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Belmont Bypass Met With Skepticism From Lakeview Residents

By  Erica Demarest and Serena Dai | May 23, 2014 8:11am 

 The CTA hosted an open house on Thursday, May 22 at the Town Hall Police District community room to answer questions about the $320 million Belmont Bypass project.
Community Meeting on Belmont Bypass
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LAKEVIEW — Despite CTA outreach efforts at a Lakeview open house Thursday, locals are still dubious about the proposed Belmont Bypass.

"When you talk about destroying a good chunk of the neighborhood with no tangible benefit for the neighborhood, it's a hard pill to swallow," said Adam Rosa, 36, who lives three blocks from the Belmont "L" station.

The CTA announced in April plans to create an additional track at the busy station, which connects Brown, Red and Purple lines. The $320 million project, which would be funded with federal grants, could alleviate delays.

It also would require the city to buy 16 buildings, partial air rights over two buildings, a vacant lot and two parking lots — including several mixed-used buildings on Clark Street and five residential buildings on Wilton Avenue.

Residents said they're worried about what will be left.

The additional track, which will run above existing lines, would require large support beams, neighbors said. This could make it hard to replace homes and businesses torn down for the project.

Rosa called the proposal "an engineering approach to an urban-planning problem." He said he's in favor of CTA improvements, but would prefer something more "elegant and refined."

At Thursday's meeting, held in the Town Hall police station at 850 W. Addison St., residents perused renderings and info charts as they chatted with CTA officials.

Kurt Hanson, 59, has lived on the east side of Wilton Avenue for more than 20 years.

He said he's wary of the facts and figures present Thursday, especially after the CTA initially claimed Belmont delays last four minutes — a number residents and media have hotly contested.

Hanson said the renderings looked "beautiful" and "nice," but officials on hand didn't mention any negatives of the project — something he considers their responsibility as "public servants," he said.

"There must be pros and cons," Hanson said. "And they're not revealing the cons."

Bob Hughes, 65, who's lived on Wilton for more than 30 years, said he was annoyed the CTA didn't have renderings of Clark Street, which could see a train line crossing over it in the near future.

"It's an ugly idea, so they don't want to show it," Hughes said. "They don't want that image in people's minds."

But city and CTA officials said the renderings where just that. Court reporters took down complaints and suggestions Thursday, and the CTA said it's open to change its existing plan.

"I don't think that presentation is, by any stretch, a done deal," said Ald. Tom Tunney (44th). "I think there will be some kind of bypass at this intersection, but the design has not been finalized. They put out a worst-case-scenario number of properties to let people know it's being considered."

Tunney said "there's a level of mistrust" among residents that stems largely from previous CTA and city administrations. He hopes the city will create a plan that works for Lakeview.

According to Chase, the CTA will spend a year meeting with neighbors, community groups, real estate experts and city officials to tweak its plan.

"Anybody who wants to talk to us, we'll listen," she said.

She said parts of the Belmont infrastructure were built in 1907. Small delays and crowded trains are daily problems along the Red and Purple lines, which are the city's busiest.

"Delays are a symptom of the bigger problem — meaning, we're already at capacity," Chase said. "We think ridership is only going to grow. It's a transit-dependent city."

Despite CTA assurances, many neighbors said they didn't think the agency would listen to their complaints.

"I think they're going to do what they want to do," said Adam Mancuso, who lives a block from the station. "This is just a formality."

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