By TONIA HILL
Area residents are seeking support from the community for a newly launched petition to restore service for the East 63rd Street Green Line “L” to Stony Island Avenue.
Organizers of the petition believe that there is “insufficient access” to Jackson Park and feel it is necessary to restore the line further east in the wake of new development that is on the way in the park, which includes the Barack Obama Presidential Center (OPC) and other park-related improvements.
“The south side is where the “L” was born, and it had three different lines removed,” said Rueben Lillie, Hyde Park resident and one of three organizers who designed the petition. “It’s the only part of the city that’s had lines removed while other parts of the city have gotten lines.”
Organizers are looking to increase access to Jackson Park, improve the connection between Jackson Park, the University of Chicago (U. of C.) and other surrounding areas, and seize the moment of the future investment in and around Jackson Park.
“Without restoring the “L” we have no viable infrastructure for welcoming people to the Jackson Park vicinity,” the group stated in its online petition. “CTA buses and Metra Electric trains cannot possibly carry the expected increased traffic to the Hyde Park, Woodlawn, and South Shore areas.”
In May, the Obama Foundation released its economic impact assessment estimating the financial impact the OPC would have on the South Side, the city of Chicago, and the state.
The OPC, according to the assessment, will attract 625,000-760,000 visitors on a yearly basis.
Specifically, the group is calling for a joint planning committee to be formed with an equal number of elected and government officials and elected community members from Hyde Park, South Shore, Washington Park, and Woodlawn plus one representative from U. of C. and the Barack Obama Foundation.
Also, the group is asking for two-way boarding to be re-established at the King Drive station, two new stations placed between Cottage Grove and Stony Island avenues, and other demands.
The Jackson Park branch of the Green Line opened in 1892 and was created to serve the World’s Columbian Exposition that was hosted in Jackson Park in 1893.
Until 1982, the line traveled along 63rd Street to Stony Island Avenue for riders to reach Jackson Park.
Over time segments of the branch were removed.
In 1982, the Stony Island Station was closed, and the line ended at 63rd/University.
In 1994, the 63rd/University station was closed as well as the 61st Street Station and the 58th Street Station.
Currently, the Jackson Park branch ends at 63rd/Cottage Grove.
Organizers are also asking for a study to be conducted toward reinstating one or both the 58th and 61st stations or other located stops between Garfield and Cottage Grove.
Groundbreaking for the OPC that will house a library holding the presidential archives, a museum focusing on the Obama presidency is expected to begin in late 2018 and construction of the building will take about four years
The group will be present at tonight’s community meeting at 6 p.m. at the South Shore Cultural Center, 7059 S. Shore Drive, to speak with residents about the petition to gain more support.
Lillie wants Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the CTA to have reached a decision on restoring the line by the eve of the 20th anniversary of the line being torn down.
As of Herald press time, the petition has 358, signatures just shy of their goal of 500.
To view the petition visit: www.change.org/p/rahm-emanuel-cityofchicago-org-restore-the-e-63rd-street-green-line