Saturday, January 27, 2018

How long it can take (sometimes never) for municipal projects to become reality

I once wrote a commentary essentially praising Chicago Transit Authority officials for moving forward on a long-discussed project to improve mass transit access to the far South Side by extending the Red Line trains from 95th Street all the way potentially to within one mile of the city’s southern border.
A Red Line stop of the future. Perhaps some day by 2026. Image provided by city of Chicago
As one who was born in the far southeast corner of Chicago, still has relatives there and thinks of the 10th Ward as the “old neighborhood,” I was pleased to see that something could happen to make it easier for those people to have access to the rest of Chicago.

SO I SUPPOSE I’m pleased once again to learn the CTA took actions to advance the project a little further. They have picked a specific route for the trains to follow once they get to the current end-of-the-line at 95th Street and the middle of the Dan Ryan Expressway.

It is one that will take people all the way to 130th Street (at the Bishop Ford Freeway), giving residents of Altgeld Gardens and the Hegewisch neighborhood some train access. It also will make stops at 103rd and 111th streets – adding further access to people who live Far South in Chicago.
Will it ever arrive?

Yet that original commentary I wrote was back in August of 2009. I also have written about various community forums throughout the years in which those of us who regard a Sout’ Side neighborhood such as Bridgeport as just another place up north expressed our support.

Yet here it is, some nine years later, and still no earth has been turned toward the eventual goal of “el” trains connecting places like Hegewisch and Pullman to downtown.

IN FACT, THE Chicago Tribune reported Friday that the soonest actual construction could begin would be some time in 2022, with the actual project taking about four years for completion.
This will NEVER arrive

Meaning that if I’m lucky, I might see this project become reality some time after I hit the age of 60. This project is taking time to complete, and keep in mind that the opposition to this isn’t as intense (some argue that doing anything on the South Side is a waste of time and money, but they’re nitwits) as some other projects have become.

One could easily see the ongoing debate over the need of a third major airport for the Chicago area, where proponents have sort of settled on Peotone, Ill., in Will County, while critics have argued for doing nothing and thus far have been successful.

That project has been under speculation since the early 1970s and had the process narrowed down to four sites by the late 1980s when the opponents really stepped up their hostile talk.

I REMEMBER ONCE hearing then-Peotone village President Richard Benson tell me he had given up even following the airport talk about his municipality. I thought he was being short-sighted and silly.

Heck, that was back in 2000. Some 18 years later, nothing is closer. Perhaps he really WAS wiser than I. In that particular project, it seems that everybody is determined to have nothing happen that a political opponent could take credit for.

Resulting in the lack of activity. Never mind the actual issue of whether Chicago’s aviation needs would benefit from another full-scale airport.

Of course, a Peotone airport theoretically could be revived. Moreso than the one-time Crosstown Expressway – the route that supposedly would vastly improve transit through Chicago.

BACK IN THE 1960s and 1970s, there was serious debate about a highway following 75th Street to Cicero Avenue, eventually merging into the Kennedy Expressway. There are those who argue it would have significantly reduced the constant jams along the Dan Ryan.
How many would have viewed it as victory if they could have thwarted construction altogether?
But that project never got off the ground, and eventually the federal government withdrew its support in the early 1980s.

Perhaps by that definition, we ought to consider the late 1980s construction of a Chicago White Sox ballpark a success. Talk had been going on in the mid-1980s, and threats in 1988 to move the ballclub to St. Petersburg, Fla., motivated the politicos to act. The ballpark now known as Guaranteed Rate Field is 28 years old.

It's too bad that Hegewisch can't do some political blackmail like the White Sox did to speed up the process toward a Red Line extension. Because I'm sure there are some political people who, if they could have had their way, would still have the ballpark construction argument continuing to this day.


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