January 8, 2003

The CTA Board Wednesday approved a plan to renovate the 107-year-old 'L' connector track just west of Paulina that links the Green Line on Lake Street with the Cermak (Douglas) branch of the Blue Line at Congress Parkway.

The Paulina Connector project will include rehabilitation of the elevated structure and installation of a second track, third (power) rail and a cab signal system. The ?-mile-long structure currently has a single track that is used to shuttle cars requiring major maintenance between the Blue Line and the CTA's Rail Heavy Maintenance Shop in Skokie.

Contracts for work on the Cermak (Douglas) branch Blue Line Reconstruction Project will be modified to include the $33.8 million cost of renovating the 'L' connector. The work of restoring the connector is substantially the same as that taking place on the Blue Line project, except that there are no stations on the connector, which would be an extension of the Cermak branch itself.

Kiewit-Delgado Joint Venture, the contractor handling the Blue Line project, has the labor force and equipment already in place to complete the connector project, and combining the two projects will provide cost and planning efficiencies that would not be possible under a separate contract. Board action Wednesday approved $29.5 million to enable Kiewit-Delgado to complete the project.

?Renovation of the Paulina Connector will provide greater flexibility in how we operate our rail system," said CTA President Frank Kruesi. ?With this new set of tracks tying the Blue and Green Lines together, we will have the ability to run Cermak branch trains directly to the Loop 'L' on Lake Street and increase the frequency of both Cermak and Forest Park Blue Line service."

?We are moving along quickly on the Blue Line Rehabilitation Project," said CTA Chairman Valerie B. Jarrett, ?and renovation of the Paulina Connector will give us new options for serving customers in the Lawndale, Little Village and Pilsen communities. As with our success on the Green Line, the investment we make now will result in greater service reliability and increasing ridership."

The connector track was built by the Metropolitan West Side Elevated Railroad, a predecessor of the CTA, in 1895. It was part of the Logan Square 'L' that branched north from the main line at Congress Street while Garfield Park (Forest Park) trains continued west and Douglas Park (Cermak) trains turned south.

After the Dearborn subway was opened in 1951, service on what is now the connector track was discontinued until 1954, when the Garfield Park 'L' was torn down in preparation for construction of the Congress (Eisenhower) Expressway.

From 1954 until service began in the median of the expressway in 1958, Douglas Park trains used the connector to reach the Lake Street 'L' for trips to the Loop. It is this same routing that is being considered for Cermak branch trains upon completion of the Blue Line project.

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