Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Gov. Pat Quinn announced a comprehensive improvement plan for the Chicago Transit Authority’s (CTA) Blue Line O’Hare Branch — an overhaul that will provide faster travel times and updated stations while creating more than 1,300 good-paying jobs.
The $492 million plan, called “Your New Blue,” includes several track and station improvement projects along a 12.5-mile stretch of the Blue Line O’Hare Branch between the Grand and Cumberland stations, as well as upgrades to the signal system between the Jefferson Park and O’Hare stations.
The improvements will provide faster and more comfortable and reliable commutes for the more than 80,000 customers who each weekday use stations along the branch, which had 25 million rides last year. This project is the largest comprehensive investment for this line since the O’Hare branch extension was built from Jefferson Park to O’Hare in 1983.
“This plan represents a huge investment in CTA riders and visitors traveling to Chicago via O’Hare and many vibrant communities along the North and Northwest Sides. It’s also part of our latest efforts to modernize our transit system for the 21st century," said Mayor Emanuel.
Among the four-year plan’s highlights:
- Extensive station renovations at several stations.
- Concrete platform repairs and installation of a new elevator at the Addison station to make it ADA accessible.
- Repairs at the Irving Park, Montrose, Harlem and Cumberland stations.
- Track improvements to eliminate slow zones in the Dearborn Subway (Grand to Division) and Milwaukee Subway (Damen to Belmont).
- Track signal improvements between O’Hare and Jefferson Park, which will improve speed of travel.
- Traction power upgrades to improve service and reliability.
- Installation of new water management systems and repairs to ensure dry and clean subway stations.
- Special track improvements near the O’Hare station and in the Rosemont rail yard to help reduce delays and provide for more efficient operations.
- Upgrade of wireless infrastructure in the subway tunnels to provide customers and workers with faster and more reliable voice, data and Web service in the subway. Current infrastructure was built in 2005 and is inadequate and outdated.
Ridership on the O’Hare Branch is growing rapidly, with more than 25 million station entries in 2012. Weekday ridership has grown 25% over the past five years and 33% over the past 10 years — outpacing the growth of the rail system as a whole. Annual ridership on the O’Hare branch increased by 6.3 million rides over the past 10 years, the second highest for any branch after Red North Main, which added seven million rides.
Funding for Your New Blue is expected to come from local, state and federal sources. The first projects are expected to get under way in 2014. Project schedules are still being finalized, but the project is expected to begin with track work, following by station renovations, power upgrades and then signal improvements.