Modern Public Transportation Comes to the 6th Ward

Modern Public Transportation Comes to the 6th Ward

This past Saturday, over 200 residents came out to Chicago State University(CSU) to hear that over $5.0 billion in federal, state and local transit projects were in the works for the community and surrounding areas. Roderick Sawyer, Alderman of the 6th ward hosted a Public Transportation forum at Chicago State University. The forum was co hosted by Chicago State University, Developing Communities Project, Metra, Center for Neighborhood Technology, RAGE-Resident Association of Greater Englewood, West Chatham Community Association, Greater Chatham Alliance, Park Manor Neighbors, Grand Crossing Community Association and Roseland Heights Community Association.

The basis of the meeting was Alderman Sawyer making good on a campaign promise of improving public transportation and developing a transit based economy. Bennett Johnson, Board Menber of Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT) comments supported the Alderman’s efforts. His presentation stated that certain industries seek out communities that have affordable,accessible, effective and efficient public transportation. Those industries are:

  1. Legal, Financial
  2. Education/Healthcare
  3. Entertainment
  4. Retail
  5. Government

Mr. Johnson also stated that the community muist hold all stakeholders accountable to ensure the community has great transportation options.

Security at transportation stations was a major concern and the Chicago Police Department and Chicago State University addressed that issue. The three commanders who have responsibility for the rail stops (69th,79th,87th and 95th) in the 6th ward were in attendance as well as the head of the CPD transit detail. The CPD commanders in attendance were

  1. Christopher Fletcher, Commander 3rd District
  2. Pat Walsh , Commander 5th District
  3. Eric Carter, Commander 6th District
  4. Bill Whittenburg, Lt. Transit Detail

Also, Ron Watson, Commander of Chicago State University Security was in attendance. One concern was a rash of robberies of Chicago State University students at the 95th Cottage Metra Station. Also, Commander Carter and Watson spoke of CSU expanded patrol outside the university grounds that now includes the area surrounding including the 95th station. Also, the CPD commanders all stated that the rail stations and surrounding areas are priorities for the Chicago Police Department.

Alderman Sawyer introduced John Paul Jones of Developing Communities Project(DCP) and he discussed the role the organization is playing in improving the current Red Line stations and their input on the extension of the Red Line to 115th.

Metra addressed the issue of the robberies and the state of the 95th Cottage Grove station. Larry Huggins, Chairman of the Board addressed the issue and stated that there would be some immediate work going on at the station addressing cleanliness and safety. Sam Smith, Governmental Affairs director addressed the issue of upgrading the station. he stated that ridership has not been great at the station but understood that safety concerns attributed to the low ridership at that stop. He stated that its a costly venture to upgrade a station and it would require the community along with Metra to lobby state legislators to appropriate funding for an upgrade. Also, State Representative, 32nd District, Andre Thapedi also repeated the statement when a question was asked about the possibility of a Metra Station in Englewood.

The Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency (CREATE) Program project which is a mutijurisdictinal project was discussed. The Project also known as the Grand Crossing Rail Project is a first-of its-kind partnership between the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), State of Illinois, City of Chicago, Metra, Amtrak, and the nation’s freight railroads. A program of national significance, CREATE was developed to increase the efficiency of the region’s rail infrastructure. Every day, six Amtrak trains on the Illini, Saluki, and City of New Orleans lines pass through Chicago’s South Side, coming from Champaign, Carbondale, Memphis, and New Orleans. The route they currently travel is congested and does not provide direct access into Union Station, causing delays for rail passengers.

The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) is working with FHWA, the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) and the Association of American Railroads (AAR) to find solutions to these issues. The Grand Crossing Rail Project will examine alternate, less congested routes that would enable Amtrak trains to travel directly into Union Station. This will reduce delays and congestion on Chicago’s South Side.

What are the project’s potential benefits?

Alleviate rail congestion on Chicago’s South Side
Enhance public safety
Promote economic development
Improve regional air quality
Reduce noise from idling or slow-moving trains
Improve Amtrak service while maintaining adequate freight capacity

The project is a long term 15 year project and is expected to cost $5.0 billion dollars. The project will have a major impact on the Englewood and Park Manor/Grand Crossing communities both economically and potential relocation of some residents through the government declaring eminent domain on land needed. A representative from U.S. Represenative, Illinois 1st district Bobby Rush office, State Representative, 32nd district Andre Thapedi and Larry Huggins , Metra explained the project to residents. They stated ther would be several meetings in March to further explain the timeline and business opportunities.

Lastly, Alderman Sawyer discussed local projects happened along the Red line Rail stops. The first was the Shell station at 87th State. A representative discussed the $4.0 million renovation which will expand the station and have potential retail opportunities. A national coffee chain was mentioned as a possibility. Also, a representative from Carter Temple CME church discussed the church’s development plans for the vacant land at 79th State. The representative discussed the church wish is for a Park and Ride but is open to working with community to come up with a development that would promote a strong transit based economy for the community.

The meeting was informative and the Alderman discussed this was the begining and other meetings are planned especially because he was going to meet with Forest Claypool, Director of CTA about the 6th ward Red line stations.

With all the projects, what would you like to see? What should be the priority?

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