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Opening a June 2 meeting about a possible new Yellow Line stop in southwest Evanston, Alderman Ann Rainey mentioned one of the Eighth Ward’s distinctions she is not especially proud of.
“I’m the alderman of the only ward in Cook County where a CTA train goes through from one end to the other without ever stopping,” Ald. Rainey said. She and City officials met with about 60 residents at the Levy Senior Center, 300 Dodge Ave., to discuss a proposed Yellow Line stop at either Ridge, Asbury or Dodge Avenue.
A market-demand study initiated by the City, the Village of Skokie and the Regional Transportation Authority suggested that a new station could increase work trips on the Yellow Line by 25-45 percent. According to the findings, a new stop might persuade about 1,000 additional passengers to ride the train each day. But the study did not ascertain any advantages of one station over another, so an engineering feasibility study to evaluate the practicability of each location was recommended.
Ald. Rainey emphasized that the project was still in the very early stages. “The realization and the construction of the station, if it’s determined to be feasible, are far off,” she said. “Don’t hold your breath, but that’s not to say that this is not going to happen.”
City Director of Transportation and Engineering Paul Schneider opened by mentioning that each of the potential locations was once home to a train station when the line was part of the Niles Center transit service from 1925 to 1948.
“Clearly there’s a history of stations along this line, and support along this line,” Mr. Schneider said. He added that the City was consulting with the Village of Skokie, which recently broke ground on a new station near the technology park at Oakton Street and Skokie Boulevard.
“We actually went over and talked to Skokie about their experience,” he said. “It was a long process for them…[but] they’re actually quite satisfied and happy with that.”
The feasibility study is funded by a Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality grant from the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning. The total budget is about $275,000, of which $220,000 would be refunded to the City, according to Schneider.
“Currently there is no funding beyond that,” he added. “We need to keep moving forward and seeking various funding opportunities to keep this project rolling and moving ahead.”
According to CMAP’s website, the City has applied for just over $24 million in federal funds for the project. Residents at the forum were largely interested in the prospect of a Yellow Line station in southwest Evanston, though many had concerns about issues such as safety conditions and noise.
Richard and Kay Nemanich, who live on Brummel Street, both welcomed the prospect of a new stop. “People who live this far west simply have no option but to take the 97 bus to Howard Street, which is not rapid transit,” said Mr. Nemanich, who added the only other choices were “to walk, or to drive your car and take up a parking space in east Evanston in order to get on the train.”
Ms. Nemanich added, “I know that people think that safety is a concern and that people think that in some way trains are going to bring crime to the neighborhood.
“I ride that train every day,” she added. “I am a small individual, and I never feel threatened.”
But Mary Ann Naghski, who lives near the proposed Dodge Avenue site, voiced concerns about the potential noise and disruptions that might come along with a new station. “When I purchased my home, I knew the El went by and that’s fine, but now it’s a whole different life that you’re asking me to do,” she said.
Ald. Rainey asked if Ms. Naghski did have a preference for a station location.
“I don’t, but I guess my preference would be not out my bedroom window,” answered Ms. Naghski.
Officials at the meeting reminded attendees several times that public opinion is being solicited about the proposal. A website, www.evanstonyellowlinestation.org, accepts Evanston residents’ comments and suggestions about the various locations.
“This project, probably more than any other I’ve worked on in the City, is really going to ride its success on public input,” Mr. Schneider said.
Two more public meetings are planned before the end of 2011. One in August will offer more specific details about the proposed locations, while the third, to be held near the end of the year, will discuss the final location.