First major phase of four Red Line station rehabs and track upgrades kick off next month

The Lawrence station as it looks now and the future design. Images: Google Maps, CTA
The Lawrence station as it looks now and the future design. Images: Google Maps, CTA

Yesterday the CTA announced that it will begin on May 16 the first of two phases of major station and track reconstruction between roughly Lawrence and Bryn Mawr stations, as part of the agency’s $2.1 billion Red and Purple Modernization Phase One Project, rebuilding the century-old Lawrence, Argyle, Berwyn and Bryn Mawr Red Line stations and tracks. The new stations larger and wheelchair accessible, with elevators, wider platforms, and new amenities.

The CTA will also rebuild 100-year-old track structure between the four stations in Uptown and Edgewater, which it says will provide a smoother, more comfortable and more reliable ride.  New track, support structures, bridges, and viaducts will be built along the roughly 1.3-mile segment between Leland and Ardmore avenues, eliminating many crumbling pieces of infrastructure.

Lawrence to Bryn Mawr Stage A and Stage B 

The Lawrence to Bryn Mawr Modernization Project will be finished in two stages, Stage A (2021-2022) and Stage B (late 2022-2024), with new stations expected to open near the end of 2024. Red and Purple Line service will continue throughout construction.

Stage A: 

Service changes 

  • Lawrence and Berwyn stations close May 16 for demolition and reconstruction.
  • Temporary Red Line stations at Argyle and Bryn Mawr will open May 16 to provide customers with access to Red Line service, so the original Argyle and Bryn Mawr stations can be demolished and recbuilt. There will be temporary station access at Argyle and Bryn Mawr throughout construction.
  • New stations at Lawrence, Argyle, Berwyn and Bryn Mawr are expected to be finished and open near the end of 2024.
  • Red and Purple Line service will continue throughout construction, with train service running on two tracks (the westernmost tracks) while CTA rebuilds the two easternmost tracks (normally the northbound tracks). Red and Purple Line trains will share a track in both directions. Customers should allow extra travel time.
  • Two bus routes, the #81 Lawrence and the #92 Foster, will be rerouted starting on May 16 to provide customers with convenient bus-rail transfers:
    • The #81 Lawrence will be rerouted to the Wilson Red and Purple Line transfer station.
    • The #92 Foster will be rerouted to the Bryn Mawr temporary Red Line station
The current Argyle station design and the future one. Images: Google Maps, CTA
The current Argyle station design and the future one. Images: Google Maps, CTA

Demolition of 100-year-old track structure and four Red Line stationhouses 

  • The CTA’s contractor, Walsh-Fluor, will demolish the northbound Red and Purple Line track structures (the two easternmost tracks). This includes major demolition of part of the east side of the embankment wall for 1.5 miles and 11 bridges over cross streets in Uptown and Edgewater.
  • The project’s contractor will install access ramps to allow transfer of equipment and materials from street level to track level.
  • Demolition of the Lawrence, Argyle, Berwyn and Bryn Mawr stationhouses will begin.

Build new track support system 

  • Following demolition, Walsh-Fluor will build new track foundation columns on the east side of the CTA track structure.
  • The contractor will drill deep shafts, about 60-80 feet below ground, and fill with concrete.
  • Support columns will be installed on top of the drilled shafts, which will support the new track structure.

Build the new track structure  

  • The new bridges and tracks will be built via an overhead gantry system that will install pre-cast concrete bridge segments that are manufactured off-site and trucked into the RPM project area. The CTA says the construction method will minimize impacts to the community and the area needed by the contractor around the Red Line tracks to perform the construction work.

Stage B 

  • Stage B (late 2022 to 2024) will include the same type of work as Stage A on the westernmost rail tracks. Stage B will also include the construction of the four new Red Line stations.
The Berwyn station as it currently looks, and the new design. Images: Google Maps, CTA
The Berwyn station as it currently looks, and the new design. Images: Google Maps, CTA

Public outreach

CTA says it has held hundreds of community meetings since announcing RPM Phase One in 2014 and that it continues to hold virtual public meetings, including upcoming station-by-station meetings (dates and registration information to be provided soon); construction updates emailed to project subscriber; virtual “office hours” sessions, RPM “ambassadors” at Red Line stations; and the RPM social media accounts on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter (@CTARPM).

To mitigate the impacts of the work and station closures on the hundreds of small businesses, nonprofits and major attractions and entertainment venues in the RPM project area, the CTA RPM project team has worked with the Andersonville Chamber of Commerce, Edgewater Chamber of Commerce, Lakeview East Chamber of Commerce and Uptown United and other organizations to create an Open for Business program, a free marketing campaign that encourages residents to continue patronizing local establishments. The campaign includes physical and digital marketing materials and a new “I support local” small business online hub.

RPM workforce development and small business inclusion efforts 

The CTA collaborates with two workforce assistance agencies, HIRE360 and the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership, to recruit economically disadvantaged candidates for jobs related to RPM and other large projects. Additional workforce events and programs have included professional career opportunity events with local contractors and trades unions, as well as “Tracks to Trades”, a webinar series to educate CPS high school students about the construction industry and entering the building trades as a profession post-high school. the CTA also launched in 2020 the CTA Elevating Futures Scholarship Fund to provide scholarships to low-income Chicago students to pursue four-year degrees in construction and engineering. To increase the participation of small businesses in projects like RPM, the CTA says it has created and has held several “CTA Building Small Businesses” program sessions, providing technical and funding assistance to about 100 small businesses to increase their ability to pursue work with RPM and other projects.

Got any thoughts about the CTA’s RPM plan, and the impacts on residents and businesses? Share them in the comments section.

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