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CTA praises flyover, but some Lake View neighbors still concerned

Although the CTA says a flyover at Belmont to separate the Brown Line from the Red and Purple lines is absolutely necessary to handle passenger capacity, many at a public meeting Wednesday night were concerned about the project’s effects on the community.

More than 100 neighborhood residents came to the meeting in the Center on Halsted’s third-floor gymnasium. Engineers, architects and planners from the CTA and a consulting firm stood next to large posters with renderings and maps of the project and answered questions from residents. There was no microphone for the public to ask questions. The CTA said that was to ensure that people could get answers.

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“What has been shown today in terms of how it affects the neighborhood is definitely unacceptable,” said Adam Rosa, president of a condominium association two blocks from the Belmont station. “It’s basically a bomb blast in the middle of the community. Sixteen properties relocated. The structure is not elegant. It looks like a highway overpass in the middle of the neighborhood.”

The meeting was required as part of the project’s environmental assessment period, and comments were taken and collected. Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) said he’ll plan another community meeting so residents can offer suggestions and comments.

“What we’re trying to do is to minimize the impact and have a redevelopment plan so that we have the confidence that we’re going to get our commercial street and our residential street back because that has not happened with the Brown Line” expansion,” Tunney said.

Carole Morey, the CTA’s chief planning officer, said the lack of development after the Brown Line expansion was likely due to the recession. But she thinks people will still want to buy properties in the area after the construction is completed.

“There is absolutely no evidence [that shows property values have depreciated]. There have been recent sales on the east side of Wilton. There’s a very robust market on that block,” Morey said, adding the Brown Line work was completed at the end of 2009, in the midst of a recession.

“Based on what we’re seeing in the real estate market,” the market is there, she said.

Morey said the CTA is working very closely with the neighborhood on what they’d like to see in terms of the neighborhood redevelopment plan. The CTA has offered plans, designed by architects and engineers, of what real buildings could pop up after the project is complete.

“We want to be able to show people, ‘Look these parcels can be redeveloped consistently with what is being built in Lake View today,’ ” Morey said, adding that people are still buying properties in the area affected by the project, as recently as last month.

And she said she would like to see new developments being built as soon as the project is completed.

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Morey said the project will allow the Red, Brown and Purple lines to carry an additional 7,200 passengers an hour during the rush hour.

It would also make trains less noisy in the area, according to Morey.

“We measured noises at various points, and at 70 percent of the points of which we measured, we would see a significant reduction in noise once the project is done,” Morey said. “It’s really a benefit that I think nobody has really talked about yet, but it will be less noisy after the construction is complete.”

Ellen Hughes, one of the creators of an anti-flyover website, the Coalition to Stop the Belmont Flyover, handed out fliers to residents at the meeting. They read: “Say NO to the CTA Flyover! Save Central Lakeview,” and included an email to send comments. Hughes has said her property value decreased by $200,000 when the CTA left a vacant lot across from her property after the Brown Line expansion. And she doesn’t think the flyover is needed.

“If 20 to 30 seconds increases capacity, then great. But it doesn’t. They are really, really going to destroy our community,” Hughes said.

The Red-Purple Bypass Project will cost $570 million and is part of the CTA’s $4.7 billion Red and Purple Modernization Project, which would construct a fifth track bypass just north of the Belmont station, where the CTA’s Red, Purple and Brown line tracks converge.

Construction would take between 48 and 52 months and would happen in three stages. It would result in service disruption for Red, Purple and Brown Line riders during weekends, and off-peak periods. If funded, construction would begin as soon as 2017.