Blue Line work project on tap
by BRIAN NADIG
A $492 million improvement project for the CTA Blue Line’s O’Hare Branch is intended to provide faster travel times, but riders will be inconvenienced by temporary station closings during the construction.
When recent improvements were made to the Brown Line, some CTA stations were closed for several months, but the length of closings for the Blue Line project is not known, according to Owen Brugh, the chief of staff for Alderman John Arena.
"We believe any closings will be temporary in nature, but we have not seen a production schedule," Brugh said. Shuttle buses will transport Blue Line riders from one station to another when stations are closed, he said.
The project, which will take about 4 years to complete, is the most expensive on the Blue Line since the line was extended from Jefferson Park to the O’Hare International Airport in 1983, Brugh said. The project will feature track and station improvements along a 12.5-mile stretch of the Blue Line between the Grand Avenue station and the Cumberland Avenue station and upgrades to the signal system between Jefferson Park and O’Hare.
The project may have to be coordinated with a state plan to rebuild the Montrose Avenue bridge over the Kennedy Expressway in 2015, Brugh said. The only access to the Montrose station is from the bridge.
The project will include extensive station renovations at the Grand, Chicago, Division, Damen, California, Logan Square and Jefferson Park stations, concrete platform repairs and a new elevator at the Addison station, and repairs at the Irving Park, Montrose, Harlem and Cumberland stations.
In addition, track improvements near O’Hare and in the Rosemont rail yard will help reduce delays, and wireless infrastructure upgrades in the tunnels will give riders more reliable voice, data and Web service, according to the mayor’s press office.
There were more than 25 million station entries along the O’Hare branch of the Blue Line in 2012, according to the CTA. Weekday ridership has grown 25 percent over the past 5 years and 33 percent over the past 10 years.
"Like the Red Line South project we just completed on time and within budget, the Blue Line plan is far-reaching and long overdue and will help meet increasing demand," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a statement.
Construction is scheduled to start next year, and funding for the project is expected to come from local, state and federal sources.