Belmont flyover foes debut website; CTA keeps pushing need for more capacity

The folks who oppose the CTA's Belmont flyover project are turning up the pressure a bit with the recent debut of a website, plus a presence on Facebook and Twitter.

Belmont flyover

The group's basic argument is that the flyover will "waste millions in taxpayer funding and destroy Central Lakeview." They say northbound train service is delayed by no more than 20 to 30 seconds to wait for the Red or Brown Line to pass out of Belmont. The CTA wants to raze 16 buildings to construct a "flyover" route for the Brown Line to ascend over top off the northbound Red Line.

Right now, the CTA's Belmont flyover is still going through the federal environmental review process for the RPM project. "There are no new developments or new information on this project," said a CTA spokesperson. "Once we have completed the preliminary engineering and design phase, we will hold hearings to solicit public feedback, which will guide the development of this project."

The CTA also says the Red-Purple bypass will "increase capacity for the next 60-80 years, allowing the CTA to accommodate growing ridership on a corridor that has seen explosive 40 percent ridership growth during peak periods in the last 5 years."

Here's more from the CTA on this project:

We are currently near capacity now in this corridor. Based on the pattern of ridership growth in the last five years, we will be at capacity by 2016 and no longer able to add service to relieve train overcrowding without the bypass, which will relieve the bottleneck at this junction. In other words, without this improvement, CTA simply will not be able to address crowded trains or capture new ridership.

With 185,000 people expected to move to within a 1/2 mile of the North Red and Brown line stations by 2040 (according to CMAP Census estimates), the neighborhoods on the North Side would be significantly and negatively affected by car congestion if nothing is done.

Certainly this issue is by no means settled. Both sides have their arguments. The Tribune's architecture critic has called the proposal "misguided and unnecessary." And 70 percent of voters in a non-binding referendum turned thumbs down on the flyover plan in November.

I wish the flyover could be accomplished with fewer buildings being taken down. What do you think?


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  • I have to imagine that they've done simulations to determine if additional capacity will be achieved with the new flyover, so I'll have to trust them when they say yes. If the results are available somewhere, I'd like to see them.

    That said, I don't see how they add more capacity without addressing the Loop. If an inbound train can't get into the central loop, then you gain no overall capacity.

    As others have noted, one long term solution is to route the Purple Line into the subway.

  • In reply to SpinyNorman:

    I have no idea why CTA PR ever started talking about "delays" when this really is about capacity. The reason there aren't longer delays now is because CTA ops aren't morons like PR, so they don't push more trains through now when delays would get insane.

  • As I have noted before with reference to this, and also the Ashland BRT, if a sufficient record is made at the environmental impact stage that the CTA's claims of benefits vs. environmental costs do not hold up, this isn't going to be funded, no matter what CTA says. In the meantime, CTA spokesmodels are going to say what Rahm tells them to. I note that Rahm is only running on the Red Line South, not these two projects.

    And, as for your wish, the maps CTA has published include a lot more than a couple of buildings on Wilton. As in the case of the Bryn Mawr and Argyle stations, CTA claims the need to condemn vast "staging areas," including both sides of Clark St. between 3300 and 3500 North. It certainly looks (compared to the Metra Englewood Flyover project) that 66% of the cost of this flyover is condemnation and relocation assistance. Is that a cost effective investment, especially when it seems established that CTA exaggerated the delays 5 fold?

    Maybe the real question is whether the north side will turn against Emanuel for doing this kind of stuff. I'm not betting on it, though. Maybe the residents do want to be bought out so they can move to Long Grove.

  • In reply to jack:

    As usual, CTA is doing a terrible job explaining things. The reason for the other buildings north on Clark isn't for staging, it's to straighten out the main line tracks between Belmont and Addison.

  • In reply to whateva:

    But then the problem seems to be that farepayers are paying the spokesmodel for a job you could do better.

    If they are so bad at PR that they can't explain what they are doing, the need for it, and have to destroy so much property to do it, having already sent notice to the property owners, they deserve the opposition they are getting.

    And I still bet, given the announcements around Berwyn (including that the Toyota dealership is moving to the Z Frank property) that the land is needed for staging areas, and the condemnation of a couple of gas stations and hot dog stands at 95th explicitly for staging areas, and CTA comments that they intend to redevelop Wilton St., including portions left vacant from the Belmont Station reconstruction and portions to be taken for this project, I bet most of it is still for staging areas. If not, CTA could say, instead of the usual Emanuel/Claypool course of being arrogant and not listening to anyone. Like I said, continue in this manner, and see if any federal funding is coming.

  • It would easy to install a high-speed level crossing for Northbound Brown Line trains with a #12 main-line switch from the BNSF, and precision-engineered diamond crossings for the other tracks; it would take only a few moments to cross the other tracks with the throttle open.

    And you are right, that $320 Million could create an extensive new South Side CTA “L” service:

  • Your comment is similar to a thought I had that they could just improve the switching to accommodate this, or at least make improvements. When I've ridden the Underground in London, trains arrived at stations in much tighter intervals than CTA does. How do they do that?

  • In reply to chris:

    CTA appears to be terrified of collisions.
    Everywhere else in the world, trains run on far tighter headways.
    Just watch from the North end of the Belmont platform how long it takes to realign the switches so a different train can proceed. Dur the same in regard to the Tower 18 diamond.
    They've built in huge delays to prevent collisions.
    I think it all goes back to the 1977 Lake/Wabash collision, where one motorman was apparently high on marijuana [due to incompetent testing, it wasn't proven], so they just don't trust the motormen to due the job correctly, but also won't fully automate & take it out of their hands completely, except in emergencies.

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    Aside from 1977, which was probably the origin of it, a later one on the Brown/Purple at the Oak Street curve,and the recent 2 on the Blue Line indicate that CTA hasn't figured out how to prevent collisions.

    And fully automating it didn't work on WMATA, where the operated died and automated operation ceased for at least several years.

  • In reply to jack:

    Much of the rest of the world, is automated.
    Tokyo, Hong Kong, Singapore & several lines in London, just have attendants at the front end for emergencies. I'm sure numerous other cities are also automated.
    WMATA's problems stem from a wretched work culture & horrendous infighting from the District, Maryland & Virginia arguing over every little thing.
    Add in insufficient funding from those three entities & Congress & you have a mess!

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    However, you haven't explained why the train didn't stop and the operator couldn't stop it.

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    It seems like automation would solve this problem in a different way, instead of having to condemn a bunch of buildings.

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    In its heyday, the el ran on headways hard to imagine now. During one sixty-minute period on May 27, 1928, the Loop was traversed by 188 trains totaling 1,032 cars.

  • fb_avatar

    I'd like to share with all of you my experience with the opposition site: I posted a very non offensive comment yesterday just explaining that I live on the Ravenswood corridor of the brown line and have lived off of the north side of the red line and have experienced delays and capacity issues when approaching Belmont. I agreed that the price tag of 320MM was scary, but we as a community need to understand the transit needs for all of Chicago just not Central Lakeview. All perspectives need to be evaluated when dealing with this issue. They deleted my comment! It just goes to show they’re not interested in hearing from anyone that does not agree with them and I think that should be pointed out to the public about this particular group that seems to just serve as a propaganda site servicing a small group of people with self-serving interests not willing to understand the transit needs of others in our community nor willing to collaborate on a compromised solution.

  • In reply to Patrick Carroll:

    Maybe so, but they run their own site.

    There is also the issue why they should sacrifice their homes to benefit someone who lives in Blago's community.

  • In reply to jack:

    My problem is that the people driving this aren't the ones who will lose their homes, it's the ones on the east side of Wilton who bought across the street from the L and are now shocked to find that they LIVE ACROSS THE STREET FROM THE L.

  • In reply to whateva:

    But their perspective is that there were some condos up against the L blocking their view, but now all they have is a promise from CTA that they will redevelop the property.

    Maybe Carrie Fisher should come back and blow up the whole area.

  • Ruin central Lakeview? Really? Overreaction much? These people sound like spoiled children.

    Let's get the flyover moving and get this done already. Anything to speed up the red/brown lines are a good thing for everyone. Even people in central Lakeview, they just don't realize it yet.

  • In reply to Rob M:

    In which neighborhood do you live, Rob? You don't have to give us an exact address, just somewhere where the Emanuel Administration can schedule some demolition and not provide a coherent justification for it. I'm sure you want to donate your home.

  • In reply to jack:

    How was justification not provided? The flyover is going to take more space, thus a few buildings need to be bought.

    If the city purchased my building, of course I would be upset... but that's the way things go. The city is growing again, CTA ridership numbers keep going up... Something needs to be done to increase the system capacity.

    You can cry about eminent domain all you want, but if we didn't have that, we wouldn't have an interstate highway system, rail... or any logical transportation system really. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.

  • In reply to Rob M:

    And we wouldn't have had the Robert Taylor Homes next to the Dan Ryan for about 45 years. I'm sure you think that was great urban planning, too, make possible by eminent domain.

    You can go back to CCWriter's comments indicating that a rationale has not been clearly communicated, as well as the articles that came out soon after CTA said that the average delay was 5 minutes that it was more like 50 seconds. Then, you justify how apparently $200 million of the $320 million project is for condemnation, and why that money couldn't be spent better elsewhere. That's how justification has not been coherently provided.

    In the meantime, you haven't answered my question. We should be able to weigh how valuable your property is compared to the common good.

  • In reply to Rob M:

    On further review, I meant whateva's comments.

  • Chicago’s Transit Authority has purposed a $320+ million dollar Brown Line flyover for the Belmont L station. Unfortunately, this monstrous flyover would gut the Lakeview neighborhood. There is, however, a better alternative by having the Brown Line, from Roscoe Street to Clybourn, parallel the Red Line approximately a half-mile west. In further detail: the Brown Line elevated tracks at the Southport station, before continuing east, could turn southbound onto Southport Avenue (or other north/south route possibilities: Lakewood Avenue, Ashland Avenue, or over the Metra railroad tracks along Ravenswood Avenue) with L stations at Belmont, Diversey, and Fullerton. Trains would then turn southeast onto Clybourn Avenue with a station near Dickens Avenue. After running southeast down Clybourn to Willow Street, trains would turn east for one block to rejoin the existing elevated tracks, stopping at a newly rebuilt L station at 1618 north Halsted Street, before make their way toward the Loop. The Halsted Station would replace the Belmont junction, by providing passengers with free transfers into the Red Line’s North Avenue/Cylbourn subway station. Red and Purple Line trains would pick up passengers between Wellington to Armitage that were previously Brown Line stops. This Southport to Clybourn to Halsted reroute would end congestion at the Belmont junction. At the same time, this plan would provide more transit coverage of north side while adding quicker commutes for CTA passengers.
    Marc L. James

  • In reply to Lrider:

    Besides what Scooter says, do you really think those who live on Southport Ave. (or your alternates) really want their view blocked by a new L on their street? What's going to be the cost of condemning their easements of light and access?

  • After spending hundreds of millions to rebuild Belmont & Fullerton, nobody is so stupid as to do this!
    Plus, the CTA has wanted to build the flyover for decades!
    And once it's completed, stores would be rebuilt under it, thus rebuilding those couple of blocks of Lakeview.

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    On your last sentence, maybe, but the people on Wilton don't believe it.

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