Federal Funds Prompt CTA To Speed Up


By Jon Hilkevitch

(Mike Dorning of the Tribune's Washington bureau contributed)

Date of Publication: February 8, 2000
Source: Chicago Tribune


CTA officials promised to put the transit agency's two high-priority rail projects on a fast-track construction schedule after the release Monday of the Clinton administration's spending blueprint for 2001.

Contracts related to the $450.8 million rehabilitation of the Douglas branch of the Blue Line will be awarded within a year, and the 6.6-mile elevated structure and track work will be completed two or three years later, said Jeff Morales, CTA executive vice president for management and performance.

CTA engineers had previously indicated that the project, which will be done without closing down the 102-year-old line, would take five to six years.

Morales said the federal share is $349 million, with nearly all of the rest coming from Gov. George Ryan's Illinois FIRST program.

CTA officials also said that once the U.S. Department of Transportation announces a full-funding grant agreement for the Brown/Ravenswood Line, the $310 million project to expand 19 rail stations and platforms will move swiftly from the engineering stages to construction.

Currently, only six-car trains fit along the platforms, creating a situation in which demand often outstrips the supply of rolling stock in the popular neighborhoods along the line.

The expanded stations, serving eight-car trains, will include elevators to accommodate senior citizens and disabled passengers.

President Clinton's 2001 budget includes $105.8 million in assistance for public transit projects in Illinois, with $60 million of the total going toward an extension of the St. Louis-area Metrolink into St. Clair County.

For Chicago, the budget would allocate $17 million in 2001 for reconstruction of the CTA's Douglas branch.

Preliminary planning and engineering work on the expanded Brown Line platforms would receive $8.8 million next year.

In the suburbs, the budget includes $10 million in fiscal 2001 funding for the $165.4 million extension of Metra's SouthWest Service to Manhattan in Will County.

Although influential in setting federal spending plans, the president's budget requests still must be approved by Congress.