June 4, 2004

New Pedestrian Bridge, Accessibility Features are Key Amenities for Customers

The Chicago Transit Authority today reopened the sixth of eight stations being renovated as part of the $483 million rehabilitation of the Cermak (Douglas) branch of the Blue Line. Chicago Transit Board Chairman Carole Brown and CTA President Frank Kruesi were joined by 25th Ward Alderman Danny Solis to announce the re-opening of the Western station located at 2009 S. Western Avenue.

"Quality public transportation is a key factor in the economic strength of communities," said Chicago Transit Board Chairman Carole Brown. "By improving the quality of service that moves customers on Chicago's Southwest Side to jobs, schools, businesses and recreational activities, the CTA is contributing to economic growth."

"The newly renovated 'L' station at Western is an excellent example of the work that the CTA is doing to bring its system to a state of good repair," said CTA President Frank Kruesi. "The station is modern, functional and adds to the comfort of our customers as they travel. These enhancements mean better service and will help us retain existing customers and attract new customers to the CTA."

The state-of-the-art, accessible station offers a number of customer-friendly amenities including a new pedestrian walkway bridge, which spans Western Avenue. The bridge provides convenient, direct connections to buses while protecting customers from inclement weather.

In addition, customers can access the facility through two entrances -- the main entrance is located on the east side of Western, and a new auxiliary entrance and exit is located on the west side of Western, providing convenient access to and from the station from either side of Western Avenue.

For customer comfort, the new center platform features benches, overhead heaters and enhanced lighting. Canopies have been installed to protect customers from the elements. New station signs and a new public address system help customers navigate the station and receive travel information.

With a newly installed elevator, escalator, wheelchair turnstile, TTY telephones, tactile edging and Braille signs, the Western station becomes the ninth station on the Cermak (Douglas) branch to be accessible to people with disabilities.

Prior to the start of the rehabilitation project, three of the 11 stations along the branch were accessible: Polk, 18th Street and Cicero. When the project is completed, all 11 stations along the branch will be accessible.

"Two additional stations ? California and Damen ? will soon be completed and re-opened to customers," added Kruesi. ?Our efforts will also focus on finishing the signal and communications upgrades, completing the new substation and installing two new escalators at the Polk station. While much of the remaining work will not be as highly visible as the station and track work has been, these elements are critical to operating a fully functional branch for our customers."

The CTA has exceeded its Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) contract goal of 35 percent for the Blue Line Rehabilitation Project with 37.3 percent DBE contracts.

Prior to the rehabilitation, the steel structure that supports the elevated portion of the Cermak (Douglas) branch was more than 100 years old and 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. That same trip will take less than 25 minutes when the rehabilitation is completed.

The project involves reconstructing eight stations ? 54th/Cermak, Kostner, Pulaski, Central Park, Kedzie, California, Western and Hoyne ? and replacing the track and support structure.

The branch has remained open for service throughout the project. Track and structure work was performed on weekends when the branch was not in operation.

The project, which began September 10, 2001, will be completed by January 31, 2005. Elgin-based Kiewit/Delgado, AJV (A Joint Venture) is overseeing the construction portion of the project.

The 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 where medical centers such as Rush University Medical Center, John H. Stroger, Jr. Hospital of Cook County, University of Illinois, St. Anthony's, Mount Sinai and Veterans? Administration Hospital, are located.

The Blue Line is the CTA's second busiest rail line after the Red Line. In April 2004, a total of 119,768 rides were taken on an average weekday with 8,470 of those rides provided on the Cermak (Douglas) 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. The CTA is committed to meeting the transportation needs of the region by providing quality and affordable transit service for all of its customers.

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