Blue Line track, station renovation set to begin
by CYRYL JAKUBOWSKI
Sections of the Chicago Transit Authority Blue Line will be closed beginning the weekend of March 21 to 24 as part of a $492 million construction program that is designed to provide faster travel times and improved stations.
The "Your New Blue Line" improvements include track and station work along the 12.5-mile stretch of the Blue Line between Grand and O’Hare stations. Closings will occur over seven weekends between the Western and Logan Square stations and over three weekends between the Damen and Western stations.
Logan Square to Western will be closed from May 9 to 12, May 30 to June 2, June 6 to 9 and 20 to 23, July 25 to 28 and Aug. 8 to 11. Western to Damen will be closed on April 4 to 7, 11 to 14 and 25 to 28.
The tracks will be closed at 10 p.m. Friday and will reopen by 4 a.m. Monday. Shuttle buses will transport Blue Line riders between stations.
The shuttle buses will run continuously and will stop at each station affected by the line closing to pick up and drop off passengers.
The project, which will take about 4 years to complete, is the most extensive on the Blue Line since the line was extended from Jefferson Park to O’Hare International Airport in 1983, according to the CTA.
The project will feature track and station improvements between the Grand Avenue station and the Cumberland Avenue station and upgrades to the signal system between Jefferson Park and O’Hare.
The project will include station renovations at the Grand, Chicago, Division, Damen, California, Logan Square and Jefferson Park, concrete platform repairs and a new elevator at the Addison station, and repairs at the Irving Park, Montrose, Harlem and Cumberland stations.
Work on the Grand, Chicago and Division stations will include new entry kiosks at each stair opening, granite stair treads and risers, glazed wall tiles, repainted ceilings, new lights, an epoxy finish on the concrete floors, plaster ceilings, stainless steel exit rotating gates, new escalators, granite pavers, new doors, furniture and new light fixtures in a steel shroud over the platform.
The stations opened with the Dearborn Subway in 1951, many elements, including escalators, finishes and entrances, date to when the stations opened.
Work on the Damen station will include terrazzo floors, new lighting, plaster ceilings, a new agent’s booth, replaced stairs and flooring, public art, a bike storage floor, entrance improvements and furniture, repainted canopies and railing. The Damen station opened in 1895, and the elevated structure and station are original.
Work on Western station will include the installation of public art at the station house, an upgraded station house entrance plaza, new cafe tables, bike storage, LED lighting and replaced roofing, handrails and guardrails on the north and south stairs. The station was rebuilt in 2000 to 2001.
Work on the California station will include terrazzo floors, plaster ceilings, new lighting, a new agent’s booth, new paint, bike racks, furniture and a new armor deck. The station opened in 1895.
Work on the Logan Square station will include new entrances, upgraded electrical power, refurbished elevators and mixed uses on an 11,640-square-foot site. The station was designed by the architecture firm Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, and the Logan Square subway station replaced an 1895 elevated station.
Work on the Addison station will feature a new elevators and repairs to the damaged concrete platform. The station was opened as part of the Kennedy Expressway extension in 1970.
Work on the Jefferson Park station will include bus turnaround improvements, a new entry canopy, new LED lights, public art, paving, a new curtain wall, exterior repairs, new escalators and stairs, new lighting, a new canopy skylight system and refinished surfaces. The station was designed by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, it was the terminus of the original Kennedy extension of the Milwaukee elevated line, and it opened in 1970.
Work on stations from Irving Park to Cumberland will include repairs to damaged concrete station platforms, replacement of a deteriorated curtain wall to the station house and platform at Harlem and Cumberland, new skylights at the platforms at Irving Park, Montrose, Harlem and Cumberland, and minimal renewal at Irving Park, Montrose, Harlem and Cumberland.
Major track and infrastructure repairs will be performed along the elevated tracks and at the Dearborn and Kimball subway systems.
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 CTA.
The first phase of the project will involve replacing wooden rail ties, tie plates and other track materials on the Milwaukee elevated track structure between the Damen and Logan Square stations, a section of line that opened in 1895 and still sits on the original structure.
The "Your New Blue" program will upgrade 13 stations, including adding a new elevator at Addison, improving tracks and signals, installing new water-management systems and repairs to ensure dry and clean subway stations, and upgrading traction power to improve service and reliability, according to the CTA.
Ridership on the O’Hare Branch has grown rapidly, with more than 25 million station entries in 2012, according to the CTA. Weekday ridership has grown 25 percent over the past 5 years and 33 percent over the past 10 year.
Annual ridership on the O’Hare Branch increased by 6.3 million rides over the past 10 years, the second highest for any branch behind Red North Main, the section of the Red Line north of Belmont which added 7 million rides annually during that period.
Funding for the project is being provided by a variety of local, state and federal sources, including $86 million from the state "Jump Start" program.
In addition to the recently completed $425 million Red Line South reconstruction, the CTA will begin building a new terminal at 95th Street Red Line for $240 million, rebuilding the Wilson station on the Red Line for $203 million and working with the Chicago Department of Transportation to complete a new Cermak-McCormick Place elevated Green Line station for $50 million by the end of the year.