CTA to begin $30 million Purple Line Express project July 20

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Mayor Rahm Emanuel announces improvements to the Purple Line Express at a press conference at the Howard L stop on Thursday. | Saiyna Bashir/Sun-Times

More than 13,000 daily commuters for whom the CTA’s Purple Line Express is a lifeline will soon have a faster and smoother ride to work, thanks to a $30 million track improvement project.

The four-month construction project is scheduled to begin July 20 and end around Thanksgiving.

Track ties will be replaced between Lawrence and Jarvis. Track alignment will be restored. Running rail along the aging express tracks will be partially replaced.

To minimize disruption, construction will be confined to weeknights and weekends.

Purple Line Express Service will be unaffected. The CTA expects a “minimal” impact on nearby Red Line service, but only on nights and weekends.

“We’ve already begun the process of notifying residents about the overnight and weekend work that will occur and will work closely with Aldermen Cappleman, Moore and Osterman to provide updates and impacts to residents, such as temporary alley closures,” said CTA President Dorval Carter Jr.

CTA President Dorval Carter Jr. appeared with Mayor Rahm Emanuel at the announcement of improvements to the Purple Line Express. | Saiyna Bashir/Sun-Times

At a news conference Thursday at the Howard Street station, Carter joined Mayor Rahm Emanuel in hailing the track-improvement project as the largest investment in the Purple Line Express in more than 40 years.

Two years ago, similar track improvements eliminated slow zones on the Purple Line between Howard and the line’s end point at Linden.

“By replacing track ties, running rail and other improvements on this century-old structure, riders will get a commute that has far fewer slow zones and is smoother and more comfortable,” Carter said.

When the Purple Line project is completed, the CTA will have replaced 50 miles of old track system-wide, Emanuel said.

“A lot of this track has not been touched since the 1970s. It will cut dramatically the time for people on their way to work,” the mayor said.

“I thank all the commuters for the period of time in which it will be an inconvenience, but knowing full-well that it will pay off for all of the communities affected. . . . This investment will create 100 jobs and it will ease people’s commute to work. It will also ensure that we will hit the milestone. About a quarter of the system’s track will be totally new. And we will continue to invest in that effort as we go after other resources from the federal government.”

Emanuel said he has tapped a variety of different resources, including tax-increment-financing (TIF) to keep rebuilding the CTA’s aging infrastructure.

Among them are federal “TIFIA” loans reserved for projects of regional or national significance that couldn’t be bankrolled otherwise.

“One of the things I want to look at eventually and we’re talking about — we passed it in the state Senate; we haven’t yet gotten it through the state House — is one day doing a TIF focused on transportation and the benefits that come from that,” the mayor said.

North Side Ald. Joe Moore (49th) said the track improvements are long overdue.

“The so-called Evanston Express doesn’t act like an express very much. There’s a lot of times when it slows to a crawl because of the condition of the tracks,” Moore said.

“This money hopefully will alleviate a lot of that, reduce a lot of the slow zones and return that line to the express line it was meant to be.”

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Mayor Rahm Emanuel enters the Howard Station for Thursday’s press conference. | Saiyna Bashir/Sun-Times

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