$1.1 billion federal grant sets stage for $2.1 billion CTA RPM project

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red and blue modernization
Artist's rendering showing Red-Purple Bypass (over Sheffield, right) potential redevelopment concepts (view southeast on Clark St.) -- Image from CTA

Departing president Barack Obama has given Chicago a billion dollar gift — confirming the funding agreement to allow the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) to move forward with the first phase of the Red and Purple Modernization Program (RPM).

Design and engineering work is expected to begin in 2017, and CTA anticipates construction work to begin in late 2018. Construction is estimated to take four to five years to complete.

“This type of investment in transit is an investment in Chicago’s residents and neighborhoods, connecting them to jobs, education and more. I want to commend everyone who worked throughout this process to make this project a reality,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a statement.

“The Obama Administration has made historic investments in public transportation, and we are proud to partner with Chicago to help improve rail transit service for thousands of residents,” said Federal Transit Administration (FTA) acting administrator Carolyn Flowers. “This is a critical infrastructure project that will ensure CTA riders and people all over Chicago can continue to get to jobs, education, and all the great things this city has to offer.”

The full-funding grant agreement with the FTA is the final step in securing the funding needed for the $2.1 billion first phase of the RPM project.

“With public transit ridership on the rise, we need to ensure our transportation agencies have the funding they need to grow and keep up with demand. I worked to establish the Core Capacity program in 2012 so cities with aging infrastructure, like Chicago, could make significant improvements to the busy transit systems millions of commuters rely on daily,” U.S. Senator Dick Durbin said. “The funding announced today builds on $191 million already received from the federal government, and will expand capacity, create jobs, and improve accessibility for local residents along the red and purple CTA lines. I’m proud to have worked with Mayor Emanuel and the Obama Administration to bring these funds to Chicago for this important project.”

RPM will rebuild part of CTA’s busiest rail line, the Red Line, parts of which are more than a century old. The tracks, structures and stations are well past their useful lifespan, and can no longer handle additional trains to meet the increasing demands of growing ridership – which is up 40 percent during the rush hours since 2008.

The first phase of RPM will rebuild the Lawrence, Argyle, Berwyn and Bryn Mawr rail stations and more than a mile of adjacent tracks and track structure. It will also construct a Red-Purple bypass to improve overall service that will benefit the entire Red Line by improving reliability and increasing capacity so that more trains can be added to alleviate chronic overcrowding during peak travel times.

“In November 2016, Chicago City Council approved the creation of a dedicated Tax-Increment Financing District (TIF) that will generate $622 million to support the first phase of RPM.

Securing the local funding was a critical step that paved the way to accessing the federal funding.

The Transit TIF district was made possible by bi-partisan legislation passed by the Illinois General Assembly in June that specifically authorized the creation of a transit-only TIF for the RPM.