Chicago — U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx joined Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to announce a $35 million grant to help the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) lay the groundwork to improve service and capacity on a heavily traveled segment of its aging North Red Line and Purple Line rail transit system. The CTA is the first U.S. transit agency selected for funding through the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) new Core Capacity Grant Program, which is designed to help rail transit providers increase the volume of passengers or trains without expanding the footprint of the system.

“The City of Chicago has run on public transportation for over a century, and it is up to all of us to ensure that the many thousands of riders who cross this city by train every day to get to work, to school, to the doctor’s, or even to see the Cubs or White Sox, can continue do so safely, efficiently, and comfortably,” said Secretary Foxx.

The FTA’s $35 million Core Capacity grant supports $43.7 million to plan the initial phase of the CTA’s comprehensive 9.6-mile, $4.7 billion Red-Purple Line Modernization Project. This initial work will pave the way for constructing a track bypass immediately north of the CTA Belmont Station to reduce bottlenecks with the Brown Line; expanding and modernizing four rail stations between Leland and Ardmore Avenues, to make them ADA-compliant for the first time; upgrading rail corridor signals; and making other track and related infrastructure improvements.

According to CTA, the future enhancements are expected to result in faster, smoother service and increase passenger capacity by about 30 percent. Approximately 110,000 daily riders on this segment of the Red and Purple lines are expected to benefit from these investments, CTA says.

“While Chicago’s transit systems face state-of-good-repair challenges, we cannot ignore the equally important need to modernize the current system to meet rising demand for service now, and for years to come,” said FTA Acting Administrator Therese McMillan. “The need is equally great in cities across the country — from Washington, D.C. to San Francisco — which is why we must  keep pace with investments in a 21st century transportation systems that generations depend on.”

FTA’s Core Capacity Program was created by the current authorizing legislation, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) Act. The program is a new addition to the agency’s existing Capital Investment Grants Program (often called New Starts/Small Starts). Projects eligible for Core Capacity grants must expand capacity by at least 10 percent in existing transit corridors that are already at or above capacity today, or are expected to reach that point within five years. The FTA’s FY2014 budget includes $120 million for the Core Capacity Program; FTA is determining how to allocate the remaining funds. The President’s FY2015 budget proposal seeks an additional $275 million for the program.