LAKEVIEW — As Tuesday's election inches closer, Lakeview activists took to the street this week to slam the CTA's proposed Belmont Bypass.
The $320 million project would add another track to the Belmont "L" station, which connects Red, Brown and Purple lines. Construction would span several years and require the city to buy 16 buildings, partial air rights and several parking lots.
Steve Johnson, who lives on nearby Wilton Avenue, worries the project will hurt local businesses and homeowners — and doesn't think the CTA has done enough to publicize its plan.
In August, Johnson and several neighbors successfully petitioned the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners to include this question on select Nov. 4 ballots in the 44th Ward:
Has the CTA sufficiently justified the $320 million proposed Brown Line Flyover project and its impact on local homes and businesses?
He's hoping people vote "no." Johnson joined other Wilton Avenue residents this week to canvass Lakeview, handing out flyers, fact sheets and voter-registration information.
The Belmont Bypass "hasn't been promoted; it's very quiet," Johnson said. "We want to make sure that the community has a say, that it's not just a handful of people who have been talking with the CTA directly. This should be a larger community dialogue about the future of the neighborhood.
"This project is going to be larger than anything going on currently. It's bigger than the Cubs project. It's bigger than [Addison Park on Clark]. In terms of dollars, in terms of scale and size and scope, in terms of impact and timeline — you're talking about a decade of redevelopment."
The CTA announced its Belmont Bypass plans in April. The goal, the CTA said, is to alleviate delays and prepare for future ridership increases by creating a sizable "bypass" that would allow Brown Line trains to pass over the top of existing tracks.
In May, the transit authority hosted a Lakeview open house where locals could meet with engineers and CTA staffers.
Ellen Hughes, a longtime Wilton Avenue resident, slammed the meet-up, arguing that a public forum would've been more productive. She said the CTA met with residents of her block in June, but hasn't agreed to another meeting since.
"We feel like it hasn't been a democratic process," she said. "They're supposed to have this public forum where we can all get together, and they tell you what they're doing. But they did an open house instead, so somebody I don't know might have a really good question, but I can't hear it. ... We need to hear each other."
Hughes and Johnson said their goal with the referendum was to spark a larger community dialogue. They hope the CTA will tweak its plans, or scrap the bypass entirely, based on community input.
In a statement Thursday, the CTA stressed said its Belmont Bypass project was still in preliminary planning stages. Nothing has been finalized.
"From the beginning," the statement said, "CTA has been extremely transparent and communicative during this process, including holding dozens of community meetings so far — well above and beyond what is required. We’ve knocked on hundreds of doors and spoken with countless residents, property owners and business owners. We’ve held two open houses and handed out thousands of project flyers. We have a web site and an email address that anyone can use to send us questions or comments, and we’ve received plenty of both — a clear sign of the public’s engagement in this process."
The CTA said it will continue to solicit feedback and hold a public hearing next year for Draft Environmental Assessments.
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