Voters in three Chicago precincts have overwhelming opposed the Chicago Transit Authority’s $320 million plan to create a flyover that would separate Brown Line tracks from Red and Purple ones near Belmont.
Just over 72 percent of voters in three precincts of the 44th Ward said the CTA has not “sufficiently justified” the Belmont bypass and “its impact on local homes and businesses,’’ Chicago Board of Election results showed Wednesday.
Critics have charged the bypass over two existing elevated lines would create a soaring “rollercoaster” outside their Lakeview homes; require the seizure of at least 30 parcels of land, homes and businesses; and is not worth the cost for the amount of time it would cut down on rides.
CTA officials, in their 2015 proposed budget now awaiting public hearings and board approval, say the flyover is needed to “mitigate traffic congestion where the Brown, Red and Purple Lines intersect” and to better allow the CTA to “add future service on a corridor that has had remarkable weekday rush-period ridership growth.’’
CTA spokesman Brian Steele said Wednesday that the flyover referendum question was approved by less than 600 voters, but the project would benefit “millions of riders annually, from Belmont north to Evanston and Wilmette, as well as those in the Brown Line corridor.’’
The vote on the referendum “simply is not a complete representation of the thousands of riders we serve on the Red, Purple and Brown Lines every day,’’ Steele said.
“We believe if you were to ask the millions of customers today and in the future if they would prefer faster, more reliable service that includes not being crammed into rail cars like sardines, their answer would be yes,’’ Steele said.
Ellen Hughes, one of the opponents of the plan, said she stood outside polling places in areas that would be impacted by flyover construction and demolition work Wednesday and “many, many [people] were very enthusiastic in their opposition to the flyover.”
One young woman who intended not to vote decided to do so after seeing a flyer about the project, Hughes said. Those who lived in the wrong precinct to vote on the issue wanted to know what they could do, she said.
“We’re very happy, but not surprised by the strong community response. We know that many, many people all over Chicago, not just in Lakeview, once they hear what the CTA is planning … will be opposed to the flyover. This is important to the city as a whole and very few people know anything about it,” Hughes said.
According to the CTA’s proposed 2015 budget, the agency should complete an environmental assessment of the project in 2015 and hold public hearings on that study that same year.
Hughes said opponents are meeting this week to plan their next steps in opposing “this crazy plan before the CTA permanently destroys Central Lakeview, including Clark Street.”