In 1958 CTA was just over ten years old. The new agency was modernizing Chicago’s transit system, and was confidently planning for the future. Here’s another look at some of CTA’s visionary proposals from a half-century ago, as outlined in the booklet “New Horizons.”
The last mile of the Ravenswood (Brown) Line operated at grade-level through one of the city’s densest neighborhoods. CTA proposed lowering the tracks into an open cut. The plan was never implemented, and trains still run on the ground, like a child’s toy circling a Christmas tree.
In the 1950s the Loop “L” was called an “iron girdle” retarding the expansion of the central business district. CTA wanted to tear down the whole thing. The Wells Street subway would carry trains from the North Side, and was under serious consideration into the 1970s. Today the Loop “L” is as sacrosanct to Chicago as the cable cars are to San Francisco.
Since CTA hoped to tear down the Loop, Lake Street trains would need a different route into downtown. One solution was to run the Lake trains only as far east as Kenton Avenue, then have them turn south on the Belt Line Railroad tracks to a junction with the new “L” line in the median of the Congress (Eisenhower) Expressway. The Lake trains would use the expressway median the rest of the way, and the “L” over most of Lake Street could be removed.
The Jackson Boulevard subway was proposed as a streetcar tunnel as long ago as 1939. Later it was going to be used by the interurban trains of the Chicago, Aurora & Elgin. “New Horizons” saw the subway as a downtown entry for Lake Street and Douglas Park trains. The two portals for the never-built Jackson subway are still visible next to the Congress portals, just east of Halsted.