April 20, 2009

Mayor Daley says Goal is to Eliminate Slow Zones 

Mayor Richard M. Daley, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin and CTA officials said today work has begun on the first major transit project to be paid for with funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act – replacement of more than seven miles of track to eliminate slow zones in the Blue Line’s Dearborn subway.

The $87.8 million project, from Division on the O’Hare branch to Clinton on the Forest Park branch, began over the weekend and is expected to be substantially completed by the end of the year.

The Dearborn subway track replacement project will create approximately 400 jobs locally over the course of the work through the construction contractor.
“The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act gives every city in the nation many opportunities to create jobs and improve the quality of life for residents during these tough economic times,” Daley said in a news conference held above ground at the Blue Line Division station.

“As riders of the Blue Line know, CTA has been working hard to remove all the slow zones, and I want to thank those customers for their patience,” the Mayor said.

“Last year, we did what we could afford to do and focused on the sections of track that were in the worst shape. This stimulus money allows us to go back in and replace everything that we didn’t get to replace last year,” he said.

Under the project, crews will replace deteriorated wooden half ties with concrete half ties, and replace running rail and contact (third) rail to remove existing slow zones and help prevent the creation of new slow zones.  The work will be done in three phases, with the first portion taking place from just north of the Division station to just south of the Grand station.

“Replacing ties and track to eliminate existing slow zones and prevent slow zones from developing will significantly improve rail service for customers.  Because the work is being funded by stimulus money, it has the added benefit of creating jobs to aid the ailing economy,” said CTA President Richard L. Rodriguez.

“There is no shortage of repair and maintenance work to perform on our system and we appreciate the funding that has come our way in recent weeks,” he said.

Senator Durbin pointed out that the federal funding used for this Blue Line project does not include any local matching requirement, which has allowed the CTA to fast track this project.

“That means that 400 people to work here in Chicago this construction season. Those are jobs that cannot be outsourced and, with one out of every five construction workers currently out of work, they are being created at a time when the industry and the local economy need them most.  The work done here will also have benefits in other parts of the country hard hit by the economy – the steel, ties, track and concrete are all made in the U.S.A.," Durbin said.

CTA cautioned that the construction work will impact weekend travel hours and require suspension of rail service between some stations, but said the end result will be faster trips and more reliable service.

The first leg of work will begin April 17 and continue through August.  Work is scheduled for weekends only and will affect rail service at the Division, Chicago and Grand Blue Line stations. 

Demolition work began the weekend of April 17 and will continue the weekend of April 24, requiring single track operation of northbound Blue Line trains from Grand to Damen.

Beginning in May, Blue Line rail service will be suspended between Western/Milwaukee and Clark/Lake on many weekends, but bus shuttles will operate as a substitute for Blue Line rail service.

During the next phases of work crews will focus on the track from Clark/Lake to south of Grand, followed by work from Clark/Lake to Clinton.

In 2007, CTA focused on eliminating existing slow zones in the Dearborn street subway that were having a major impact on travel time for riders.  With the funds available at the time CTA was able to complete work that allowed trains to resume normal speeds.

"At a recent Congressional hearing I was asked by Members of Congress if the CTA would be able to spend its economic recovery money within 90 days of federal allocation of funds," said Carole L. Brown, CTA Board Chair.

"I emphatically answered ‘yes’, and the quick commencement of this Blue Line project just weeks after the FTA apportioned funds March 5th shows the get-it-done approach that the CTA and the City of Chicago take when it comes to improving infrastructure for the benefit of citizens in the region,” she said.

The stimulus funds available now will enable the CTA to completely renew all the remaining track in the Dearborn subway.  Track replacement will address issues with sections of track that are deteriorating and would soon become slow zones.

“We all know that a modern public transportation system is essential to the future of our state, our region and our city. It is vital to our economic security and to our ability to recruit new businesses and create new jobs,” Daley said.

“So the total of about $240 million that CTA will receive through the federal stimulus program is most welcome, and I want to thank Senator Durbin for his continued hard work in helping Chicago get its fair share of federal support,” he said.

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