, Jr.
Carter said the agency simply didn’t have the money to install an elevator, which costs about $71 million due to the configuration of the station, more than four times the entire renovation project.
“Part of my plan is to come back and make this accessible, but I need to get a capital program to fund that type of investment. When I have the funding to do it, we will make this station accessible. I am committed to doing that,” Carter told Block Club.
Asked when that might happen, Carter said, “You can ask Springfield. That depends on when I get the money to do it.”
According to the Tribune, the CTA is looking to make the entire rail system accessible to people with disabilities over the next 20 years. The funding for that effort, which would cost an estimated $2.1 billion, has not yet been secured.
Improvements were made to the inside of the station, though they’re decidedly less flashy than the new canopy.
The CTA installed new LED lighting and concrete platform decking and gave surfaces a fresh paint job. A new communication system, including bus and train tracker signs and an upgraded public announcement system, was also installed.
In addition to the canopy, other improvements were made to the exterior of the station. The CTA installed a prepaid boarding area and a new bus arrival and departure area with new LED lighting, additional overhead heaters, repaved surfaces and new signs.
The Belmont Blue Line station is the CTA’s busiest bus-to-rail transfer location. According to the CTA, the station sees 1.8 million Blue Line entries annually.
Ross Barney, known for designing the Chicago Riverwalk, said she designed the canopy to look like a “big, blue waterfall.” The canopy weighs approximately 350,000 pounds, according to the CTA.
The Belmont station is the ninth station to be renovated under the city’s $500 million “Your New Blue” plan, which has brought track and station upgrades all along the north branch of the Blue Line since 2014. A total of 14 stations will be renovated under the plan.
This is the first major renovation of the Belmont station, which has only received minor upgrades since it was built nearly 50 years ago.
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