January 12, 2005

The Chicago Transit Board was provided details at its monthly meeting today on construction options for upcoming Brown Line station renovations as part of the capacity expansion project. In May 2004, CTA received construction bids for the project that exceeded the budget, making it necessary to identify $152 million worth of cost savings.

The project was reorganized into several discrete pieces to help attract more competitive construction bids. Signal system upgrades and electrical substation work were successfully re-bid, and work began in fall 2004. Work on station renovations will be grouped into five separate packages according to location and modifications are proposed to help reduce the overall cost of station construction.

"We wish we did not have to revisit this, but the reality is that tough choices have to be made to keep this project on time and on budget. We are committed to stay within the budget and meet the completion dates required as part of the Full Funding Grant Agreement," said CTA President Frank Kruesi. ?We are looking at several options for staging the work to reduce costs, but station renovation is the largest component of this project. The more cost savings that can be realized through changing non-station components, the more features we can deliver in the station renovation plans. Our customers understand the importance of this project and how much it will improve their daily commutes."

The staging options presented to the Board include temporary weekday and weekend closure of some Brown Line stations during construction to achieve the level of cost savings needed and minimize the degree of station modifications. Only those stations with distance of a half-mile or less from the next station are being considered for temporary closure. Temporary station closures would provide cost efficiencies and reduce the amount of time construction crews would be present in Brown Line neighborhoods.

The second staging option includes frequent weekend-only closures of multiple stations along the branch during construction, which would require more substantive changes be made to stations designs due to a lower level of cost-savings, as well as additional time that construction crews would be present in neighborhoods along the Brown Line.

"This is an important project to CTA and the Brown Line communities," said Chicago Transit Board Chairman Carole Brown. ?We want to work closely with our customers and community leaders as we finalize the project schedule and design."

The modifications being proposed will not affect the project deadline, as the repackaging of the station construction allows for flexibility in the way work is scheduled. The project's Full Funding Grant Agreement with the federal government requires that the CTA complete the project by the end of 2009. In a separate agreement, the Federal Transit Administration requires that work to make the Fullerton station accessible be completed by 2008.

The Brown Line capacity expansion project includes: the rehabilitation of 18 Brown Line stations; lengthening station platforms to accommodate eight rather than six-car trains; provide for station enhancements to meet the accessibility requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA); upgrade or replace traction power, signal and communication equipment; and reduce the number of slow zones on the line.

Work is already underway to upgrade the Brown Line's signal system from Kimball to Western, which involves installing signal equipment along the tracks, installing six new crossing gates and circuitry where the Brown Line crosses at street level at Spaulding, Kedzie, Albany, Sacramento, Francisco and Rockwell, and rehabilitating Kimball Tower where signals control switches and direct trains.

At Clark Junction ? the location where Brown, Purple and Red Line tracks merge just north of the Belmont station ? work is being done to install a new signal system from Armitage to Addison, provide signals for 14 rail crossovers and rehabilitate Clark Tower located at the junction.

Work at Clark Junction is expected to conclude late 2006 and signal and grade crossing work between Kimball and Western is expected to wrap up by summer 2007.

Operating between downtown and the Northwest Side, the Brown Line was originally constructed in two phases opening for service in 1900 and 1907. The line is the third busiest of CTA's rail lines, serving more than 66,000 customers each weekday, with 19 stations from Kimball on the north to the downtown Chicago Loop.

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