A proposed $3.6-billion extension of the Chicago Transit Authority’s (CTA) Red Line into communities on the city’s far South Side is not a done deal, but a strategy to pay for about a quarter of it has moved forward.
The Chicago City Council on Dec. 14 voted to establish a CTA Red Line Transit TIF District, a new transit tax-increment financing district. It is expected to generate about $959 million to fund the project that would extend the Red Line 5.6 miles from the existing station at 95th Street and the Dan Ryan Expressway to 130th Street.
The idea to extend the Red Line past 95th Street was first discussed in the late 1960s by then-Mayor Richard J. Daley, but was never realized.
The proposed project includes building four stations at 103rd Street near Eggleston Avenue, 111th Street near Eggleston Avenue, Michigan Avenue near 116th Street, and at 130th Street near the Altgeld Gardens public housing complex. It would also include park-and-ride facilities at each station and a new railcar and storage facility at 120th Street.
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“This project will be one of the most critical investments in CTA’s history, and a transformative investment for the far South Side community,” said CTA spokesperson Felicia Matthews in an email. “It will provide long-awaited and much needed connection to jobs, education, commerce, and opportunity, while also serving as a catalyst for economic development.”
The creation of the Transit TIF will allow it to leverage up to $2.2 billion in Federal Transit Administration funding for the extension. The project has already received $30 million through the U.S. Dept. of Transportation, and the CTA is pursuing additional federal, state, county, and Regional Transportation Authority financial support, according to the city.
The Red Line TIF District includes properties located within one-half mile of existing and proposed Red Line right-of-way between Madison and 130th Street.
Alderman Pat Dowell (3rd Ward) objects not to the project itself, but because residents in her ward would shoulder the burden of financing much of it. Her ward would not have any stations but it, along with the 4th, 11th 25th and 42nd wards, will be included in the TIF.
“I object to the method the city is pursuing to finance the project,” she said in an email. “Five wards, including mine, should not be responsible for paying for the city's entire portion of this massive development.”
“Everyone needs to have skin in the game,” she added. “That means the City of Chicago, the State of Illinois, and Cook County should all contribute to the project.”
When a City of Chicago TIF district is created, the total equalized assessed value of the properties within the district establish a base value of the TIF and, as development in the area occurs, new property taxes are generated from a presumed increase in equalized assessed value above the TIF district’s base. Those are the funds that would be used for the Red Line Extension. Assessed values of properties can increase during the 24 years of a TIF, but the amount of property tax dollars the schools, parks, county, and other taxing bodies get out of those increases does not increase over that time in favor of those dollars going to the TIF district project.
The estimated start date for construction is 2025, with work to be completed in 2029.
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