First phase of significant West Side investment will replace almost three miles of track and rebuild the Racine station to make it wheelchair accessible
As part of ongoing efforts to provide better, more reliable and accessible services to all Chicago transit users, the Chicago Transit Authority today announced the start of work associated with Forest Park Branch Rebuild – a multi-year, multi-phased investment program to reconstruct the entire Forest Park Branch of the Blue Line and make it 100% accessible to those who use mobility devices.
“The Forest Park Branch of the Blue Line is a critical transit asset for Chicago’s West Side communities, directly serving the Illinois Medical District, several schools and colleges, as well as numerous other growing employment centers,” said CTA President Dorval R. Carter, Jr. “The start of this project work is long overdue, and the CTA is committed to securing the additional funding to advance future phases of work to provide all Blue Line riders a better transit experience.”
Work associated with Phase I of the Forest Park Branch Rebuild is scheduled to occur beginning Sunday, July 23 through Saturday, October 7. As part of this $268 million project, crews will completely rebuild 15,000 feet or almost three miles of track between the LaSalle and Illinois Medical District (IMD) stations; demolish and begin rebuilding the Racine station to meet modern accessibility guidelines; and upgrade the traction power system for improved service reliability.
"The CTA Blue Line is one of the most popular ways for our community to travel to and from the IMD," said Allyson Hansen, CEO and Executive Director of the Illinois Medical District Commission. "Good things are worth the wait, and once complete, these upgrades will reduce ride times, create more accessibility and improve the overall experience of CTA riders. With four major hospitals, city, state, and federal agencies, the IMD is a critical zone for our city, and we thank the Chicago Transit Authority for their continued investments to modernize their infrastructure and provide our patients, visitors, and residents with safe and reliable public transportation."
Opened in 1958, back when Dwight D. Eisenhower was president, the Forest Park Branch of the Blue Line has received some improvements, but after six decades of heavy use the tracks along the entire branch are beyond their useful life. This has resulted in nearly 80% of the branch being under slow zones, which cause service delays. Further, only four of the eleven stations (or 30%) along the branch are accessible to people who use wheelchairs or other mobility devices.
To reduce travel impacts to customers, project work will be performed in two parts:
- Part A (July 23-late August): Crews will rebuild the track between the UIC-Halsted and LaSalle stations. During this time, Blue Line trains will operate in two segments: 1) between O’Hare and LaSalle, and 2) between Forest Park and IMD. The Clinton, UIC-Halsted and Racine stations will be temporarily closed.
- Part B (Late August-October 7): Crews will rebuild the track between the IMD and UIC-Halsted stations. During this time, Blue Line trains will operate in two segments: 1) between O’Hare and UIC-Halsted, and 2) between Forest Park and IMD. The Clinton, UIC-Halsted, and IMD stations will be open for rider use.
Upon completion of track work in October, the Racine-Loomis St. auxiliary entrance only will re-open. The main entrance of the Racine station will remain closed and is expected to re-open in late-2024, at which time the Loomis St. Auxiliary entrance will close for reconstruction through 2025.
Following this extended line-cut, ongoing project work is expected in the area, additional details regarding service impacts will be announced soon.
Customers will be encouraged to use the nearby Green Line, which runs parallel to the Forest Park Branch and will have added train cars to accommodate the anticipated increase in ridership. Customers will also be encouraged to take the nearby Pink Line and CTA bus service in the corridor.
To incentivize use of these alternative service options, CTA will provide free rides on bus routes operating between the Pink and Green lines, as well as reduced fares at respective Pink and Green line rail stations.
CTA will also operate a local bus shuttle that will operate 24/7 for the duration of project. An express shuttle will also be provided during only Phase 1a and will operate between the IMD and Jackson stations during the AM/PM rush periods on weekdays (peak travel directions only).
Customers will be strongly encouraged to plan ahead and allow for extra travel time, including using alternative services prior to the start of project work.
More detailed information regarding alternative service options will be announced and made available on the project website (transitchicago.com/FPrebuild) in the coming weeks.
Phase I project work is funded by a mix of state and local resources, including Rebuild Illinois, TIF and CTA Bonds. Additional funding is needed to advance future phases of the Forest Park Branch Rebuild, which in total is estimated to cost $3 billion, including Phase I work.
Phase 1a Service Map:
Phase 1b Service Map: