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Red Line Extension

First public meeting on advanced construction work for Red Line Extension covered demolition, utility relocation plans

Contractors will start tearing down properties and moving power and communications lines this year in advance of the official project launch in late 2025.

CTA Community Liaison Latrice Phillips-Brown at this week’s meeting. Photo: Cameron Bolton

This post is sponsored by Ride Illinois.

Earlier this week, the Chicago Transit Authority held the first of three community meetings about advanced construction work for the long-awaited Red Line Extension project. The preliminary labor includes relocating utility lines, and demolishing properties to make room for the 5.6 miles of new train tracks between 95th and 130th streets, and four new stations.

The new train stops will be located at 103rd Street, 111th Street, Michigan Avenue, and 130th Street, next to the Altgeld Gardens housing project. The initiative also includes a new rail yard and related amenities that the agency says will "improve operational efficiency for the entire Red Line and CTA system." Construction is slated to begin late next year, and be done four years later. The CTA expects to award a design-build contract for the project this year.

The RLE route. Image: CTA

"The Red Line Extension Project is coming to the Far South Side of Chicago, and this summer we will take a huge leap forward by starting the groundwork necessary to build new Red Line tracks and stations," said embattled CTA President Dorval R. Carter, Jr., in a statement. "As a native South Sider, I am proud to deliver on CTA's promise to transit customers and local residents of new affordable, convenient and reliable Red Line service, as well as bring a wealth of job and training opportunities to residents."

According to the CTA, "advanced utility relocation" will include digging new underground trenches and moving existing power and communications lines; installing shorter utility poles to provide service to the adjacent properties, and moving power transformers from poles to underground. This activity is supposed to begin this summer.

As for the demolitions, the agency plans to come in like a wrecking ball, or with one, to take down structures on properties it acquired along the future train route. That work is supposed to start late this summer or in the fall, and go on into 2025.

The demolition will involve the removal of underground storage tanks and the remediation of contaminated soil. Once those are removed, they will be taken to disposal or recycling facilities.

Contractors will start tearing down properties and moving power and communications lines this year in advance of the official project launch in late 2025.
Attendees during the meeting on the community center's indoor soccer field. Photo: Cameron Bolton

This week's meeting took place at the Pullman Community Center, 10355 S. Woodlawn Ave. in the historic Pullman community. After a presentation by CTA staff, attendees were invited to ask them questions as the employees stood next to info boards.

"This project is 50-years-plus coming," said CTA spokesperson Tammy Chase. "This is a really exciting time for the South Side. Finally, we're going to start to do the preparatory construction work, demolishing properties, removing and relocating and utility equipment out of the way where we're going to build the new tracks and stations... The idea that we're going to start major construction next year is a dream come true for a lot of people who live in the community and who have been waiting."

The CTA has purchased about 50 commercial, industrial, and residential properties between 95th and 119th streets. The transit agency says many of the properties were vacated or in poor condition, and the CTA is required by federal law to pay the current market value to the owners, as well as cover relocation expenses.

Michelle Palmore, project manager for Red Line Extension construction, discusses property demolition plans. Photo: Cameron Bolton

According to the CTA, the utility relocation and demolition should have little or no effect on power and communications lines in the affected neighborhoods. However, there may be temporary impacts like construction noise, increased truck traffic, and street, alley, and sidewalk closures.

The agency and contractors plan to provide advance notice of work and minimize impact as much as possible, the staffers said. For instance, the workers will use water and other dust control measures while demolishing multiple adjacent properties to reduce street and alley closure. The contractors also plan to reduce air pollution by keeping their exhaust emissions systems in good repair, limiting idling vehicles, and other measures.

Attendee Yolanda Stewart told Streetsblog she came out to the meeting because, "I want to know exactly what's going on." She has lived on 103rd Place east of Normal Avenue, near the future 103rd Street station, for the past 37 years. She's somewhat concerned about the demolition of buildings on 103rd Street. "Other than the noise, this is going to bring a whole lot more traffic to that area, and I moved onto that block because it was a dead end when my kids were growing up. All that's getting ready to change."

Still, Stewart indicated that she feels the project is worthwhile. "It will save people a whole lot of travel time."

For those who still have additional questions, there will be two more public meetings on advanced construction work. The next one will take place on Tuesday, June 25, 6-7:30 p.m. at the RLE Community Office, 401 W. 111th St. The third will be Wednesday, June 26, 6-7:30 p.m at the Altgeld Gardens library, 955 E 131st St. You can also check out the project website, email RedExtension[at]TransitChicago[dot]com, or leave a message at (312) 772-2272.

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