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New Red-Purple bypass will reduce CTA congestion, but neighbors worry about disruptive construction

CTA held an open house Thursday at the Center on Halsted, 3656 N. Halsted St., for affected residents to learn more about the reconstruction, which could start as early as Sept. 9.

Business owner Dennis Deguci points to where his restaurant, Penny’s Noodles Shop, will be reopening this fall, which is in the middle of the Brown Line reconstruction.
Jake Wittich/Sun-Times

The CTA tracks near the Belmont Station in Lake View are getting a makeover, but residents are worried about street closures and other disruptions.

The project, which could start as early as Sept. 9, will create a bypass carrying northbound Brown Line trains over the Red and Purple line tracks just north of the often-congested Belmont Station in Lake View.

The bypass is part of the first phase of the CTA’s $2.1 billion Red-Purple Modernization Project, which will also rebuild rail structures and stations between the Lawrence and Bryn Mawr stops.

The organization held an open house Thursday at the Center on Halsted, 3656 N. Halsted St., for affected residents to learn more about the reconstruction. CTA staff was present to share renderings and answer questions surrounding the project.

“We are super mindful that people live and work in this area, and we have a loud project that we’re going to make as bearable as possible,” CTA spokesperson Tammy Chase said.

Chase said the bypass will alleviate overcrowding on trains, improve train speed and allow for more trains to operate during busy periods. It replaces the current rail junction, which is 112 years old and carries about 150,000 people every weekday.

The bypass will also improve the tracks’ appearance by creating better lighting and installing flower boxes, butterfly sculptures and other landscaping, according to the CTA.

A side-by-side comparison of the current CTA tracks (left) and renderings of their planned upgrades from Clark Street, facing north.
Provided by CTA

Dennis Deguci, who owns Penny’s Noodles Shop, which closed earlier this year, said he’s reopening the business at Roscoe Street and Sheffield Avenue, which is right under the Brown Line tracks undergoing reconstruction. According to the CTA, the intersection will experience periodic street closures.

“I’m concerned because they’re building right in front of us just before we open,” Deguci said. “It could affect business because our street will be completely closed at times, so customers will have to walk more.”

Another neighbor, Peter Wasik, said he lives just 10 houses down from the Brown Line tracks that will be reconstructed. He’s concerned about construction disrupting the neighborhood.

“I’ll be living in a construction zone,” Wasik said. “In the long run, it will be worth it, but I’m worried about noise pollution and construction dust, which is a health hazard.”

Chase said the CTA is working to address these community concerns with free, alternative parking during street closures, installing sound barriers and helping affected small businesses advertise during the closures.

“We know businesses are really worried with legitimate concerns, so we’re doing everything we can to help,” Chase said.

A side-by-side comparison shows the current (left) view of the CTA tracks from Newport Avenue looking east and renderings of its reconstruction.
Provided by CTA

Kyle Whitehead, a spokesman for Active Transportation Alliance, a coalition advocating for transit riders, pedestrians and bicyclists, said the bypass’ benefits outweigh any travel time saved by preventing its construction. He said the bypass would allow for a 30 percent increase in CTA service during rush hour.

“Opponents who focus solely on the time saved by eliminating the delay at the junction are missing the most important point,” Whitehead said in an emailed statement. “The project gives CTA the ability to add service in the most congested and fastest-growing portion of the city’s transit network.”

The Brown Line’s Red-Purple bypass should finish by the end of 2021, Chase said. After that, the CTA will reconstruct the Red and Purple line structures in the area, with reconstruction from Lawrence to Bryn Mawr expected to begin in late 2020 or early 2021.