Swift Extension Among Proposals


By Irv Leavitt

Date of Publication: July 18, 2002
Source: Skokie Review


One key proposal submitted to the CATS 2030 Share the Path plan is extension of the Chicago Transit Authority's Skokie Swift el line, but Skokie and CTA officials hope trains will be rolling north of Dempster Street long before 2030.

Skokie Mayor George Van Dusen said Tuesday that he recently met with the staff of U.S. Speaker of the House Denny Hastert, to draft a proposal for federal funding to extend the el that could be put before Congress next year. He needs $110 million to $130 million to bring the Yellow Line north to Old Orchard Road, with a couple of stops along Oakton Avenue, he said.

Van Dusen has fought for the extension for years, so that workers and shoppers can more easily and inexpensively reach Old Orchard Shopping Center and the Cook County Second District Court building, as well as downtown Skokie, near Oakton Avenue west of Skokie Boulevard.

Van Dusen expects the Old Orchard stop to be used by residents of several neighboring communities, including Glenview, Wilmette, Winnetka and Northfield.

A further el extension once was championed by Highland Park officials who wanted a way to get labor into that village cheaply and efficiently. CATS, however, in its 2020 plan, developed in the mid-1990s, included only a feasibility study for the project, and the Highland Park efforts dissipated. The 2030 CATS proposal suggests extending the el line to Lake-Cook Road, but CTA Chairman Frank Kruesi soon will trim it to end at Old Orchard, several sources said.

"It's because of (Northbrook Village President Mark Damisch), and a lack of interest north of there," Van Dusen said Tuesday.

Damisch, now a member of the CATS executive board, said Monday that he remains opposed to a CTA stop at Lake-Cook Road. He said he's convinced that criminals would be able to reach Northbrook too easily if an el line stopped there, and he considers a CTA line superfluous, given that the area is served by the Metra District North Line and the Milwaukee District North Line.

"It's just not cost-effective," Damisch said Monday. "We want to have projects we're all agreed upon."

Damisch said he'll also seek federal funds next year to expand the intersection of Dundee Road and Skokie Boulevard in Northbrook. Funding is already set for up to $3 million, but the project's estimated cost is burgeoning.

The $150,000 Yellow Line extension feasibility study will attempt to pinpoint a site for a station along Old Orchard Road, a downtown station near Oakton Street and Lincoln Avenue, and another station near Oakton Street, between Kostner and Hamlin avenues, to serve those visiting or working at the factories of east Skokie.

Aside from the el extension proposal, Skokie has three other ideas citizens can comment on at the upcoming hearings. One is the expansion of the interchange of the Edens Expressway with Old Orchard Road, an intersection still plagued by traffic and accidents despite recent improvements.

Another project would widen two-lane Old Orchard Road between Skokie Boulevard and Crawford Avenue, at least enough to include bicycle lanes. The Cook County Highway Department controls enough right-of-way there to build a four-lane highway, Skokie Traffic Engineer Fred Schattner said Monday.

A third proposal is for a Howard Street bridge over the Edens Expressway, which Skokie officials admit is a "blue-sky" project that may have little chance of being built.

Other proposals for the CATS plan range from a request by Des Plaines to build a new bridge to carry River Road over the Metra tracks, to an extension of the CTA'S Blue Line that now ends at O'Hare International Airport northwest to Schaumburg.

Metra wants to build a train line linking O'Hare and Midway airports.

Oak Park proposes a "cap" over part of the Eisenhower Expressway, so that it could be planted as open space and park land.