January 8, 2005

54th/Cermak Branch Customers Benefiting from Fully Accessible Stations, Faster, Smoother Rides and New Weekend Service.

The Chicago Transit Authority today celebrated the completion of the $482.6 million renovation of the 54th/Cermak branch of the Blue Line. Mayor Richard M. Daley and Joel Ettinger, Regional Administrator, Federal Transit Administration, joined Alderman Michael Chandler (24th Ward), Chicago Transit Board Chairman Carole Brown and CTA President Frank Kruesi to celebrate the completion, which has given CTA customers eight newly renovated, fully accessible stations, a faster, smoother ride and weekend service.

Mayor Richard M. Daley said, "The expansion we are inaugurating today, and the recent weather challenges, help to underscore the vital importance of reliable, accessible public transportation for all Chicagoans." The Mayor added, "No matter what season or time of day it is, Chicagoans depend on public transportation for their daily and weekend commutes to and from work or school, as well as access to shopping and health care ? the CTA remains the primary mode of transportation for many."

"Quality, affordable transit helps revitalize our neighborhoods and drivesour entire region's economic growth," said Chairman Brown. "We thank thebipartisan, regional cooperation of our congressional delegation, statelegislators, Mayor Richard M. Daley, and local officials in Chicago andCicero for making one of the largest construction projects in CTA's history areality."

With the completion of major construction, the CTA added weekend service on the branch January 1. Service is running every 15 minutes on Saturday from 4 a.m. until 1 a.m., and every 20 minutes on Sunday from 4 a.m. until 1 a.m. On weekdays, service hours are 4 a.m. until 1 a.m.

?Residents along the branch now have additional access to jobs, schools, business and recreational activities with the added service," said President Kruesi. ?The CTA provides an essential service to this region each and every day, and we have worked hard to rebuild a system that was in a state of disrepair only a decade ago."

A full funding grant agreement with the federal government covered $384 million in project costs. Another $80.9 million was provided by the State of Illinois? Illinois FIRST program. The balance was paid through regional funding sources.

The CTA began work to rehabilitate the 105-year-old branch in the summer of 2001. The structure and track conditions had deteriorated and ridership had fallen 50 percent in just 22 years.

Since that time, CTA renovated eight stations ? 54th/Cermak, Kostner, Pulaski, Central Park, Kedzie, California, Western and Damen; replaced five miles of track, rail ties and foot walks and the support structure and installed a new signal communications system.

The rehabilitated structure has eliminated slow zones speeding up travel times for customers getting them from the terminal at 54th/Cermak to the Loop in 25 minutes or less instead of the 45 minutes it took prior to reconstruction.

"The Blue Line renovation project is central to our ongoing efforts to rebuild our system and infrastructure and ensure that our customers have the high quality public transit services they deserve," Kruesi added. ?The support we receive from all levels of government is recognition that public transit is an important part of the solution to regional traffic congestion."

?More and more people are riding the CTA, and we need to invest in our system so that it can meet increased demand and continue to provide commuters with a viable, affordable option to driving," he added.

In addition to faster, smoother rides, the eight newly rehabilitated stations offer a number of customer-friendly amenities. For customer comfort, new center platforms feature benches, overhead heaters and enhanced lighting. Attractive stainless steel and glass canopies have been installed to protect customers from the elements. Station signs and a public address system help customers navigate the stations and receive travel information.

New stations also include newly installed elevators, escalators, wheelchair turnstiles, TTY telephones, tactile edging and Braille signs for customers with disabilities making all 11 stations along the branch accessible.

Kiewit/Delgado, AJV (A Joint Venture), of Elgin, was the construction contractor for the project.

The CTA exceeded its Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE)-contracting goal of 35 percent for the Blue Line Rehabilitation Project with 37 percent DBE contracts.

The branch remained open for service throughout the project.

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

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.

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