Seven of the most shabby, leaky and all-around deplorable rail stations on the CTA Red Line north branch are in store for a “$57.4 million face lift’’ starting this summer and running through early next year, under a contract the CTA board approved today.
CTA President Forrest Claypool called the seven North Side stations – Jarvis, Morse, Granville, Thorndale, Berwyn, Argyle and Lawrence – “the worst stations we have.’’
That assessment is open to argument, because the Bryn Mawr and Sheridan stations are pretty awful, too, and they may be added to the fix-it-up list later, depending on funding, Claypool said.
Wilson, another long-neglected station, is in a different category, since it has been pegged for a total reconstruction as part of a transit-oriented economic development project in the Uptown neighborhood.
The federally funded face lift that CTA Chief Infrastructure Officer Chris Bushell outlined on Wednesday will include water-proofing; tuckpointing; installing new windows, doors, ceilings and floors on the seven station houses; improving lighting; repairing or replacing platforms; and shoring up crumbling viaducts and embankments.
Installing elevators to make all the stations wheelchair-accessible is not part of the short-term project, Bushell said.
Some stations will be closed for up to 40 days to accommodate the work, officials said, adding that a schedule has not be established yet.
Face lift surgery doesn’t last long before things start to sag and crease again. That’s why the CTA board on Wednesday also approved a separate non-competitively bid agreement with Goldman Sachs and other financial advisors to explore alternative financing options, including public-private partnerships, to help pay for an eventual, complete modernization of the Red Line/Purple Line corridor for all stations north of Belmont.
All stations would then comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Goldman would also help line up financing for the proposed Red Line south extension to 130th Street.
The seven stations that will be rehabbed this year by Kiewit Infrastructure Co. would eventually be torn down and rebuilt with larger platforms and modern amenities, officials said.
But some stations, possibly including Jarvis, Thorndale and Lawrence on the Red Line and Foster and South Boulevard in Evanston on the Purple Line, could permanently close under options the CTA is considering for its multibillion-dollar Red-Purple Modernization program. Alternate access at nearby stations would be provided, officials said.
CTA officials said they would prefer to do station improvements right the first time, but with more than $5 billion in capital-improvement needs on the Red Line alone, it’s not an option -- and the decrepit seven stations cannot remain open safely without at least some Band-Aid fixes.
The urgent improvements slated at the seven stations “allows us to keep them safe and dry” until reconstruction can be scheduled, Bushell told the CTA board.
The CTA has presented to the public several scenarios for ground-up reconstruction of North Side rail stations and tracks, from north of Belmont through Evanston, at preliminary cost estimates ranging from about $2 billion to more than $4 billion.
Two public hearings were held this week on the latest plans being considered, based in part on rider input, officials said.
In addition to possible station closings, the CTA is studying whether to designate the Loyola station for transfers between the Red and Purple Lines and whether to build a rail bridge for Brown Line trains to cross above the other rail lines at the Belmont station, which is a frequent chokepoint during rush hours.
CTA planners are also weighing an option to make the Wilson station a transfer point between Red and Purple line trains. More public meetings will be held to collect public feedback, officials said.
Meanwhile, the Goldman team’s financing evaluation will also encompass the planned southern extension of the Red Line from where it ends now at 95th Street, by another 5 1/2 miles to 130th Street.
The Red Line extension is estimated to cost at least $1.4 billion, according to the CTA.
Goldman and its partners will not be paid by the CTA in the first year of the four-year agreement. They will receive fees starting at $58,000 a month in the second year, plus a percentage of any transactions with investors.
Claypool defended his decision not to put the work out for competitive bidding.
He cited Goldman’s involvement in a light rail project in Denver, the company’s experience in transit and municipal financing as well as government-private sector partnerships.
The Developing Communities Project, which advocates for improved transit services on the South Side, on Wednesday supported the CTA’s move to hire financial advisors for the Red Line projects. But the group said such non-competitive contracting should be avoided in the future.
“It is our collective hope that CTA will take to heart the importance of equity and parity in contracting, so that the non-competitive bid winner would be encouraged to partner with responsible minority and/or women-owned financial firms,’’ said a statement issued by the Developing Communities Project and its Red Line Oversight Committee.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun