Circle Line routes narrowed
By Virginia Groark
Tribune staff reporter
Published May 3, 2006
Chicago Transit Authority officials said Tuesday that they have narrowed the possible routes for the proposed Circle Line project to three corridors that would run west of the Loop. They said they plan to spend the coming months whittling the options and will choose a final route early next year.
The CTA will explore whether the line, expected to cover an area six times the "L" Loop system, should run along Ashland Avenue, Ashland/Ogden Avenue or Western Avenue corridors.
Officials also narrowed the transportation technology options to three and will study whether to use bus rapid transit, heavy rail or light rail to speed up travel times and make it easier for passengers to transfer among lines.
Officials announced the corridor options during a public hearing in Pilsen on the proposed $1 billion plan that would link all CTA and Metra lines in the city. The Circle Line is one of five projects Congress authorized in a massive transportation bill passed last summer. But those projects must still secure federal funding, a competitive process that will pit them against other proposals across the country.
Although the CTA says it has not prioritized those projects, some worry that the size and scope of the Circle Line may push back other proposals, like the plan proposed more than 30 years ago to extend the Red Line to 130th Street.
If built, the Circle Line would cover a region bordered by Pershing Road on the south, Fullerton Avenue on the north, Rockwell Street on the west and Lake Michigan on the east.
The three options would start on Archer Avenue along the existing Orange Line. The Ashland corridor would cut north in the vicinity of Ashland Avenue and travel east between Fullerton and North Avenues to connect with the North/Clybourn station on the Red Line.
The Ashland/Ogden corridor would travel north on Ashland, head northeast on Ogden Avenue and then turn north near Halsted Street to the North/Clybourn Station.
The Western corridor would cut north on Western Avenue and head east between Fullerton and North Avenues.
This summer, officials said they will study the carrying capacity of each transit alternative as well as service demand. They must still decide whether to build elevated tracks, a subway or at road level, or a combination of all three.
New CTA and Metra stations would be added on various routes to make it possible for people to transfer between the lines without having to travel into the Loop.
Some residents said they supported the Circle Line plan but still had questions that went unanswered. "They didn't have anything written out so people could study it," said Kevin Karl Peterson, 33, head of a non-profit group called Citizens Against Terrible Transit Service. He wanted to know the possible hours of operation and where stations might be located.
Another resident worried that the Circle Line would take precedence over other, more necessary projects. "I'm in favor of the Circle Line, but I think there are needs in other areas of the city that should be met before building this downtown," said Mike Payne, 57, of the South Side neighborhood of Chatham.
Tuesday's comments were on the first of three phases of the project analysis. The second will be completed by early fall; and the third early next year.
The CTA will hold other Circle Line hearings from 6 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday at Lincoln Park High School and Thursday at the University of Illinois at Chicago's Molecular Biology Research Building.