Price of progress: 16 buildings to be razed for CTA Belmont flyover

Most of the early stories about the $320 million project to build a flyover track at the Clark Junction focused on the 16 buildings that would have to be demolished.

Well folks, that’s the price of progress.

Instead we should focus on eliminating a huge bottleneck that delays 40 percent of the trains that pass just north of Belmont at Clark. Trains on three of the four tracks face delays as the northbound Brown Line train on the easternmost track crosses over three tracks to the west. About 150,000 rides travel through this intersection each weekday, all of which are slowed down because trains must stop and wait for signal clearance.

Current configuration of tracks north of Belmont means trains on three tracks have to stop.

Current configuration of tracks north of Belmont means trains on three tracks have to stop.

With the new flyover, the northbound Brown Line will travel on a track jutting to the east and over the other three tracks. Some buildings will have to be razed on Wilton.

Northbound Brown line will travel on track over the other three tracks near the Clark Junction.

Northbound Brown line will travel on track over the other three tracks near the Clark Junction.

Here’s an artist rendering of the new bypass:


Construction wouldn’t start until 2017. The CTA is seeking community input on the location, design, and social, economic, and environmental effects of the proposed improvements at a Red-Purple Bypass Open House to be held from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, May 22, at the 19th District Police Station, 850 W. Addison St.

Station and track modernization, from Wilson to Bryn Mawr

The CTA also is hosting a community meeting on the first phase of the Red Purple Modernization project announced on Wednesday, which would completely rebuild the Lawrence, Argyle, Berwyn, and Bryn Mawr stations. That meeting will be held from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 21, at Truman Community College, 1145 W. Wilson Ave.

Estimated cost for this first phase of RPM is $1.7 billion.
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  • The top drawing of the track layout at Clark Junction is wrong.
    NB Brown trains switch from Track 4 to Track 3 & then to the Brown Line tracks, not the way it's shown.
    If that's from the CTA, wow, what incompetence!

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    Yup. However, the bottom drawing is probably correct, as it would be easier to build the flyover diverting from the outer track. As such, the northbound brown line trains would use the outer track after the redo.

    I assume there's no way to use track 2 for northbound brown line trains utilizing the crossovers north of the Wellington station?

  • In reply to SpinyNorman:

    Theories like this got hashed around at My conclusion, which also applies here, was that all that would do is move the bottleneck. In this case, besides moving the crossover south, you now prohibit southbound Red Line trains from using the stretch between Addison and Wellington, thus requiring another crossover north of Clark Jct. Then where would you put the through Purple Line trains (which, with the opening of the express platforms at the new Wilson station, we can assume would become a better express substitute for the Red Line)?

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    I think the point is that all other trains have to stop when the brown line crosses over. Whether or not it goes straight on one track or another for 50 feet is irrelevant.

  • In reply to Rob M:

    No, the CTA graphics dept. making a mistake like that reminds me of all the maps that had a station called "Bemont" several years ago.

  • "The CTA is seeking community input on the location, design, and social, economic, and environmental effects of the proposed improvements " You know they aren't. They have to hold a hearing (not a listening) to meet federal environmental requirements if they are going to get any of the infinite pot of money the feds have not yet earmarked.

    The people on Wilton are deluded if they think CTA will listen any more than they did to the people on Lincoln or Ashland (no environmental impact, really?). Especially after this was sprung on them after denials, and you use phrases such as "price of progress."

    Emanuel must think that none of his neighbors on the north side are going to vote for any opponent of his, no matter how many he ticks off.

  • In reply to jack:

    Thats the idea, as long as no white north sidey gentiles get into the race.

  • In reply to urbanleftbehind:

    Joe Moore is dead meat if that's what you are saying. Deb Mell is grateful for Emanuel appointing her to her hereditary position, despite claims of transparency. Forrest Stroger Jr. Claypool isn't going to run against the only person who would give him a job.

    Someone is floating Fioretti, who, besides not being north side, has less of a concept of the Constitution being a limit on government than Emanuel does.

    I don't have a vote on this one, while, obviously, those living on Wilton might. But N. Koreans also had the option of voting for Kim Jung On.

  • In reply to jack:

    Maybe Cappleman gets his foot run over by a bicyclist - if he had a different arrangement of chromosomes, he would be this city's Giuliani, given his tough-on-crime stances. I'd rather have him then Tunney be the city's first of that persuation.

  • In reply to urbanleftbehind:

    On Tunney, I wonder if he will be as "up your butt" on Claypool as he said he would be on Ricketts.

    Maybe, either way, they will be writing about this proposed bypass as still being proposed in 2035.

  • This should have been done decades ago. I just don't understand the high price tag.

  • In reply to ibilldavis:

    I bet very little has to do with the cost of the steel structure (my guess maybe $50 million). But if you take out 16 condo buildings with how many condos each, probably worth $500,000 a condo unit, have to pay relocation assistance, probably have to make up the difference between the value on Wilton and what something comparable would cost elsewhere, I bet that adds up.

    This isn't like the 95th St. Terminal project, for which 2 gas stations, 2 beauty shops and a hot dog stand are being condemned, although apparently every CTA project now is at least $200 million. In the Wilson station case, I can see it, but otherwise....

  • In reply to ibilldavis:

    Also, probably a lot of overtime, as I don't think they intend to close down the North Main for a couple of months. And, of course, a lot of consultants.

  • There is no bottleneck. The Brown line flyover will benefit riders as much as Ventra. I have a clear view of the junction from my patio and you all are welcome to come count trains and pull out your stopwatches and time the delays. There is another agenda here and the neighbors will get to the bottom of it. The CTA definitely has other issues to address that should be ranked higher in terms of priority. Taxpayers and riders should be asking the same question in terms of squandering scarce funding on this versus other projects that could really modernize transit and improve travel times.

  • In reply to lifelongchicagoan:

    Lifelong, I think you're wrong about "no bottleneck." CTA reports building the bypass will increase service capacity by 30 percent, in reducing the wait times.

    During rush hour, and additional 6-9 trains per hour could serve Belmont. That's a lot.

  • In reply to Kevin O’Neil:

    And, of course, CTA says anything and listens to nothing. Has it posted a service plan to implement all this "additional capacity," or are we going to see another 2010 cutback in service because CTA claims not to have any operating funding? Ask Steele that.

  • fb_avatar

    Thats interesting to hear. If you have a view of this section and dont see trains waiting then I wonder what is the real reason for it. From your comment it sounds like in your opinion this wont really effect the travel time at all. Its a lot of money to spend on a system thats needs a ton of work elsewhere. Its been a long time since I used the trains but I used to transfer to the red from the brown in route to Jackson and State and I really dont ever recall waiting much at all to pass this section. Not enough to warrent this project anyway. It would be interesting to really see just how long trains really are waiting. Maybe you can let me know if its easy enough. Thanks.

  • In reply to Sean Irwin:

    CTA also said that 40 percent of all trains are affected by that bottleneck.

    No offense to Lifelong, but I think he's just plain wrong. I'd say about half the Red Line trains I ride at rush hour are delayed waiting for the Brown Line to cross.

    And Jack, isn't it a bit early to be doing a service plan for a project that hasn't yet been funded?

  • In reply to Kevin O’Neil:

    Weren't you the one who replied to Scooter when he said "why not fix the Grandville interlocking first" "this is funded in that isn't." Now you are talking through both sides of your mouth.

    My point is essentially the lack of rational planning, which Claypool, by saying he only reports to Emanuel, seems to be fostering. Is it good planning to say:

    1) We need this increase in capacity, but have no plan to use it?

    Added to these apparent two instances of the same:

    2) We need to borrow $180 million for a $240 million bus terminal at 95th, which would be totally unnecessary if the Red Line were extended.

    3) [Debated today in] We have a CMAQ grant to convert diesel articulated buses to hybrid for $250,000 a bus, when it would have cost us only $170,000 more a bus to have ordered them that way?

    I think this is no more than highway engineers saying "this highway is designed for 75 mph" when there is no intention to raise the speed limit above 55.

    So, before spending $320 million (which you now say they don't have, and thus have to justify to the feds to award), yes, they should have a plan to use that capacity, including a source of the operating funds. Carole Brown said about as much when she was campaigning for a tax increase.

  • In reply to jack:

    To clarify my Scooter remark, maybe your response was for the money for the south end of the RPM, but still that's the same Core Capacity money you said already existed, for the 3 2017 projects.

  • Did you happen to read Joravsky this week? The trains generally sit for less than a minute. Sure, that's worth tearing down 16 buildings in the name of "progress."

  • In reply to Cheryl:

    Cheryl, I was on a Red Line train Thursday that waited about two minutes by Wellington, and then another minute or so at Belmont. So I don't buy it.

    I still support the flyover.

  • In reply to Kevin O’Neil:

    Three minutes of your time, even 5 days a week, is more important than the rights of the people who own those buildings.

    Got it.

  • In reply to Cheryl:

    Cheryl, this is not about me. This is about increasing capacity and reducing overcrowding on the Red and Brown lines. By eliminating the crossover, at least eight additional trains per hour could serve those lines. That greatly reduces the overcrowding we now see in the area.

  • In reply to Kevin O’Neil:

    But, as you seemed to admit, and be satisfied with, there actually wasn't any plan to do that, at least not before threatening those persons' places of abode.

    If there is an operating plan and budget to add the 8 trains per hour, please post it.

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    Why not work within the existing footprint -

    Run the northbound brown track under the other three (crossing over), drop it 1/3 rail car/track height.

    As the other three tracks come south from Addison - elevate them 2/3 rail car/track height - forming a full 1 car/track height pass through - and then descending into Belmont Station.

    Since the crossover is near to the Belmont stop - the Belmont platform sections might need to be raised to accommodate the needed drop run.

    Sounds like a lot of money ? Compared to the current plan - it would be a bargain - using the existing superstructure.

    (with some of the saved money soundproof the whole thing - similar to the IIT enclosure)

  • In reply to PulSamsara Xi:

    CTA will say that it probably won't save any money, given the need for more staging areas. Also, you are essentially replacing the unsightliness of the flyover with the unsightliness of raising the main line 15 feet, assuming that the clearances you propose even exist.

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