Sen. Jeff Schoenberg, Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl, CTA President Forrest Claypool, Ald. Melissa Wynne (3rd Ward) and other local dignitaries gathered outside the Dempster Street ‘L’ station Thursday for a press conference to discuss some $10.3 million in upgrades to the Purple Line.
“The message it sends to everyone here in Evanston and throughout Chicago, is that we can get infrastructure done,” said Ald. Wynne, whose ward includes the Dempster Street viaduct.
Two weeks ago, construction crews swung a new viaduct into place at Greenleaf Street; the viaducts at Dempster and Grove streets are slated for installation this weekend.
Wynne remembered standing at the Dempster Street viaduct 14 years ago when she was first campaigning for office. Her father, a former U.S. Navy civil engineer, was distracted by the state of the tracks, and pointed out that the viaduct needed to be replaced.
“Now I can let my dad know that this is done,” she said.
The CTA announced that it would fund improvements to the century-old viaducts in Evanston more than 10 years ago, with money allocated by the Illinois General Assembly. Work was done on two of the viaducts, at Main and Church streets, but the CTA rerouted the funds to other work in the South Loop before all of the structures could be replaced, according to Sen. Jeff Schoenberg.
“I was absolutely furious,” he said. “I was like a dog with a bone on this commitment, and I’m glad to see that Evanston is finally seeing the success, too.”
For years, sections of the Purple Line were some of the only routes where CTA trains sometimes had to slow to a stop due to speed restrictions imposed by the older infrastructure, according to CTA President Forrest Claypool. Now, the new viaducts and improved technology installed on the lines will allow trains to move a little bit faster.
“They were in desperate need of repair,” Claypool said.
In addition to the replacement of the three viaducts at Dempster, Grove and Greenleaf streets, CTA improvements in this project include rehabilitation and replacement of the retaining walls, as well as new sidewalks, landscaping and drainage systems.
A large crowd gathered at Greenleaf Street to watch crews put in the 400,000-pound viaduct two weeks ago, while many other people watched a video stream on the city’s website.
“We hope you come out or log on again this weekend, because it should be another great show,” Claypool said.