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Emanuel says Red Line extension a priority

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Chicago mayoral candidate Rahm Emanuel said Thursday that extending the CTA Red Line south is a priority. The announcement comes while the Chicago Transit Authority is working through a federal process to extend the train route.

Currently, the train ends at 95th Street; Emanuel said he wants it to keep going to 130th Street.

“The Red Line is the backbone of Chicago’s mass transit system,” said Emanuel, in a small business on 107th and Halsted. “Stopping at 95th cuts stores like this, the New Sound Gospel Music Store, off from commuters and consumers.”

Community activists and urban planners have long advocated a Red Line extension to 130th Street. A University of Illinois-Chicago study from 2009 argued that the South Side suffered from transportation inequity. The study said of all Chicago Transit Authority expansions, the Red Line should have the greatest priority. The study authors suggested expansion would attract new small businesses and improve residents’ access to jobs.

Emanuel estimated the expansion would cost $1.4 billion. He also advocated fixing stations from Belmont and northward, which would cost an additional $1 billion. Upgrades to Red Line tracks from 18th Street to 95th Street comes at a $300 million price tag.

“It won’t be done in one fell swoop. I don’t have any illusions about that,” Emanuel said. “It’s a heads up to Washington D.C. and Springfield that this will be a priority if I’m elected mayor for our investment.”

Emanuel touts his experience as a congressman who acquired money for upgrades along the Brown Line. He says getting the Illinois congressional delegation on board along with other governmental entities will be his strategy for transit funding.

Securing federal dollars for public transportation is a long, arduous process – one that CTA officials started several years ago. CTA got federal approval to go through a competitive funding process for the Red Line. It’s currently in phase two of a five-phase process.

CTA officials estimate that completion of the Red Line could take five to 11 years.

Mayoral candidate Miguel del Valle has said he supports a Red Line extension as well.

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