CHICAGO — The cones are up, crews are out and demolition is getting underway in the Lakeview neighborhood in preparation for construction of the controversial “flyover” designed to ease congestion on the Red, Purple and Brown Lines.
Renderings for the flyover were first debuted in 2015 and public hearings were held last year. Despite a public outcry to keep the neighborhood and the train system as-is, pre-construction is now underway on the $2 billion Red and Purple Modernization Program (RPM), the largest construction project in CTA history.
A cluster of buildings on north Clark and others on the West Side of Wilton will be torn down this month to make way. Eventually, 10 buildings will be bulldozed by the Chicago Cubs Opening Day on April 9, and 14 buildings will taken down in total. The flyover will take Brown Line trains above the Red and Purple lines just north of the Belmont station, allowing CTA to run more trains during rush hour.
Tommy Moore has lived in the neighborhood for 16 years, and got a final glimpse of architecture which is about to be no more on Tuesday.
“It’s a double-edged sword. You hate to see old buildings go, but I understand needing to speed the trains up,” he said.
“You kind of have to make way for public development, I think it’s part of the risk of living near the train and it’s not a lot a great options but you’ve got to make progress,” CTA commuter Jeremy Kahn said.
It’s a bittersweet project to many like Ellen Hughes, who headed up the coalition to stop the Belmont flyover. A 30-year resident of this neighborhood, Hughes says the CTA has overstated the delays, which she believes are much worse in other areas. With demolition getting underway, she’s focusing on moving forward.
“I’m still going to live here. We’re fighting to keep it as nice as we can. The CTA representatives have been really great working with us and we’re not going to just sit and be angry – we’re going to do the best we can,” she said.
And while construction and the noise might be a pain, some nearby think it might also be worth it in the long run.
“It’s going to definitely make everything seem a little newer; kind of like the Wilson project, that neighborhood is going to be up-and-coming now that the CTA is a lot more updated,” resident Michael Lavallee said. “So I think it’s going to be the exact same thing for Belmont.”