The Chicago Transit Authority today broke ground on its largest capital improvement project ever, the $482.6 million renovation of the Cermak (Douglas) branch of the Blue Line. Chicago Transit Board Chairman Valerie Jarrett and CTA President Frank Kruesi were joined at the event by Mayor Richard M. Daley, Senator Richard Durbin and Federal Transit Administrator Jennifer Dorn.
Over the next four years, the CTA will replace five miles of track, rail ties and foot walks, rebuild or renovate eight stations, remove and replace 350 elevated structural spans, install 700 caissons, upgrade the signal and communications systems, and make other improvements. When completed, the branch will be fully accessible to people with disabilities.
?This is a very important day, not just for the people of the West and Southwest sides, but for everyone in Chicago, whether or not they are regular users of the CTA. This project will restore a vital transportation artery for the people of Lawndale, Little Village and Pilsen as well as the Town of Cicero," said Mayor Daley.
?Traffic congestion is a pain in the neck for millions of travelers in the Chicago area. Investing in the CTA helps relieve that pain," said Senator Durbin.
?The Blue Line, like all of transit in Chicago, plays a key role in strengthening the economy and improving the lives of its people. This rehabilitation will do that again," said Federal Transit Administrator Jennifer Dorn.
?Our customers, and the residents and businesses of the communities served by this line, will benefit from these improvements with better, faster service," said CTA Board Chairman Valerie B. Jarrett. ?Our thanks to U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert, Senator Richard Durbin, Mayor Richard M. Daley, Governor George Ryan and his Illinois FIRST program as well as other Illinois lawmakers who supported the CTA and helped us get the funding we needed to make this project a reality."
?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," said CTA President Frank Kruesi. ?The support we received from all levels of government is a 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."
The Cermak (Douglas) 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 at Harrison Street.
Parts of the branch are more than 100 years old and deteriorating track conditions have caused nearly 50% of the branch to be designated as 'slow zones." Slow zones require trains to travel at 15 m.p.h. rather than the normal 55 m.p.h. A trip from 54th/Cermak to downtown can now take up to 45 minutes. That trip is expected to take 25 minutes when the rehabilitation is completed.
As a result of the slow zones, annual ridership on the Cermak (Douglas) branch fell 50% from 5 million in 1979 to 2.5 million in 2000. Elsewhere on the system, ridership has increased. Systemwide ridership has increased 7.5 percent since 1997.
The Blue Line Cermak (Douglas) Branch will remain in operation during the project. The contractor will perform most of the track and structure work on weekends when the branch is not in service. Work that is not at track level, such as station house construction, electrical substation construction, foundations, bents and utilities will be done on weekdays.
The total cost of the project is $482 million. The CTA has a full funding grant agreement with the federal government to cover $384 million in costs. Another $80.9 million is coming from Governor George Ryan's Illinois FIRST program. The balance will be paid by regional funding sources.
Kiewit/Delgado, AJV (A Joint Venture) is the construction contractor.
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 through a network of seven rail lines and 139 bus routes.# # #