CHICAGO — The CTA plans to acquire 16 buildings between Belmont and Addison avenues in Lakeview to construct an additional set of tracks that would reduce congestion among northbound Red, Brown and Purple Line trains, officials said Thursday.
The $320 million "bypass" would allow northbound Brown Line trains to pass over the top of the existing tracks where the three train lines meet, said Michael McLaughlin, CTA vice president of planning and federal affairs.
The current configuration of tracks requires trains on three of four tracks to stop and wait for Brown Line trains to cross, which results in more than 40 percent of weekday trains being delayed by as much as three minutes, officials said.
"Most people are familiar with the bottleneck north of the Belmont Station," McLaughlin said.
The flyover would allow for a 30 percent increase in service, adding an additional six to nine trains an hour during rush periods, officials said.
Officials said 850 trains and 150,000 riders pass through the snarled train junction north of the Belmont Station each weekday.
McLaughlin said the project was in early planning stages and affected property owners were being notified of the plan. Officials said most of the 16 buildings the CTA would need to acquire are three-five stories tall and a mix of condominiums, apartments and retail stores.
The exact addresses of the buildings will be released at a later date.
Some residents living in the affected area said the plan would be a detriment to their neighborhood.
Residents on Wilton Avenue, a small block near the Belmont Station, have been asking for more information about the flyover’s plans for years. But they’ve been told that no such plans existed, residents said.
Thursday's announcement "blindsided" them, said Ellen Hughes, a neighbor who lives on the east side of the street.
Many people living on the west side of Wilton received letters or notifications Thursday about their buildings being part of the CTA's plan, but the letter said the agency would not move to purchase private property until "funding is secured" and "the environmental review is complete." (Scroll down to read the letter)
"This was a sneak attack," Hughes said.
Hughes considers the expected time saved for commuters was a "silly" and "absurd" justification for the flyover, considering the plan’s impact on her neighborhood.
"It’s crooked on the high level," she said. "They don’t need the flyover. How long have you ever waited for a train at Belmont?"
And while people on the west side would likely be paid for their property, people living on the east side of the street would have their property values "destroyed" by being right by a "roller coaster in the sky," Hughes said.
She and other neighbors have already requested a meeting with CTA President Forrest Claypool through Ald. Tom Tunney's (44th) office.
"We on the east side of the street feel like our property values just disappeared," she said. "It’s completely unfair."
One condo building with 14 units on the northwest corner of Wilton was built just seven years ago and received notices on Thursday, said Steve Johnson and Earl Fenner, residents and member of the condo board.
Johnson didn't want to say too much until he and other residents could contact local officials for help. State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago) lives on the east side of the street.
People who live on that block have long been invested in improving the neighborhood, with many residents frequently attending block club meetings and petitioning for landscape improvement, they said. They plan to find a way to stay — including by explaining to neighbors who don't live in one of the 16 buildings that the visual impact will still be striking.
"It's a long-term investment, not a seven-year one," Fenner said.
Tunney's office did not yet have a complete list of affected buildings, said Erin Duffy, director of community outreach for the alderman. Duffy said in a statement that Thursday's announcement "is the first step in a long process."
"Our office will be coordinating meetings with the CTA, neighbors and businesses affected by this work," she said. "We will work vigilantly with our neighbors to minimize disruptions and any negative impact to our streets."
The CTA also announced plans Wednesday to rebuild four Red Line stations in Edgewater and Uptown.
The stations — Lawrence, Argyle, Berwyn and Bryn Mawr — were built between 1908 and 1922. Elevators would also be installed during the reconstruction.
The CTA released conceptual renderings of a reconstructed Bryn Mawr station, showing a floor-to-ceiling glass facade and rebuilt platforms.
The North Side station projects, estimated to cost $1.13 billion in total, and the Belmont Station flyover are part of a greater effort to modernize much of the Red and Purple Line on the North Side.
The reconstruction would also be more extensive than interim improvements made in 2012 and 2013 at stations even farther north, such as Thorndale, Granville, Loyola, Morse and Jarvis, which closed the stations for six weeks at a time.
The funding for the reconstruction has yet to be secured, but would likely come from a federal fund set up to improve deteriorating infrastructure throughout the country, officials said.
The separate $203 million makeover of the Wilson station was still slated to begin this year.
The CTA is also moving forward with a $2.3 billion plan to extend the Red Line south from 95th Street through Roseland. Four new stations near 103rd Street, 111th Street, Michigan Avenue/116th Street and 130th Street would be constructed.
The CTA plans to hold a community meeting about the new North Side Red Line stations from 5:30-7:30 p.m. May 21 at Truman Community College, 1145 W. Wilson Ave.
A community meeting about the Belmont Station flyover is scheduled from 5:30-7:30 p.m. May 22 at the Town Hall District Police Station, 850 W. Addison St.
A community meeting about the Red Line extension on the South Side is scheduled from 5:30-7:30 p.m. May 13 at Palmer Park Gymnasium, 201 E. 111th St.
Read the letter sent to Lakeview residents by the CTA here: