Forest Park Branch Blue Line Track Fully Reopens

October 8, 2023

Blue Line riders will now be able to travel on the Forest Park Branch without having to transfer to bus shuttles

The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) today announced the completion of major tack work as part of Phase 1 of the Forest Park Branch Rebuild. Blue Line trains are now running between the O’Hare and Forest Park stations, making all stops for the first since late-July.

“Thanks to the coordination and tireless work from across the agency, this line-cut has finished on-time and on-budget— a timely benefit to the entire Blue Line,” said CTA President Dorval R. Carter, Jr. “We knew that project work of this scale would be a disruption to our riders, which is why we kept an aggressive pace for the line-cut, working around the clock to resume normal service along our second busiest rail line.”

As part of this $268 million project, crews have completely rebuilt almost three miles of track, between the LaSalle and Illinois Medical District (IMD) stations in 11 weeks. Additional work planned as part of Phase 1 project work continues, including the complete reconstruction of the Racine main station entrance and auxiliary entrance, as well as construction of the new Morgan substation.


Additional Phase 1 Service Impacts

Phase 1 project work was planned on an aggressive timeline to minimize impacts to customers.

As the work was planned minimize impact on customers, CTA sequenced the project to complete the trackwork with bus shuttle support and then complete the signal work with trains are running.  As such, trains will run temporarily at a reduced speed between LaSalle and IMD and then gradually increase up to the posted speed.  The full speed restoration is anticipated by the end of this year.

Anticipated impacts to Blue Line service are expected in 2024-2025 as the remaining portions of Phase 1 project work is completed, this includes upgrading the Morgan Street substation and the reconstruction of the Racine station. During this time, service impacts can include weekend line-cuts, single track operations and/or back rides.

Additional details regarding future project work and impacts to service will be announced ahead of work beginning.

Rail Service Impacts

Though track-replacement work is now complete, work continues on the reconstruction of a train-turnaround area just west of UIC-Halsted station called Morgan Middle. As result, riders on the Blue Line will continue to see a slight and temporary reduction in trips.

CTA typically uses that turnaround to “short-turn” trains—turning Forest Park-bound trains back north at UIC-Halsted to head back toward O’Hare—which allows for more trains to be added into service on the busiest parts of the Blue Line between downtown and the O’Hare Branch.

While the reconstruction of Morgan Middle continues, CTA will continue to short-turn a few trains during the AM and PM rush hours near LaSalle, as has been done during the construction project. During this phase of construction, most Blue Line trains will need to travel all the way to Forest Park. Those longer trips require more workers to account for the additional distance and time meaning fewer available to operate more Blue Line trains.

In Mid-November, when work on Morgan Middle is complete, CTA will add back rail service to previous levels.

Upgrading Power System

Crews are continuing work to upgrade the traction power system that provides electricity to the system and will result in improved service reliability for the Blue Line.  This work entails the construction of a new substation over the right-of-way at Morgan Street, as well as other upgrades being made to power system components in the area (e.g., switchgear, transformers and rectifiers at the Hermitage Substation).

Racine Station


Rendering of the Racine entrance, which is expected to open in late-2024

Crews have already demolished and begun to rebuild the Racine main station entrance to make it fully accessible to those who use mobility devices as part of the CTA’s All Stations Accessibility Program (ASAP). Currently only four of the 11 stations on the Forest Park Branch of the Blue Line are accessible to people who use wheelchairs or other mobility devices.

“The goal of the CTA’s All Stations Accessibility Program is to create equity to those who cannot use the station due to it currently being inaccessible. It is the reality of many Chicagoans— particularly on the Forest Park Branch-- who live by a station and cannot access it,” said Irma Gomez-Fierro, manager of ADA Compliance Programs at CTA. “We are excited that Racine station will soon be accessible, and are working to expand our network of accessible stations in the coming years.”

The Loomis St. auxiliary entrance of the Racine station re-opened following the completion of track work.


Rendering of the Racine entrance, which is expected to open in late-2024

As part of Phase 1 of the Forest Park Rebuild, the station house at the main Racine entrance will include a new elevator. In addition to the elevator, a longer platform and new stairs will replace the ramp that once connected the platform to street level at Racine Avenue.

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.


Forest Park Branch Rebuild is 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.

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.

Under the Forest Park Branch Rebuild, the CTA will rebuild a total of seven (7) rail stations to make them meet modern accessibility guidelines; replace the entire trackbed and drainage system along the branch; and upgrade the traction power system to support the electrical needs of modern railcars to meet current and future ridership demands.

The CTA is working to secure the funding needed to rebuild the entire Forest Park Branch. As funding becomes available, details regarding future phases of the Forest Park Branch Rebuild will be announced.

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