Restore the E. 63rd Street Green Line
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We demand the Chicago Transit Authority restore Green Line elevated rail service to Jackson Park over E. 63rd Street from Cottage Grove Avenue to Stony Island Avenue.
There is insufficient access to Jackson Park. While we welcome the Obama Presidential Center and some companion projects for renovating Jackson Park itself, by themselves these plans are too small. Without restoring the ‘L’ we have no viable infrastructure for welcoming people to the Jackson Park vicinity. CTA buses and Metra Electric trains cannot possibly carry the expected increased traffic to the Hyde Park, Woodlawn, and South Shore areas. Likewise, existing roadways cannot adequately be retrofitted to accommodate changing traffic patterns resulting from the proposed closure of S. Cornell Drive through Jackson Park. Restoring the Green Line over E. 63rd Street not only offers an above-grade solution to alleviate automobile traffic but also offers connection points to CTA Buses, Metra Electric trains, and the CTA ‘L’ system at large in ways that no other proposal can.
There is insufficient connection between Jackson Park and the surrounding Community Areas and the University of Chicago. While CTA Buses, Metra Electric trains, and S. Lake Shore Drive funnel passengers along the Lakefront, none of the existing infrastructure effectively connects the South Side Lakefront with points west. Without restoring the ‘L’ between Cottage Grove Avenue and Stony Island Avenue we have no way to carry people through the heart of Woodlawn. Likewise, residents, students, and commuters to Hyde Park, Woodlawn, and South Shore who do not live, study, or work near the Lakefront arterial infrastructure have no way of accessing the ‘L’ to travel to and from other parts of Chicagoland. Restoring the E. 63rd Street branch of the Green Line with strategically placed stations not only encourages visitors to Jackson Park to take in the surrounding neighborhoods but also enables our South Side neighbors to move more freely to, from, and within Woodlawn and steps from the University of Chicago in ways they have not been able since the latest portions of the ‘L’ east of Cottage Grove were razed 20 years ago.
There has never been a better time. The ‘L’ should not have been torn down in the first place. Now is our chance to put it back. While Jackson Park and the ‘L’ itself were originally designed to welcome the world to Chicago beginning with the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, the removal of much of Jackson Park’s infrastructure over the course of the twentieth century has all but voided that invitation. The ‘L’ is our city’s greatest artifact of the Fair, and the eventual demolition of the Jackson Park Green Line during the 1980s and 1990s is the greatest evidence of how deeply our city needs to recapture Daniel Burnham’s clarion call to “make no small plans.” Not only do the new Obama Presidential Center and Obama Foundation wish to welcome the world back to Chicago’s South Side, to “strengthen the economic climate in our community,” and to “re-establish the South Side’s connection to the Lagoon and Lake Michigan,” but the Center will also occupy a portion of the site of the Transportation Building where the ‘L’ terminal stood in 1893. Restoring the ‘L’ not only allows us to realize more fully the Obamas’ shared vision for the South Side’s future but also gives us the opportunity to correct past mistakes and honor past successes at the same time.
Therefore, we call for the following provisions for restoring Green Line elevated rail service to Jackson Park over E. 63rd Street from Cottage Grove Avenue to Stony Island Avenue:
- A joint planning committee be formed, comprised of an equal number of elected or appointed government officials and specially elected or appointed local representatives from Hyde Park, South Shore, Washington Park, and Woodlawn plus one representative each on behalf of the Obama Foundation and the University of Chicago.
- As much as possible, the original materials currently stored at the 61st Street Yard be salvaged and used in construction.
- Two-way boarding be re-established at King.
- At least two new, strategically located stations be installed between Cottage Grove and Stony Island, as was the case with stops originally at Lexington (now University) and Madison (now Dorchester).
- An additional study be conducted toward reinstating either or both the 58th and 61st stations or otherwise strategically located stops between Garfield and Cottage Grove.
- Designs for all new and renovated stations celebrate their locations and are accessible to persons with disabilities.
- Designs for the new Stony Island terminus and the new bridge over the Illinois Central Railroad right of way be harmonized with and incorporated into the plans for the Obama Presidential Center.
- In lieu of tax dollars, as much of the needed funding as possible come from other sources including but not limited to the Obama Foundation and other public–private partnerships.
Obama Foundation. “The Obama Presidential Center.” Accessed July 10, 2017. https://www.obama.org/the-center/
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