CTA prepares to demolish, rebuild 100-year-old North Side tracks

The work is part of the transit agency’s $2.1 billion Red and Purple Modernization Project.

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Chicago Transit Authority President Dorval R. Carter Jr. on Monday speaks during a news conference near the Belmont Station.

Chicago Transit Authority President Dorval R. Carter Jr. on Monday discussed the ongoing Red and Purple Modernization Project.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

The Chicago Transit Authority’s largest reconstruction project in the agency’s history is set to continue in February with the demolition of aging tracks north of the Belmont Red Line station.

“At more than 100 years old, this elevated track has served multiple generations and now it is time to rebuild for the next 100 years,” CTA President Dorval R. Carter Jr. said Monday.

The project, which is expected to be completed in 2025, involves demolishing and rebuilding the Red and Purple Line tracks between the Belmont station and West Cornelia Avenue. Besides being a century old, the tracks curve, which slows down trains, the CTA said.

“Occasional delays are possible and we encourage customers to allow extra travel time during construction,” said CTA spokeswoman Tammy Chase.

The Red and Purple Modernization Project Phase One, costing $2.1 billion, is also set to include the reconstruction of the Lawrence, Argyle, Berwyn and Bryn Mawr Red Line stops into “larger, 100% accessible stations,” CTA officials said.

A Red Line train arrives at the Belmont Station as a Brown Line train travels over the new CTA Red-Purple Bypass on the North Side, Monday morning, Jan. 24, 2022.

A Red Line train arrives at the Belmont Station as a Brown Line train travels on the CTA’s new “flyover” tracks on Monday. Before the bypass was built, that Red Line train could have been delayed, waiting for that northbound Brown Line train to cross the tracks in front of it.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

The CTA’s announcement comes as Mayor Lori Lightfoot and a host of other dignitaries on Monday celebrated the recent opening of the modernization project’s Red-Purple Bypass, work on which began in 2019.

“This is a great and important day,” Lightfoot said.

The new bypass, which has been operating since November, eliminated a 114-year-old “choke point” that, the mayor pointed out, has been frustrating for commuters. The bypass now carries northbound Brown Line trains over the Red and Purple Line tracks just north of the often-congested Belmont Station in Lake View. The bypass also allows the CTA to add additional trains during the busiest commute periods, the agency says.

“With the new bypass, our trains no longer have to stop and wait for other trains to cross through the junction north of Belmont,” Carter said. “This allows us to move trains more efficiently and provide more reliable service while reducing delays and overcrowding on trains and platforms.”

To date, the modernization project has created about 1,300 jobs, Carter said.

Commuters board a Red Line train at the Belmont Station on the North Side, Monday morning, Jan. 24, 2022.

Commuters board a Red Line train at the Belmont Station on Monday morning.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

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