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Emanuel: Red Line Will Be Upgraded Now, Extended Later

CHICAGO (CBS) -- If you're wondering why the $1 billion plan to remake part of the CTA does not include Mayor Rahm Emanuel's desire to extend the Red Line five miles south, officials say $1 billion is hardly enough for that project.

As WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports, during his campaign for office, Mayor Emanuel talked about extending the Red Line south from 95th Street.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports


But those plans are nowhere to be found in the $1 billion plan announced Thursday to upgrade the busiest rail line in the Chicago Transit Authority system.

The mayor says that is by design, because a lot more money is needed for such a massive undertaking.

"We can take the dollars we have, and invest and upgrade the system that exists today, and not put it on hold, but actually plow the $1 billion," Emanuel said. "As the governor said, 2,500-plus jobs will be affected right now, and as the federal government is negotiating out a new highway transportation bill, that's when we're going to seek the funding to go from 95th all the way to 135th."

Emanuel and Gov. Pat Quinn announced plans for the smaller-scale project to upgrade the Red Line Thursday. The work will add 2,700 construction jobs.

The project, which will be paid for with a state capital investment grant and other federal and local funds, will also improve service on the Purple Line.

Deteriorated tracks will be rebuilt to eliminate slow zones. The project will also replace or repair aging stations, install new power systems to improve performance and upgrade a significant portion of the Purple Line.

The plan calls for replacement of the tracks between 18th and 95th streets and provide upgrades to stations between Cermak and 95th Streets.

Farther north, the Wilson and Clark/Division stations, along with the surrounding track, will be rebuilt. The ventilation system will be upgraded on the subway portion of the Red Line through downtown Chicago.

Construction starts in 2012 and will last three years.

The Red Line accommodated 79 million riders in 2010. Last year, the entire CTA rail system handled 211 million riders.

Plans have been under discussion for some time to extend the Red Line south to 130th Street – although Emanuel's comment indicated that the line might continue even farther to 135th Street. Currently, CTA trains do not serve any neighborhood in the more than five miles of Chicago that are located south of 95th Street.

Another ambitious and controversial plan for the Red Line also remains under discussion.

The CTA is planning to replace the aging concrete embankment on which 'L' trains run between from Wilson Avenue north to the end of the Purple Line, and the agency has come up with six plans for doing so.

One would eliminate the Lawrence, Thorndale and Jarvis stops on the Red Line, and the South Boulevard and Foster stops on the Purple Line.

An even more radical plan calls for getting rid of the 'L' structure altogether between the Belmont and Loyola stops, and replacing it with a subway. New subway stations would be located at Addison, Irving Park, Wilson, Foster, Bryn Mawr and Glenlake, while the Argyle, Lawrence, Berwyn, Thorndale and Granville stops would vanish.

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