The last in a series of four meetings seeking public participation in planning the renovation of the northern section of the CTA’s Red Line and the Purple Line took place on Jan. 27 at the Fleetwood-Jourdain Center. Citizens were urged by the City, Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl, and others to attend and participate to make Evanston’s wishes known. At stake is the potential closure of two stations, South Boulevard and Foster Street.

The renovation project is in its early stages, as the CTA has not yet selected a basic plan. Six options were presented for public comment, including one labeled “no action.” Three of the options presented would close both the South and Foster stations, but attempt to make up for their loss by adding entrances to the remaining stations to provide expanded access. All options other than “no action” would make all stations fully handicapped accessible.

Estimated costs for the modernization plans range from $2.4 billion for “basic rehabilitation” to $4.2 billion for “modernization of all 4 tracks.” More complete information about the options can be found at the CTA’s website and follow the “Scoping Booklet” link.

Six of nine aldermen attended the Thursday meeting, along with the Mayor and numerous City Staff. About 15 CTA personnel were available to answer questions and take public comment, with each of the six alternatives displayed as a “station” at which questions could be asked. The CTA took video and audio comments from attendees, as well as old-fashioned hand-written comment cards. Adding to the atmosphere, several Chicago news outlets brought their cameras along to report the story.

As might be expected, Evanstonians were not shy with their comments. Even though the accommodation of longer, eight-car trains (Purple Line trains are currently a maximum of six cars long) would require closing Foster and South, residents were almost universally opposed to the closure. A sample of other sentiments overheard included opposition to adding stops on the Purple Line express at Loyola and Wilson; a proposed connection between the Central Street station and the hospital’s parking deck; criticism of a lack of coordination between the CTA and RTA visioning process; and criticism of a lack of access to St. Francis Hospital.

The CTA said it promises to take public comment into consideration in choosing which alternative to pursue. Regardless of the choice, two issues remain unresolved and unanswerable: timing and cost. No one knows where the money is coming from, and no one could provide even the broadest guess as to timing other than one CTA representative who cautiously guessed “about 20 years” when asked how long the project would take to complete.