LAKEVIEW — Voters in the 44th Ward said "no" on Tuesday to the CTA's proposed Belmont Bypass project.
The $320 million project would add another track to the Belmont "L" station, which connects Red, Brown and Purple lines, and require the city to buy 16 buildings, partial air rights and several parking lots — a move some locals say could devastate the surrounding area.
On Tuesday, voters in three 44th Ward precincts weighed in on the following referendum question:
Has the CTA sufficiently justified the $320 million proposed Brown Line Flyover project and its impact on local homes and businesses?
According to preliminary tallies from the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners, 807 people voted on the question. More than 70 percent said "no," with 583 votes, while 224 voters said "yes."
"The final tally is even better than we thought," said Ellen Hughes, a Lakeview resident who helped get the question on ballots. "People want to know about this. The next step is to get not just Lakeview, but all of Chicago involved."
The question only appeared in those precincts closest to the Belmont "L" station. Local activists said the limited scope was due to time constraints. To get a question on a ballot, 8 percent of precinct residents who voted in the last gubernatorial election need to sign a petition. That takes time, Hughes said.
The CTA on Wednesday was quick to point out how few people actually voted on the nonbinding question. A spokeswoman said it was posed to only 1,900 voters, but the project would benefit millions annually by reducing congestion.
"This referendum simply is not a meaningful representation of the thousands of riders we serve on the Red, Purple and Brown Lines every day," the CTA stated.
"We believe if you were to ask the millions of [CTA] customers today and in the future if they would prefer faster, more reliable service that includes not being crammed into railcars like sardines, their answer would be a resounding yes."
Hughes wasn't fazed.
"This is an important theater and entertainment district," she said. "You don't have to live here to care about it. The CTA isn't saying much, and we want to get the facts out there — just the facts. People will have a real problem with it."
The CTA in a statement said it's hosted two open houses, distributed thousands of fliers and met with hundreds of people who live near the Belmont "L" station.
Hughes said she spent several hours Tuesday standing outside Lakeview polling places. By law, she was required to stand 100 feet from the entrance, behind a blue cone.
"People can walk up to the polling place without coming anywhere near me," she said. "I'd call out, 'There's a local referendum about the CTA on your ballot,' and people walked over to me. They didn't ignore me. They wanted to talk to me."
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