Rush demands jobs, contracts on CTA’s 95th Street station project

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U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Illinois, demanded Monday that African-Americans get a “35to40percent” share of the 700 jobs and $240 million in contracts tied to construction of the CTA’s showcase 95th Street station.

Two years ago, Rush threatened to stop Metra “in its tracks” unless black contractors got a piece of the $133 million South Side railroad bridge project known as the “Englewood Flyover.”

Rush didn’t go that far after a groundbreaking ceremony Monday that gave Gov. Pat Quinn, Sen.Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel an opportunity to court black votes.

Butthe congressman gave the CTA until the close of business Friday to make an ironclad commitment to award “35to40 percent” of the jobs and contracts to African-Americans.

“When they did the Red Line renovation, that kind of turned the corner on minority participation, but we are poised to fight if we have to fight,” Rush said.

“Almost as important as building this station is building the lives of people who live around and use the station. You can’t build good lives without jobs….Whatever it takes to get the jobs and the contracts, we’re prepared to do that.”

CTA Board Chairman Terry Peterson said two of three station construction contracts have already been awarded, one with a goal of 25 percent for disadvantaged business enterprises, the other with a 30-percent DBE share.

The CTA exceeded its goals on both.African-American companiesgot a 41-percent share of the first contract and 93 percent of the second. There’s one “huge” contract yet to go.

“When you take a look at what we ended up doing with the track work, we blew our numbers out of the water. I feel confident we’re gonna do the same thing with the rebuilding of the terminal. I don’t think you will ever find a CTA project where we have done a better job,” Peterson said.

“One of the things the mayor has insisted on is African-American and community participation. We’re committed to that and stand by that.”

Rush wasn’t the only one pushing the envelope after Monday’s groundbreaking ceremony for a project thatEmanuel saidwould look “more like an airline terminal” than a CTA station.

Aldermen Anthony Beale (9th) and Carrie Austin (34th) prodded the mayor to honor his campaign promise to extend the Red Line to 130th Street.

“This is not the city limits. We have people who live on 130th and 138th. Those individuals need to be moved as well. We’re not gonna let up,” said Austin, chairman of the City Council Budget Committee.

Beale, chairman of the Transportation Committee, added:“We did the Red Line upgrade. Now, we’re re-doing the station. Next is the Red Line extension. This will be done right in time for us to start the Red Line extension. We all know it’s gonna happen. It’s not a matter of if. It’s a matter of when.”

CTA President Forrest Claypool said the CTA is “knocking down barrier after barrier” demanded by “onerous” federal guidelines before mass-transit extensions.

But, he also said:“We need the federal government’s support in order to do it.”

The Chicago Sun-Times reported last spring that as many as 259 parcels of land — 95 of them residential buildings — could be seized as part of the 5.3-mile, $2.3 billion extension.

The CTA in 2009 selected a “preferred” route down the middle of I-57 to 98th Street,then alongside existing Union Pacific tracks to 130th.

For 20,000 commuters, the new 95th Street station will provide long-overdue relief from the chaos they face every day.

It will feature terminals and bus bays on the north and south sides of 95th Street connected by an enclosed walkway above. No more darting across busy 95th Street. No more buses, cabs and cars converging from all directions vying with traffic headed for the Dan Ryan Expressway.

“When we went to see [then-U.S. Transportation] Secretary Ray LaHood, we actually filmed what went on — where kids were jumping between buses pulling out to get to the train,” the mayor said.

Claypool added:“Pedestrians often have to walk between and in front of buses to board. Crowds going through the fare gates are often so crowded that it’s difficult to move. The new station will provide the space that’s needed and it will be more efficient. It will allow riders to get to buses and trains more smoothly, much more comfortably and much quicker.”

The CTA intends to keep the old station open during construction that’s expected to continue into 2017. But, Claypool held open the possibility of “short-term, maybe weekend or nighttime closures during key points where, logistically, it needs to happen…. A day or two” at most.

Emanuel can only hope the station project goes as smoothly as the five-month closing and rebuilding of the CTA’s Red Line South, which wascarried out with military-like precision.

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