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CTA Selects Three Potential Contractors for the RPM Project

A rendering of the future Bryn Mawr Station interior. Image: CTA

The first phase of the CTA’s ambitious project to overhaul the Red and Purple lines on the North Side, including the construction of the controversial Belmont Flyover, moved forward today with the announcement that three possible construction companies are in the running for the lucrative contract. The CTA also announced that it is seeking participation by minority-owned subcontractors in the $2.1 billion project, which is projected to create 5,700 jobs.

About a year ago City Council passed the city’s first transit TIF (tax-increment financing district) to capture future property tax revenue from a designated zone around the project area. The TIF money will be used to pay back a $622 million federal loan that, along with $468 million in additional borrowing, are being used for the matching funds for a $1.1 billion federal Core Capacity grant that was approved by the Obama administration shortly before Donald Trump took office. The Trump administration has since proposed cutting all federal funding for transit.

Phase 1 of RPM will rebuild four of the oldest Red Line stations – Lawrence, Argyle, Berwyn and Bryn Mawr in Uptown – and add elevators to make them wheelchair accessible, as well as rebuilding 1.3 miles of adjacent track structure. The flyover has faced stiff resistance from some Lakeview residents because it will involve the demolition of some 16 buildings and the acquisition of 21 properties on or near Clark Street north of the Belmont station.

However, by creating grade separation at a junction of the Red, Purple, and Brown Lines, it will reduce wait times and allow the CTA to run an estimated 15 more trains an hour between Belmont and Fullerton during rush periods. This is crucial, the CTA says, because ridership is up 40 percent during rush hours compared to 2008 levels.

The city issued a request for qualifications for Phase 1 last June, asking companies to provide evidence that they were up to the task of completing the massive infrastructure project. The competition has since been reduced to Walsh-Fluor Design-Build Team, Kiewit Infrastructure Company, and Chicago Rail Constructors, a joint venture including F.H. Paschen.

“We’re pleased to make good progress on getting closer to building this project and fulfilling our promise to improve rail service on the Red Line, our busiest line,” said CTA president Dorval Carter in a statement. “It is critical that we find the most qualified builders in the industry to construct this project, which is one of the biggest modernization projects in CTA history.”

Now that the field of builders is narrowed down, the CTA will issue a request for proposals for Phase 1, inviting the potential bidders to submit proposals on how they would design and build the project. The CTA says the proposals will be considered on several criteria, including experience, price and other factors. Construction on Phase 1 is slated to begin in 2019.

To encourage participation by Disadvantaged Business Enterprise-certified firms, owned by women and people of color, CTA will hold outreach events to publicize the opportunity. In addition, the project’s RFP will include a community-based workforce development component.

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