UPTOWN — Led by top politicians, the CTA wasted no time Friday in staking a claim to a potential new source of federal transportation funding for the renovation of the Red and Purple lines.
CTA President Forrest Claypool called it "a critical step in modernizing and expanding the capacity of the CTA's rail system," especially in the "complete overhaul" of the Red and Purple lines from Belmont Avenue to the north end of the line at Linden Avenue in Wilmette.
In a news conference at the CTA's Argyle Street stop Friday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he expected the project to "equal what we did on the Red Line South," the South Side overhaul successfully completed last year.
All took pains to emphasize the work is not ready to start.
"We're very much in the preliminary planning stages for this project," Claypool said, adding, "Today, we're announcing we have a new source of funding."
The Red & Purple Modernization Project, or RPM as the CTA calls it, is expected to double capacity and overhaul stations so that each has an elevator, while raising track speeds to "55 miles per hour, not 15 miles per hour," Emanuel said.
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said he was leading the way to get $120 million allotted to "core capacity" projects to upgrade public transportation, where most federal funding usually is designated for new and expanded lines.
While he admitted that the $120 million made a small dent in the $4 billion estimated outlay for the entire CTA "Red Ahead" renovation, he said he expected the funds to snowball once the project started, and pointed to how this money is to be disbursed by Oct. 1.
Both Durbin and U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Chicago) trumpeted that Congress allocated the $120 million for "core capacity" funding just this week, with Quigley calling it an "extraordinary event" that Congress was able to accomplish anything at all.
Emanuel said Chicago already had formally applied for the funding.
"We have the first application in. We're ready," Durbin said. "I know we will compete successfully."