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CTA Belmont Flyover Plan Passes Federal Hurdle

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The controversial plan to build the Red-Purple Line Bypass also known as the "Belmont Flyover" has moved one step closer to reality after passing an environmental review by the Federal Transit Administration. The proposed elevated bypass would be located at the Red, Brown and Purple Line switchover point between the Belmont and Addison stops. Part of the $1.9 billion Red and Purple Line Modernization Project, the largest capital improvement undertaking in the history of the Chicago Transit Authority, to bypass is expected to cost $570 million -- a number that has ballooned from an initial cost estimate of $320 million. Tasked with reducing travel times and increasing capacity along the the congested north-south commuter corridor, the Belmont flyover is not without its detractors.

Trains traversing the tight bends of the current track configuration often must slow to a crawl. The low speeds are further compounded by track switching delays that arise when trains must stop to allow other lines to cross their paths. By eliminating this bottleneck, the CTA expects to see ride times improve by between 25 and 85 seconds. While critics of the plan have pointed out these time savings are only marginally better than before, proponents have touted the ability to add up to eight additional Red Line trains and the opportunity to run more express service during peak hours as the main benefits of the bypass. Rush hour trains already often arrive at stations filled to capacity and, by even conservative estimates, ridership along this corridor is expected to increase 25% over the next two decades. When considering the additional capacity the project affords, the $570 million price tag of the bypass amounts to just $2.75 per additional rider spread over 20 years of operation, according to a recent article published by John Greenfield in the Chicago Reader.

Those living closest to the proposed Belmont flyover have too voiced their qualms regarding the planned bypass. A 2014 non-binding referendum on the expansion showed that 72% of Lakeview voters in Chicago's 44th Ward opposed the project. In addition to budgetary worries, concerns have stemmed from the fact that construction would require the demolition of 16 existing buildings and the new flyover section of track would climb twice as high as the current elevated rail lines. With the federal go-ahead, construction work on the flyover is scheduled to begin some time in 2017 but is still dependent on securing various grants from Washington D.C. as well as matching funds from local sources.

·The controversial Belmont flyover has federal approval—but still faces other hurdles [Chicago Reader]
·Red and Purple Line Modernization Project [CTA]
·The CTA's Red-Purple Bypass May Be Its Most Ambitious Project [Curbed Chicago]
·Previous CTA coverage [Curbed Chicago]