The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) today announced a Blue Line Forest Park Branch Feasibility/Vision Study to assess future needs for the entire branch between the Clinton and Forest Park stations. The study would launch a long-range planning strategy for serving customers with a modernized rail line and could stimulate new economic development for the West Side along the Eisenhower Expressway.
The study will be paid for by a combination of local and federal funds, the latter because of a federal earmark secured by U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL). The analysis is being performed in coordination with the Village of Oak Park, which has contributed local funding to analyze livability issues near Blue Line stations in Oak Park and in Chicago, as well as the IDOT studies in the corridor.
“The Blue Line is a critical piece of Chicago’s transit infrastructure, helping tens of thousands of Chicagoans get to work and school on a daily basis,” said Mayor Emanuel. “The Blue Line will play a large role in the future development of the West Side of Chicago and I am pleased that we continue to look for efficiencies and new opportunities to improve service.”
“This study is one of the many investments in transit made under the leadership of Mayor Emanuel that will bring the Chicagoland area’s system into the 21st Century and serve passengers for decades to come,” said Durbin. “Leveraging federal funds for the Blue Line project will help attract economic investment and sustainable development to the city’s West Side and to Oak Park, while creating and retaining local jobs.”
Added Oak Park Village President Anan Abu-Taleb, “The resilience of our transportation network depends on improved and expanded public access to the high quality, affordable and reliable transit service the Blue Line can provide. We applaud the CTA’s commitment to examining the present and future needs of this critical transit asset, and extend our gratitude to Senator Durbin for his long-term support of I-290 multimodal solutions and alternative forms of transportation.”
The Blue Line runs through the Eisenhower Corridor “Neighborhoods Now” planning area, in which $186 million in public-private investments are being implemented through a coordinated community improvement plan. Approximately 2,000 new jobs are projected to be created through the initiative, which aims to leverage local transportation assets in support of entertainment and educational opportunities on the Near West Side, among other priorities.
The Blue Line Feasibility analysis will be done in coordination with the Illinois Department of Transportation’s (IDOT) current planning for the Circle Interchange and Reconstruction of the I-290 Eisenhower Expressway. The Forest Park Branch shares the right of way with the I-290, operating within the median of expressway. Currently IDOT is conducting its Circle Interchange Rehabilitation Project and the I-290 Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) Study that are currently assessing the transportation needs of the Kennedy/Dan Ryan (I-90/94) and Eisenhower (I-290) expressways.
“The Blue Line Forest Park study is a key step in investing in transit on the West Side,” said Chicago Transit Board Chairman Terry Peterson. “We look forward to partnering with the Illinois Department of Transportation to develop a long-term multi-modal plan that will meet transportation needs along the I-290 Eisenhower Expressway corridor, and ultimately generate new economic development for the West Side.”
The Blue Line Forest Park Branch was built in 1958 and has a growing list of “state of good repair” needs. The CTA study will evaluate the entire branch to determine how best to address modernization needs of its 55-year-old infrastructure, station/terminal needs, customer access points and Park & Ride access along the expressway.
“The CTA continues to make critical investments in our bus and rail infrastructure system-wide,” said CTA President Forrest Claypool. “The CTA is committed to creating effective plans for the short and long-term needs of this 55-year-old branch of the Blue Line, a critical transportation line for the West Side that serves many employers, including UIC and the Illinois Medical District, and provided more than 9.7 million rides last year to CTA customers. And we’d like to thank Sen. Durbin for the support of federal funding to make this study possible.”
As a long-range plan is developed, CTA has several other projects that are either under way or planned and will improve the service and experience for customers on the West Side:
- Forest Park Branch Heavy Maintenance: In 2014, CTA will make track and other structural repairs on the Forest Park Branch, improvements that will increase safety and reliability until a more comprehensive reconstruction plan is devised and funded.
- CTA Bus Tracker Shelter Displays: In May, CTA crews installed new CTA Bus Tracker displays at 45 bus shelters throughout the west side, which are in addition to the estimated 25 displays installed in 2011 during the first half of the project.
- CTA Train Tracker Displays: By this fall, all 145 CTA rail stations will be equipped with at least one CTA Train Tracker display. Crews are installing these displays at stations along the Forest Park branch and by the end of June, all stations will have estimated train arrival times on display
- Austin Station Renewal: This summer CTA maintenance crews will perform a “swat team” style approach to renewing the Austin Blue Line station to repair, clean and make improvements to the station.
- #35 35th Experimental Service: The CTA is currently testing experimental service for the #35 35th bus route that extends service to include 31st Street between Kedzie and Cicero avenues. The route extension is based on increased potential ridership demand in the corridor, and offers improved connections to the CTA’s Red, Green and Orange lines, additional CTA and Pace bus routes, and Metra’s Cicero station.
- Green Line Upgrades:Customers along the Harlem/Lake Green Line branch will benefit from working beginning soon that will upgrade the line’s network and communications infrastructure. As part of this project work, stations along this branch will receive new public address systems, upgraded and/or additional security cameras and new electronic signage throughout the stationhouses and platforms.
- Bus Rapid Transit: Earlier this spring, Mayor Emanuel, CTA and the Chicago Department ofTransportation (CDOT) announced plans to develop a vision for faster and more reliable transit in Chicago, which will include studying Bus Rapid Transit on a 16-mile stretch of Ashland Avenue between 95th Street and Irving Park Road. CTA and CDOT will begin working with local stakeholders on developing the plan that would create faster, more reliable bus service. The first phase to be implemented would be from Cortland Avenue (1800 N) to 31st Street.
This summer CTA will share a variety of potential options or alternatives as part of its Blue Line study. During that time, CTA will obtain feedback from the community and key stakeholders and return with final concepts in the fall which will be coordinated with the I-290 EIS meetings.
The study area street boundaries extend a block east of the Clinton Station at Canal Street on the east to Mannheim Road on the west, and between Madison Street on the north to Roosevelt Road on the South. It is expected to be completed by early 2014.
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