CTA Ready to Iron Out Kink in Red/Purple Line

Any time a transportation agency tries to build something fast and sleek, there always seems to be someone standing in the way. Sometimes, literally.

Think French farmers with shotguns who didn’t want the Eurostar zipping through their fields. Or Texas dirt ranchers who think high-speed rail is an infringement on their freedom. Or, in Chicago, where there are a number of places where what is now the CTA had to bend its rails to the will of people or places in the way.

The rightward shift in the CTA Red and Purple Line tracks north of the Belmont station.  (Via Apple Maps.)
The rightward shift in the CTA Red and Purple Line tracks north of the Belmont station. (Via Apple Maps.)

Two of those bends will soon be history.

Like a cat stretching after a good nap, the CTA held a ceremonial groundbreaking yesterday for a project to work out the kinks in the Red and Purple Lines just north of the Belmont station.

You’ve seen the CTA at work here recently. A few months ago, it opened a magnificent, if slightly scary, new flyover to fly the Brown Line over the Red and Purple lines when it has to make a left turn on its journey northward. Previously, Red and Purple traffic would come to a standstill while the Brown put on its blinker, waited for the all-clear, and inched slowly across two other sets of tracks. It was a built-in excuse for being late coming home from work.

Today, Red and Purple trains can move northward and southward without being interrupted by their Brown buddies. But that doesn’t mean it’s a completely smooth ride through the Lake View neighborhood. There’s the problem of a pair of bends in the line which force the trains to slow down and jog eastward, then west again as they cross Clark Street.

But don’t blame Chicago’s favorite sportsball-themed drunkenness zone. The sway in the way was caused a hundred-and-something years ago by the Vautravers Building, an 1894 apartment building that refused to bend to the will of the mighty Northwestern Elevated Railroad. It took forever and a day, but the CTA finally got its way, buying and demolishing 14 properties in the line of fire, and last year came in with cranes and trucks and noise to shove the now-historic apartment building 30 feet to the left.

Next month, the entire third-of-a-mile stretch of transit will be yanked down and rebuilt, starting with the southbound side over the next two years. Then the northbound side after that. The whole thing is expected to be finished in 2025.

Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at chicagoarchitectureinfo@gmail.com.

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