Here’s an update on the Red and Purple Modernization project a year into the project

The new columns for the Belmont flyover. Photo: CTA
The new columns for the Belmont flyover. Photo: CTA

Last fall, Streetblog reported on the launch of the $2.1 billion first phase of the CTA’s Red and Purple Modernization project (RPM), the biggest single initiative in the history of the transit agency. On the one-year anniversary of the kickoff, here’s an update on the progress so far. 

Phase I involves track and signal improvements; the Red-Purple Bypass (aka the Belmont Flyover), which will address a conflict area just north of the Belmont Red, Purple, and Brown stop by routing northbound Brown trains over the other tracks; and rehabbing four stations in Uptown and Edgewater. Below are some key milestones the projects have reached so far, and potential service disruptions to watch out for.

Red-Purple Bypass Project

  • Bypass Structure: The CTA says the micropile and drilled shaft foundations for the flyover are totally complete. With the pouring of the concrete pedestals almost finished, the next steps are setting steel columns and beams and then installing the tracks.
  • Bypass Column Construction: All of the flyover columns were finished this summer. Most of the columns have a “tulip-like shape and curvilinear detail for visual appeal.” The highest column is about 37 feet tall.
  • Brown Line Track Structure Rehabilitation: Rehabilitation of the existing Brown Line track structure and foundations is also underway. Micropiles have been added to replace existing foundations, concrete pedestals have been built under existing columns, and the steel structure in the alley between Roscoe and Newport avenues will be repaired and repainted.

Lawrence to Bryn Mawr Modernization Project:

  • Track Interlockings: The track interlocking installation near Montrose and Thorndale avenues is finished. The CTA says these new interlockings are critical to this project, as they will allow trains to safely switch between tracks, allowing the transit agency to continue Red and Purple Line service during the construction of the new stations between Lawrence and Bryn Mawr.
  • Temporary Stations: Construction of temporary stations at Bryn Mawr and Argyle, which will provide train access while the new stations are built, has begun. These stations will open when the CTA closes the existing Lawrence, Argyle, Berwyn, and Bryn Mawr stops. Note that the Bryn Mawr temporary station will be for southbound access only, as northbound access during Stage A construction (2021-2022) will be accessible from the existing Bryn Mawr station.
  • Other Pre-Stage Work: The CTA is doing signal work and repairing the embankment walls along the track structures. The agency also recently installed signal houses at Montrose and Berwyn.
Tracker interlocking at Montrose. Photo: CTA
Tracker interlocking at Montrose. Photo: CTA

In the near future for the Red-Purple Bypass Project:

  • Bypass Structure: Building the flyover structure is expected to begin this fall and includes setting steel beams from column to column. The project will likely require alley closures, and street closures on School Street, Sheffield Avenue, and Roscoe Street.
  • Temporary Track Construction: There will be a temporary track built over the existing Sheffield alley from Belmont to Roscoe to allow CTA to continue to provide service. This work is expected to start this fall. This will affect residents and businesses on the east side of Sheffield between Belmont and Roscoe, and there will be closures of alleys and School Street.

And for the Lawrence to Bryn Mawr Modernization Project:

  • Signal Houses: In the next several weeks, the CTA will be installing signal houses at Thorndale and Loyola.
  • Station Closures / Temporary Stations: The temporary stations at Bryn Mawr and Argyle will open when the existing Lawrence, Argyle, Berwyn and Bryn Mawr stations close in 2021 for Stage A construction work, by summer 2021. The new stations will debut in 2024.
  • Stage A Construction: Anticipated to begin in 2021, Stage A construction will on the east half of the tracks to build new track structures for the northbound tracks. All service will shift to the west half of the tracks (the current southbound tracks) to maintain rail service throughout the construction; however, ‘L’ trips may take longer.
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The building next to the Argyle stop, which previously held a satellite location of Uptown Bikes, has been demolished to prepare for the station reconstruction project. Photo: John Greenfield

What service disruptions should we expect this fall?

As far as potential service disruptions this fall, the CTA said none are anticipated at this time for the flyover project. From Lawrence to Bryn Mawr, however, there will be periodic construction on the tracks for the remainder of 2020, but for shorter amounts of time than the recently completed interlocking work. As always, the CTA says they promise to keep customers informed.

48th Ward alderman Harry Osterman, whose ward includes four of the stations in the RPM project area, said construction is moving more swiftly than expected. “Given lower ridership on CTA overall due to the pandemic, that has actually created an opportunity for construction to move faster.”

Regarding the unprecedented impacts of COVID-19 on local businesses, now combined with the transit project disruptions,Osterman said, “We’ve been planning for ways to support the business community, but the pandemic has actually had a bigger impact than construction likely would have had on its own. We are hoping that contractors will employ local residents, and we have held a couple of virtual job fairs to encourage local hiring.”

Click here for an overview if the entire RPM project.

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