cta picAs city officials trumpet news of a multi-million dollar expansion of the CTA’s Blue Line to O’Hare, state lawmakers from the Southside are once again wondering when the CTA will keep its promises to improve mass transit in their area.

“People who live in Skokie have a faster commute downtown than residents on the South Side,” said state Senator Emil Jones III, chairman of the Senate Black Caucus. “For decades the CTA keeps saying it can’t find money for the Red Line extension, but somehow it can find nearly half a billion dollars for the Blue Line.”

Jones’ frustration boiled over this week with the CTA’s announcement of a $492 million plan to redo the Blue Line. Federal transportation officials flew in to announce a $120 million federal loan for the project.

Meanwhile, on the Southside officials are left wondering when the needs of their communities are going to be addressed. Since the 1970s community advocates, church and business leaders have pushed to extend the Red Line beyond its current stop at 95th Street. There have been CTA plans and studies, town hall meetings and training programs to prepare people for possible work.

And once again nothing has happened, even as millions of dollars are devoted to other parts of the CTA system.

“Not having access to the ‘L’ between 140th Street and 95th Street has created transportation, economic and food deserts for Southside residents,” said Jones III “Southside residents are forced to take several buses and other modes of transportation, extending travel times by hours in some cases, making it hard to get to jobs. Grocery stores and economic development are limited in areas where mostly black and brown people reside.”

The move to extend the Red Line was one of President Obama’s initiatives when he began his political career as a community organizer working for the Developing Communities Project and also as Senator, both state and federal.

Currently, the CTA is conducting an environmental study required by the federal government. Communities have already selected the route they prefer but continue facing road blocks from CTA officials.

Other senators who represent Southside residents also had these comments:

“While the Blue Line is valuable to the city’s economy, it’s irresponsible to neglect the needs of the South Side. Residents have pushed to extend the Red Line since the 1970s but have yet to see the CTA take action.” – Senator Donne E. Trotter (D-Chicago 17th District)

“I find it to be a grave injustice that the people who live in my district do not have equal access to a public transit system that would allow them greater opportunities to thrive. The unequal disbursement of funds into extending the Blue Line at the cost of the extension of the Red Line into poor, African American and Latino neighborhoods, is illustrative a great issue at hand. Extending the Red Line would be instrumental in allowing the people of the 15th district access to greater economic mobility and important resources.” – Senator Napoleon Harris III (D-Harvey)

The Red Line is the only CTA line that does not extend to the city limits. Residents on the South and far South sides of Chicago have not had easily accessible transit connections to downtown and North side jobs. I would hope that the Red Line Extension Project would be a priority given the fact that we have been waiting more than 40 years to address this inequity.”

– State Senator Jacqueline “Jacqui” Y. Collins (D-16)
State Senator Jacqueline Y. Collins serves PORTIONS of Bridgeview, Burbank, Burr Ridge, Chicago, Chicago Ridge, Countryside, Hickory Hills, Hodgkins, Hometown, Indian Head Park, Justice, Oak Lawn, Palos Hills and Willow Springs.