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CTA Applies for Federal Grant to Fund Red-Purple Modernization

10:13 AM CST on November 21, 2013

New cars north out of Belmont
Two of three options for the Red-Purple Modernization project would build a flyover at Clark/Roscoe so the Brown and Red Lines can avoid congestion. Photo: hedgehog3457

In a great example of President Obama's "fix it first" strategy (improving existing infrastructure before building new), the Federal Transit Administration is changing one of its rules to allow the Chicago Transit Authority to apply for a large grant to help fund the $2-4 billion Red-Purple Modernization project.

RPM would significantly upgrade some of CTA's oldest infrastructure -- the elevated track and embankment from the Belmont Red/Brown Lines station in Chicago to the Linden Purple Line station in Wilmette.

Previously, the FTA's "New Starts, Small Starts" program was for cities and transit agencies to build new or extended lines, but it was modified in the latest surface transportation bill, MAP-21, to include a "Core Capacity" program authored by Illinois Senator Dick Durbin.

The Core Capacity program is for transit corridors operating at or above capacity -- or projected to operate at or above capacity within five years. The improvements must increase capacity by at least 10 precent. CTA's initial planning has produced three options, one of which is mostly about rehabilitation, while the other two would do more by widening and extending platforms and increasing train speeds.

"This step means that the Red and Purple Modernization project has entered into the FTA's approval process," said CTA spokesperson Tammy Chase. The agency can now finish the environmental review and move on to engineering. The CTA is the first applicant for Core Capacity funds and RPM is part of the larger "Red Ahead" program to transform the Red Line by rebuilding the Dan Ryan branch (check), extending it to 130th Street (environmental review due in 2014), rebuilding Wilson as a transfer station (construction slated for 2014), and renovating Clark/Division (in progress).

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