CTA President Forrest Claypool and Evanston officials gathered this morning to celebrate the near-completion of a decades-long effort to replace crumbling, century-old Purple Line viaducts.
Standing by the massive machines that will roll the new Dempster Street viaduct into place this weekend, Claypool said that come Monday, riders will have two completely new viaducts that will eliminate slow zones where trains had to almost roll to a stop to cross safely.
State Sen. Jeff Schoenberg of Evanston said he'd often wondered as he passed through one of the viaducts whether it would still be there when he came back home.
Schoenberg said he'd been "like a dog with a bone" trying to secure funding for the project.
He said that as part of the 1999 "Illinois First" infrastructure funding project seven CTA viaducts were supposed to have been replaced, but that after one viaduct here was built, then CTA President Frank Krusi "hijacked" the funds for work on stations in the South Loop.
Top: CTA President Forrest Claypool speaks to reporters as County Commissioner Larry Suffredin, State Sen. Jeff Schoenberg and Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl stand behind him. Above: Workers continue the job of securing the new viaduct to the huge trucks that will roll it into place over the weekend.
Funds for a second viaduct here were secured "after a great deal of lobbying," Schoenberg said, but it wasn't until two years ago that the state finally approved a new capital plan that included money for the three viaducts being installed this summer.
Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl said Schoenberg, who is retiring from the legislature this year, "has been utterly fabulous" in working to secure the funding.
And former Mayor Joan Barr, who's been out of office for 19 years, said the city had been pressing for replacement viaducts even back to the time when she was an alderman in the late 1970s.
Alderman Melissa Wynne, whose 3rd Ward includes the viaduct sites, said that though "lots of people feel government is in gridlock and things just can't get done," the viaduct project demonstrats that it can work together to improve the community.