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Wilson Red Line Rehab: A Win for Critics in Column Placement Debate

By Adeshina Emmanuel | October 30, 2013 10:15am
Wilson Rehab Plans - Broadway/Leland Animated Walkthrough
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Chicago Transit Authority

UPTOWN — The Chicago Transit Authority has budged some — but not all the way — on its plans to relocate support columns along Broadway from the street to the sidewalk as part of the $203 million Wilson Red Line station makeover.

CTA altered the project plans to relocate a support column at the southwest corner of Leland and Broadway, outside the Barry Building, 4660-68 N. Broadway, to the east side of Broadway via a curb bump-out, CTA spokeswoman Catherine Hosinki said Tuesday.

The column was one of two structures at the center of the debate between Broadway business owners, community members, and CTA. CTA has maintained that moving the columns from the street was the safest for motorists, and the most structurally sound decision on the table given the project's budget. The relocation of columns also fits into the Chicago Department of Transportation's plans for a redesign of Broadway that includes a streetscape and improved bike lanes, officials said.

 Transit officials met with the community this summer to discuss one of CTA's largest projects ever.
CTA Public Meeting About Wilson Red Line Reconstruction
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Business owners said the columns would not only be ugly eyesores, but would bring unwanted vibrations and sound to their businesses.

Gary Nakai, a representative from the Buddhist Temple of Chicago at 1151 W. Leland Ave., accused the CTA of being "heavy handed," and "trying to wear us down."

"This is not the best they can do," he said of the decision to move one across the street, where he said it looks "awkward," and "too busy."

"Every engineering solution is a compromise — a solution is not holding out for one particular feature at all costs."

CTA has delayed selecting a contractor and pushed back early work planned on the project this fall to extend its community outreach efforts — and recently decided to make a concession toward opponents of the columns, who have been trying to negotiate alternative column placements since the summer.

Uptown Recording owner Matt Denny feared that another column by Broadway and Clifton would put his recording studio at 4656 N. Clifton Ave. out of business by bringing more noise and vibrations there.

Although the column that would go by his studio is still planned there according to the CTA, Denny said Tuesday that "things are going in the right direction," and that there would be more developments in the discussions with CTA about the column "in the next few days."

"I wouldn't call it so much of a fight now, its more negotiating, and with this latest news — I think progress is being made. I'm very optimistic that we'll be able to resolve the issue of the second column," Denny said.

Hosinki emphasized Tuesday that project plans "have not changed," past the relocation of one support column.

Ald. James Cappleman (46th), who Denny said he considers a friend, has said he supports the ongoing discussions with CTA, even if it delays the project. The Wilson reconstruction is a big, expensive endeavor "and we want to make sure we get this project done right," he said.

The 33-month rehab will add two 10-car platforms, widen platforms and create the only Red/Purple Line transfer point between Belmont and Howard. The station would also be the first wheelchair-accessible station between the Addison and Granville stops.

Officials say rehabbing the Wilson station, known as one of Chicago's crustiest, will spur economic development and help revitalize Uptown. The area around the station has a reputation for vagrancy and gang activity.

The CTA still hasn't announced a contractor, but said major construction is still set for spring 2014. The Federal Transit Authority is currently reviewing an environmental study by CTA that includes sound and vibration tests, and CTA is waiting to hear from the agency about whether the project satisfies federal standards in regard to the effects on historic properties.