Mayor Richard M. Daley joined civic leaders and public officials today at the official opening of the newly reconstructed Western Avenue station on the O'Hare branch of the Chicago Transit Authority Blue Line.
The $13 million construction project involved the demolition of the original Western Avenue station, and the construction, design and engineering of a new, modern and accessible facility.
"The CTA is essential to the economic health of Chicago," Daley said. "It reduces traffic congestion. It allows us to maintain a vibrant and exciting downtown, because we don't have to continually replace buildings with parking lots, as other cities do. It helps us attract new residents to the city from the suburbs, because they can get to their jobs without spending hours stuck in traffic. And it helps people get off the welfare rolls and onto the employment rolls, because they don't need a car to get to work."
The Mayor was joined by U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, Ald. Billy Ocasio (26th), CTA President Frank Kruesi and David Hanson, Commissioner of the Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities.
The Western Avenue station offers a number of customer-friendly amenities. New entrances on the west side of the street allow customers to reach both platforms from either side of Western Avenue. The fare control area has been enlarged, and has additional Transit Card vending machines that reduce customer waiting time to purchase fares.
Two elevators and a wheelchair turnstile offer accessibility for customers with disabilities. Audio/visual, station signs and a public address system are in place to help customers better navigate the station and receive important travel information. Canopies have been installed to protect customers from the elements, and a crossover bridge provides access from the southbound to the northbound platform.
"The CTA began an aggressive rail station improvement program in 1999 to bring our facilities up to a good state of repair," said Kruesi. "For CTA customers, the improvements have translated into more convenient, reliable trips, resulting in increased ridership. Our goal is to continue to look for ways to produce the high quality service that CTA customers expect and deserve."
Kruesi added, "We would also like to thank Mayor Daley, Governor George Ryan, U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert, and the entire Illinois Congressional delegation for their continued support of public transit and the CTA in particular. Their support and assistance in securing some of the funding necessary to make improvements to our system demonstrate their commitment to helping the CTA achieve its mission of delivering quality, affordable transit services that link people, jobs and communities."
On an average weekday, more than 3,000 CTA customers begin their trips at the Western Avenue station. Weekend totals include more than 1,400 customers on Saturdays and close to 1,000 customers on Sundays. Ridership on the entire Blue Line in 2000 was 35.2 million, making it the second busiest line in the CTA system.
Walsh Construction Company was the contractor for the Western Avenue station project, and the Federal Transportation Administration and Illinois Department of Transportation provided the funding.
"The reconstruction of the station here at Western is another example of how the CTA is working hard to improve the system for all customers," said CTA Chairman Valerie B. Jarrett. "By improving our rail stations with features such as elevators, we are making our mainline system a more viable option for customers with disabilities. It is this kind of investment in our facilities and infrastructure that allows the CTA to improve the level of quality service and long-term reliability that we provide to our customers."
David Hanson, Commissioner of the Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities hailed the accessibility features of the new station.
"Since 1990, MOPD has worked with other city departments and sister agencies to ensure the full and equal participation of people with disabilities in transportation, housing, employment, education, recreation and more for the nearly 400,000 people with disabilities who live and work in Chicago," he said. ?Today's official opening of CTA's reconstructed Blue Line Western Avenue Station, with its numerous accessibility features, is another milestone on the road to creating a truly public transportation rail system - a system that all Chicagoans are able to use."# # #