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Petition Calls for Restoring Green Line Service to Jackson Park, Obama Library

A Green Line Train at 51st Street. Photo: Wikipedia Commons

One of the worst urban planning decisions the city of Chicago made in recent decades was demolishing the roughly one-mile stretch of the Jackson Park branch of the Green Line between Cottage Grove and Stony Island in 1997. At the time community leaders argued that the sight and sound of the elevated tracks were discouraging new investments in housing and retail along that stretch of 63rd Street in Woodlawn.

But now that more and more people are understanding that convenient transit access is a huge asset for homes and businesses, it has become increasingly clear how short-sighted that move was. The missed opportunity that the missing tracks and stations represent became painfully obvious when the site of the Obama Presidential Center was announced: kitty corner from the old Stony Island station location.

Currently the Green Line stops a mile west of Jackson Park, but it used to go all the way there. Image: Google Maps
Currently the Green Line stops a mile west of Jackson Park, but it used to go all the way there. Image: Google Maps
Currently the Green Line stops a mile west of Jackson Park, but it used to go all the way there. Image: Google Maps

This bitter irony hasn’t escaped the notice of Woodlawn neighbors, who have launched an online petition demanding that the CTA restore Green Line service to Stony Island and the future presidential library site:

There is insufficient access to Jackson Park. While we welcome the Obama Presidential Center and some companion projects for renovating Jackson Park itself, by themselves these plans are too small. Without restoring the ‘L’ we have no viable infrastructure for welcoming people to the Jackson Park vicinity. CTA buses and Metra Electric trains cannot possibly carry the expected increased traffic to the Hyde Park, Woodlawn, and South Shore areas. Likewise, existing roadways cannot adequately be retrofitted to accommodate changing traffic patterns resulting from the proposed closure of S. Cornell Drive through Jackson Park. Restoring the Green Line over E. 63rd Street not only offers an above-grade solution to alleviate automobile traffic but also offers connection points to CTA Buses, Metra Electric trains, and the CTA ‘L’ system at large in ways that no other proposal can.

The petition adds that there are multiple options for traveling between the Loop and Jackson Park, Woodlawn, Hyde Park, and the University of Chicago, there is limited transportation infrastructure to take residents and students between these areas and communities to the west, such as Englewood and West Englewood. “Restoring the E. 63rd Street branch of the Green Line with strategically placed stations not only encourages visitors to Jackson Park to take in the surrounding neighborhoods but also enables our South Side neighbors to move more freely to, from, and within Woodlawn and steps from the University of Chicago in ways they have not been able since the ‘L’ was razed 20 years ago.”

The petition, which has more than 80 signatures so far, calls for the following provisions:

    • A joint planning committee with an equal number of government officials and community representatives, as well as reps from the Obama Foundation and the U. of C.
    • Reusing salvaged materials from the demolition, currently stored at a nearby CTA yard.
    • As much as possible, the original materials currently stored at the 61st Street Yard be salvaged and used in construction.
    • Reestablishing two-way boarding at the King Drive station.
    • Installing two new stations between Cottage Grove and Stony Island, as was previously the case with stations at University and Dorchester.
    • Conducting a study to determine whether it would be viable to reinstall historic stations near Calumet Avenue at 58th and 61st.
    • An additional study be conducted toward reinstating either or both the 58th and 61st stations or otherwise strategically located stops between Garfield and Cottage Grove.
    • Stations that are wheelchair accessible (this is already required by federal law for new CTA stops), with designs that celebrate their communities.
    • Coordinating the design of the Stony Island station with that of the Obama Library.
    • Financing the construction via funding from the Obama Foundation and other public-private partnerships, rather than with tax dollars, if possible.
    • In lieu of tax dollars, as much of the needed funding as possible come from other sources including but not limited to the Obama Foundation and other public–private partnerships.

The organizers will be submitting the petition to just about all relevant city officials, regional transportation officials, and state representatives, as well as the University of Chicago and the Obama Foundation. Be sure to sign the petition to show your support for undoing the mistakes of the past and restoring rapid transit access to Woodlawn.

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