CTA Offering Free and Reduced Rides During Forest Park Blue Line Branch Rebuild

July 19, 2023

Riders in the area impacted by construction will be able to utilize CTA transit options with free or reduced fares

Beginning Sunday, July 23 at 3 a.m., Blue Line trains will not operate between the LaSalle and Illinois Medical District (IMD) stations to accommodate work associated with Phase I of the Forest Park Branch Rebuild program. To mitigate impacts on riders and encourage use of alternative CTA service options during the construction, CTA will be offering free and reduced rides on various bus and rail lines.

This first phase will mark the start of a multi-year, multi-phased investment to

reconstruct the entire Forest Park Branch of the Blue Line to provide riders with a safer, more reliable and accessible transit experience on Chicago’s West Side.

“At CTA, we not only take pride in our strong track record of completing projects on-time and on-budget, but also our ability to accommodate riders during construction,” said CTA President Dorval R. Carter, Jr. “In addition to setting an aggressive work schedule, we are also implementing a number of new, and innovative measures for riders directly impacted by project work, including offering free and reduced fares on select routes in the project area, as well as detailed and customized service information to help them better navigate the temporary service changes and get where they need to go with confidence.”


To incentivize use of easy alternative service options near the project area, CTA will provide free rides on select bus routes operating between the Green and Pink lines. Free rides will be available on all CTA north-south bus route stops between the Green and Pink lines from Ashland (#9 and #X9 routes) on the east to Austin (#91 route) on the west. Bus operators will allow riders to board for free within this fare zone.

CTA will also be offering reduced fares (50% reduction) for rail customers using Ventra Cards boarding at Ashland/Lake and all stations west on the Green and Pink lines, as well as those boarding at IMD and all stations west on the Forest Park Blue Line branch (see Map-1 below).

Free and reduced rides will be available only during Phase 1 project work– from July 23 to early October.

While alternative CTA routes will be a good option for many Forest Park branch riders, CTA will also operate a free local bus shuttle along the corridor that will operate 24/7 for the duration of project serving all stations between IMD and Jackson. And during the initial phase of construction (Part A), an express shuttle will operate between the IMD and Jackson stations on weekdays during the AM-rush (6:30 am- 9:30 a.m.) and PM-rush (3:00 pm - 6:30 pm.) periods.  The express shuttle will only operate in the peak direction of travel: eastbound in the morning and westbound in the afternoon.


As part of this $268 million project, crews will completely rebuild 15,000 feet, or almost three miles of track, between the LaSalle and IMD stations; demolish and completely rebuild the Racine station to meet modern accessibility guidelines; and upgrade the traction power system that provides electricity to the system and will result in improved service reliability.

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. Free local bus shuttle 24/7, and express bus shuttle on weekdays during AM and PM rush periods.

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. Free local bus shuttle 24/7. Only the Racine station will remain closed during this time.

Upon completion of track work in October, the Loomis St. auxiliary entrance of the Racine station 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.

Additional information regarding alternative service options are available on the project website (transitchicago.com/FPrebuild).


To help riders impacted by the construction, the CTA is staffing stations with Information Specialists this week and next week. Information Specialists will be available throughout the day to provide in-person support to help customers understand their transit options, and encourage riders to allow for extra travel time.

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.

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 36%) along the branch are accessible to people who use wheelchairs or other mobility devices.


Feedback and questions regarding the free and reduced rides being provided as part of the project work should be directed to CTA Customer Service (1-888-YOUR-CTA, feedback@transitchicago.com).

Map 1: CTA Alternatives and Free/Reduced Fares


Map 2: Part A Service

Map showing express shuttle bus route and local shuttle bus route.


Map 3: Part B Service

Map showing shuttle bus route.


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