Friday, October 2, 2009

Circle Line Well Thought Out but Needs Funding

This past week, the CTA hosted three public meetings to showcase 'Screen 3' of the Circle Line analysis. Coming out of these meetings, the strategic committee responsible for the analysis will recommend a 'locally preferred option' which is what hopefully will get built. Assuming funding is found the lines could be ready by 2016. Although the circle line wasn't tied directly to the Olympics, today's announcement doesn't help the cause. Funding is still possible, but many (including us) felt as if this would be a done deal if Chicago won the Olympics (sigh).

We went to the meeting in Bucktown on Tuesday and was thoroughly impressed with the entire event. The CTA gets thrown under the bus often, but in this instance the professionalism of the presenters and their work was truly refreshing.

In previous public Screens ('Screen 1' which happened in May of 2006 and 'Screen 2' which happened in Sept of 2006), the public asked for the CTA to analyse additional options that would extend the circle line further from the loop. Part of those findings are included within the presentation here.

Based on the CTA's analysis, the image below shows their long term plan for the Circle Line. This plan utilizes 'heavy rail transit' which is what our current El system consists of:

Phase 1
The yellow line in the image above is what the CTA calls their 'locally preferred option'. The good news for the Sloop is that this addresses the south portion of the concept and would service our neighborhood. The CTA estimates that the creation of this (with new stations & tracks) would be $1.1Billion (which is inflated for the date of expenditure).

The pale yellow circle at the northwest portion of the image above would not be funded in this option, but would hopefully be addressed at a later date when funds are available. The thinking is that it would be better to start the project instead of waiting for all the funds to be available at once.

During the meeting the CTA mentioned that the northwest side of the circle line concept is much more challenging in terms of engineering and costs. If they were to do the entire circle line project it would cost approximately $3-4.5 Billion.

2016 Goal?
Medill had an article earlier this week that the Circle Line is still shooting to be done by 2016 regardless of the Olympics. Would the Olympics have expedited the plan? Probably, but now we don't have that date as a driving force (another sigh). Regardless, if the CTA can gain approval from the federal government to help with funding, then it still is possible this could get done by 2016, however we're not holding our breath.

For more documents from the meeting click here for the presentation and here for the boards.

Also, you can submit questions/concerns to the CTA until October 30th. Here is the link to the pdf for those.


Andy Sites said...

I find it very smart to build this in phases, but I am afraid the first phase will be very unpopular. The pink and orange lines are the least used lines, and already well connected by the pink.

Where I feel the Circle Line will shine is connecting the Orange to the Blue, and the Blue to the Red/Brown

Sloopy said...

I agree Andy, but it's the cost issue. It sounds like it would be relatively easy to build the south portion of the circle line concept. And since they mostly would get to use existing tracks it wouldn't run the risk of cost over-runs.

From the meeting, it sounds like the northwest portion would be much more challenging from an engineering standpoint (which seemed to hint at the possibility of it costing more then estimated).

Not sure if that's the exact rationale, but that's the way it sounded.