January 19, 2001

Federal Transit Administration commits to four major transit investments.

The Cermak (Douglas) Branch of the CTA's Blue Line is about to be rebuilt. Mayor Richard M. Daley today joined U.S. Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater, Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, members of the Illinois Congressional delegation and Chicago Transit Authority officials for a ceremony celebrating the signing of a Full-Funding Grant Agreement that will pay for the rebuilding of the line.

The agreement is the federal government's commitment to share the $482 million cost of reconstructing the 102-year old rapid transit line on Chicago's West Side. Under the agreement, the federal government would pay $384 million, with $80.9 million coming from Governor George Ryan's Illinois FIRST program and the balance coming from regional funding.

The agreement formalizes a commitment of federal financial assistance for this major capital investment project. The bipartisan effort led to the addition of language to the FY2001 Appropriation Bill that would assure that the CTA received the $482 million necessary to complete the rehabilitation of the Blue Line. The legislation also provided the flexibility in the disbursement of the funding so that this important project can get underway as quickly as possible.

Among those attending the signing were CTA President Frank Kruesi, U.S. Senators Dick Durbin and Peter Fitzgerald and U.S. Representative William Lipinski.

"This agreement is the result of many months of hard work by federal, state and local elected officials toward a common goal: the continued rebuilding of a world-class public transportation system in Chicago," Daley said.

"Through a bipartisan spirit of cooperation, we were all able to come together to fund the rehabilitation of the Blue Line Douglas Branch. This will mean faster and more convenient public transit service for the communities along this branch and will result in a major reinvestment in these neighborhoods to improve their quality of life."

Daley also thanked Secretary Slater and the Illinois Congressional delegation for releasing $4.2 million of discretionary funds for the design of bridges at North Avenue, Halsted and Division streets and other neighborhood bridge projects.

Kruesi said, "My appreciation goes out to Mayor Daley, Governor Ryan, Speaker Hastert and the entire Illinois Congressional delegation for their efforts in helping the CTA undertake this critical rehabilitation project. With this Full-Funding Grant Agreement in place, we can now focus on rebuilding our transit system in order to provide our Blue Line Douglas Branch customers with the quality service they deserve."

Chicago Transit Board Chairman Valerie B. Jarrett said, "Today we mark the culmination of our efforts to rebuild a critical link in the CTA system. The funding this agreement provides is a critical piece of our capital program which is essential to the revitalization of the neighborhoods served by the Cermak (Douglas) Branch of the Blue Line. This rehabilitation project will mean a return to rapid transit rail service for the many communities who rely on the CTA for their transportation needs."

The Blue Line Cermak (Douglas) Branch stretches along 6.6 miles of track that runs parallel to Cermak Road from the terminal at 54th/Cermak east to Paulina, where it turns north and meets with the Blue Line Forest Park (Congress) Branch at Harrison Street.

Situated on Chicago's West Side, the Cermak (Douglas) Branch was built between 1895 and 1912, and includes 11 stations: 54/Cermak, Cicero, Kildare, Pulaski, Central Park, Kedzie, California, Western, Hoyne, 18th and Polk. The branch provides rapid transit service to nearly 10,000 passengers who reside in Pilsen, Little Village and the surrounding communities.

Over the years, the Cermak (Douglas) branch deteriorated to the point that nearly half of its 6.6-mile length (35,000 feet) is in "slow zones" that require trains to operate at 15 m.p.h. instead of the normal 55 m.p.h. The slow zones can make a trip from the terminal at 54th/Cermak to downtown take up to 45 minutes.

In February 2000, Vice President Al Gore and Secretary Slater announced the administration's intention to sign the Full-Funding Grant Agreement. Today's signing ceremony officially finalizes the funding process and paves the way for the actual construction work to begin later this year.

The project is expected to last from 2001 to 2005 and involve the replacement of five miles of track; the reconstruction of eight stations (54th/Cermak, Kildare, Pulaski, Central Park, Kedzie, California, Western and Hoyne); installation of escalators at the Polk Street station; new rail traffic signals and communications equipment to improve the operations of the rail system; and the reconstruction of the rail yard at 54th/Cermak.

Construction crews will work mostly during the evenings and on weekends. Current rapid transit service will continue to operate.

The CTA has hired the construction management firm O'Brien and Kreitzberg to oversee the CTA's Capital Improvement Program which includes the Blue Line Cermak (Douglas) rehabilitation project.

The agency anticipates advertising for construction bids later this spring/summer, with construction to begin in summer/fall.

The Chicago Transit Authority is the nation's second largest public transit system, serving Chicago and 38 suburbs. Each weekday, the CTA provides 1.5 million rides across a network of seven rail lines and 139 bus routes.

In the last three years, ridership has been increasing, reversing a 15-year decline. In 1999, ridership reached 441.9 million rides, an increase of approximately 23 million rides or 5.4 percent from 1997. While annual ridership figures for the year 2000 are not complete as yet, January 2000 through November 2000 data demonstrates that ridership continues to increase. System ridership for the first 11 months of 2000 is 417.3 million, up 10.1 million rides or 2.5 percent from the same time period in 1999.

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