EDGEWATER — Crews broke ground Wednesday on the massive Red Line rebuilding project, which officials say will help the city to more equitably recover from the pandemic.
City and federal officials gathered Wednesday to mark the start construction on the $2.1 billion Red-Purple Line Modernization Project, which will completely rebuild Red and Purple line tracks on the North Side and create modern, fully accessible stations at Lawrence, Argyle, Berwyn and Bryn Mawr.
The first stage of the rebuild officially began May 16, though crews have prepared for the work since 2019. And though the project won’t be completed until 2024, the newly built portion of the Red Line will be “transformational” for the city, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said.
“Chicago has never been a city that settles for good enough,” Lighftoot said. “Especially during the pandemic, that has demanded we harness the power of transformative infrastructure projects that bring about an inclusive, equitable and sustainable recovery.”
The modernization project will replace century-old rail infrastructure long overdue for an upgrade, officials said. The project was boosted by a 2012 change in legislation that allowed federal money to fund work on existing public transit systems rather than funding new construction, Sen. Dick Durbin said.
The Red-Purple Modernization is the first rebuild project to get federal support since the law change, Durbin said. It’s received $956 million in federal funds. The rest of the project is being paid for by local tax increment financing districts, officials said.
With President Joe Biden proposing a $2 trillion infrastructure plan, officials said they hope this is the start of more major overhauls which could include extending the Red Line south of 95th Street. Having a more reliable transit system will help neighbors get back to work and revitalize areas that need investment, officials said.
The Red Line holds more significance because it connects the South and North sides of the city.
“This work being done today is going to help unify us as we work to extend the Red Line south and do other projects that lift up our city,” Ald. Harry Osterman (48th) said.
Crews last month began demolition work on the project’s northern end at Ardmore Avenue and will work their way south. The construction zone spans Ardmore to Leland avenues.
The Lawrence, Argyle, Berwyn and Bryn Mawr stations have closed. Temporary stations are open at Argyle and Bryn Mawr.
Crews will also tear down the northbound Red and Purple line tracks between Lawrence and Bryn Mawr. That will include the demolition of 1.5 miles of embankment wall and 11 bridges that span east-west streets in Uptown and Edgewater.
Red and Purple line trains will run continuously through the work. While the northbound tracks are demolished and reconstructed, trains will operate in both directions on the two southbound tracks. The Argyle and Bryn Mawr temporary stations will stay open throughout the work, according to the CTA.
Demolition and the rebuilding of the northern tracks is scheduled to wrap up in late 2022, according to the CTA.
From there, work on the southern tracks will start. This second stage of work will include the construction of the four stations, which are scheduled to open in 2024.
Crews for the CTA are also making progress on the Red-Purple bypass in Lakeview, which will give the Brown Line a dedicated flyover track to alleviate rail congestion.
Though the project will be disruptive to residents and businesses in the area, the work will be worth it, Ald. James Cappleman (46th) said. Previous work to rebuild the Wilson Red Line stop shows just how much transit infrastructure can aid a community, he said.
“It’s going to require a lot of patience,” Cappleman said. “I know it’s true from the Wilson ‘L;’ it’s all worth it.”
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