A proposed CTA Yellow Line stop in south Evanston took another step toward completion as City Council voted recently to accept the report generated by an engineering feasibility study. The study selected a proposed stop at the Asbury Street bridge over proposed stops at Ridge or Dodge avenues because of costs and other practicalities. The next step is t o seek funding for the project.
The Yellow Line has been passing through Evanston without allowing Evanstonians a chance to get on board since the Skokie Swift began operating in 1964. The City began investigating a new station in earnest with a market-demand study that was completed in 2007, according to the Feasibility Study Report.
The feasibility study sought to recommend a preferred location at Ridge Avenue, Asbury Avenue or Dodge Avenue. Ridge Avenue was eliminated early in the process because of its relative proximity to the Howard Street station and the South Boulevard Purple Line station. Another limited factor for Ridge Avenue was the narrow right-of-way, something familiar to everyone who drives Ridge Avenue.
Surveys conducted as a part of the study consistently favored Dodge Avenue over both Ridge Avenue and Asbury Avenue stops. When Ridge Avenue was eliminated, the survey favored Dodge by a 249 to 126 vote. Tom Coleman of Parsons Brinckerhoff, the consultants retained to conduct the feasibility study, laid out the reasons for selecting Asbury Avenue over Dodge Avenue despite the survey results.
Ridership estimates are actually higher for Asbury Avenue, he said, based on a higher population within a one-half-mile range. Almost 5,000 more people live that close to Asbury Avenue, due in no small part to the fact that James Park takes up about a fourth of such area near the Dodge Avenue station. The study estimates 263,000 annual riders at Asbury Avenue to 203,000 at Dodge Avenue.
Another fact is cost. At $23 million, a station at Asbury Avenue station would cost about $10 million less than one at Dodge Avenue, at $33 million.
The Dodge Avenue location would be costlier because it would be on a bridge, and the current bridge would have to be replaced in order to support a station. A station on Asbury Avenue would be below grade, making for a less expensive construction.
Asbury Avenue is wide enough to create bus-turn-off lanes easily, and its connection to the Western Avenue bus corridor is another point in its favor. In the end, the evaluation criteria strongly favored the Asbury Avenue location, according to the feasibility study.
Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, asked about the possibility of the City’s recapturing some of the funds expended to build the station. Mr. Coleman said the CTA allowed Apple to pay for much of the North Avenue/ Clybourn stop, located near the North Avenue Apple Store, so possibilities exist. The CTA may also allow Evanston to participate in operating the station, something forbidden by labor agreements in the past but now being investigated as a possibility.
Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, asked that Council accept the report “and allow us to take the next step which is to seek funding.” The vote was unanimous in favor of her motion.