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Work begins on Red-Purple Line project replacing 119-year-old rails, worn stations

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The $2.1 billion project will create faster, more reliable service

A view from the street with cars parked on either side shows a CTA overpass with LED lighting underneath and a new track system with Brown Line train running.
Newport Street
CTA

Work on the Red-Purple Modernization project, one of the largest reconstructions in the Chicago Transit Authority’s history, began on Wednesday.

The $2.1 billion project was first discussed in 2014, and now the starting phase is kicking off in Lakeview. The project will rebuild a six-mile section of tracks between Lawrence and Bryn Mawr stations and create a new rail bypass bridge just north of the Belmont station.

“CTA customers will see a significant improvement in service with increased accessibility to rail service, less crowding on trains and rail platforms and shorter commute times,” said CTA President Dorval Carter in a statement.

While the construction starts today, residents have already felt the inconveniences of long-term work. In May, the Lawrence, Argyle, Berwyn, and Bryn Mawr Red Line stations closed for three years so the city could make them fully accessible. Temporary stations are open at Argyle and Bryn Mawr.

All of the work on the Red and Purple lines aims to improve rail service and ensure each station is accessible to people with disabilities. The first phase is expected to finish in 2025.

The major components of phase one include three major components:

  • A new bypass, to be finished in 2021, and then reconstruction of track lines between Belmont and Newport/Cornelia, which should finish around 2024. These improvements will help streamline service.
  • The four station reconstructions will ensure they are accessible for people using wheelchairs, families with strollers, and elderly folks. The improvements will include larger stations with wider platforms. The major track work from Argyle to Bryn Mawr will begin in late 2020 and wrap up in 2024.
  • The installation of a new signal system on 23 miles between Howard and Belmont that will improve reliability and flow.

The infrastructure that exists now was built in 1907 to connect what was called the Ravenswood Line (now the Brown Line), according to the CTA. Essentially, it’s a clunky junction that prevents a smooth flow of trains. Installing new tracks, a new signal system, and a new bypass bridge will better direct Brown Line trains that must cross over Red and Purple Line tracks north of Belmont station.

As one of the busiest lines, with more than 200,000 rides every weekday and 70 million rides per year, the work to bring speedier and more reliable service is much needed.

“The ‘L’ is a critical part of Chicago life, enabling thousands of people to get to work, school, and around the city every day. CTA’s Red Purple Modernization project will target the lines most in need of updating and ensure that the ‘L’ remains a reliable transportation option for all Chicagoans,” said U.S. Representative Mike Quigley in a statement.