December 22, 2004

As CTA's Rehabilitation Project Nears Completion, Weekend and Weekday Service are Added

The CTA's ambitious $483 million Blue Line Cermak branch rehabilitation project has given CTA customers eight, newly renovated, fully accessible stations, a faster, smoother ride and, beginning Saturday, January 1, additional service on weekends and weekdays.

The rehabilitation project on this branch, which began in 2001, will be completed in late January. The station work and majority of the track work has been completed allowing customers to enjoy the state-of-the-art station and platform amenities, and faster trips that get customers to the Loop in 25 minutes or less instead of the 45 minutes it took prior to reconstruction.

"The fully rebuilt line will provide CTA the opportunity to work with the community to encourage more people to ride," said CTA President Frank Kruesi. ?To that end, beginning January 1, we will be adding service on weekends and operating for slightly longer periods during the week."

Service will run every 15 minutes on Saturday from 4 a.m. until 1 a.m., and every 20 minutes on Sunday from 4 a.m. until 1 a.m. On weekdays, service hours will be extended until 1 a.m. instead of 12:45 a.m. In order to achieve the additional weekend service for the Cermak branch, the CTA will alternate trains between the Forest Park branch and the Cermak branch. The schedule on the Forest Park branch will be adjusted to accommodate less frequent service during those hours.

?Investing in the CTA's fleet and facilities remains a top priority," said Chicago Transit Board Chairman Carole Brown. ?Without the capital investment made in the Blue Line, as well as in other areas of the CTA's infrastructure, the system would fall into a state of disrepair and jeopardize the vital components that make public transportation safe, reliable and convenient."

Eight stations ? 54th/Cermak, Kostner, Pulaski, Central Park, Kedzie, California, Western and Damen ? were renovated as part of the rehabilitation project andtrack and support structure was replaced, and a new signal communications system installed. All 11 stations on the Cermak branch are now accessible to customers with disabilities. Three stations, Polk, 18th Street and Cicero, were already accessible.

Prior to the rehabilitation, the more than 100 year-old steel structure that supported the elevated portion of the Cermak branch was well beyond its useful life. Despite efforts to maintain the system, the overall condition had deteriorated to a point that permanent slow zones were present throughout more than half of the track. Slow zones required trains to operate as slow as 15 mph instead of the normal 55 mph. A trip from 54th/Cermak to downtown could take as long as 45 minutes before construction began.

?Residents along the branch now have additional access to jobs, schools, business and recreational activities with the added service," added Kruesi. ?The CTA provides an essential service to this region each and every day, and we have worked hard to rebuild a system that was in a state of disrepair only a decade ago."

?We are grateful to the region's U.S. Congressional delegation, which has been very successful in securing capital funds to continue investment in CTA's infrastructure," said Brown. ?We are hopeful that the Illinois General Assembly will help fix the region's operating funding for public transportation so the CTA can continue to meet the demand for service."

The Blue Line rehabilitation project was funded through a Full Funding Grant Agreement with the federal government and locally through Illinois FIRST, the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA), and the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT).

The Cermak (Douglas) branch is 6.6 miles long and provides rapid transit service to Pilsen, Heart of Chicago, Little Village, Lawndale and the town of Cicero. It serves as a vital link to the Chicago Loop and the Illinois Medical District.

The Blue Line is the CTA's second busiest rail line after the Red Line. In September 2004, a total of 133,376 rides were taken on an average weekday with 10,236 of those rides provided on the Cermak branch.

The Chicago Transit Authority is the nation's second largest public transit system, serving Chicago and 40 surrounding suburbs. Nearly two million customers use some combination of CTA, Pace and Metra to get to and from destinations throughout the six-county region.

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