The CTA’s long-awaited Red Line Extension project is one step closer to reality. The transit agency’s board on Monday approved a $38 million contract for a final environmental impact statement and preliminary engineering services for the proposed 5-mile extension of the Red Line south to 130th Street.
The environmental analysis is a key step toward securing federal money for the massive project. A draft environmental study was released in 2016. In 2018, the CTA selected a preferred alignment for the extension, which would run alongside existing Union Pacific tracks with stations at 103rd Street, 111th Street, and Michigan Avenue at 116th Street before bearing east and ending in a station at 130th Street. Each station is expected to have a park-and-ride lot.
The extension project is estimated by CTA to cost a total of $2.3 billion and is not yet fully funded. The agency included $310 million for the project in its 2020-2024 capital budget, which CTA said in a November news release is “the single most significant funding contribution that CTA has ever made towards the RLE project.” The contract with engineering firm T. Y. Lin International Great Lakes approved Monday is enough money for three years of work with the option to extend it by up to six years, although the extensions are not funded.
The CTA says construction on the train extension could start in 2022 at the earliest, with service beginning in 2026.
At Monday’s meeting, the board also approved four contracts connected to the agency’s Red and Purple Modernization project. They call for spending up to $3.4 million on staffing a project-specific call line; customer service staff for a storefront outreach office at 5137 N. Broadway that’s expected to open in the spring; media production for explainer videos and photos targeted at neighbors and transit customers; and market research related to the RPM project.
“We want to be able to take the pulse of all of our stakeholder groups throughout the life of the project to make sure we’re meeting their needs,” said CTA spokesperson Tammy Chase.