The Chicago Transit Board approved a contract on Dec. 14 for the first phase of track reconstruction work on the entire Forest Park Branch of the Blue Line.
The board decision awards a roughly $105 million contract to Kiewit Infrastructure Company following a competitive procurement process, CTA said.
“The Blue Line is a lifeline for those living and working in the surrounding communities and who make up the millions of rides we see along this branch each year, but for too long these riders have had to rely on a system that has become slower and greatly in need of modernization,” said Chicago Transit Authority President Dorval R. Carter, Jr. “This investment will allow us to deliver the level of service Blue Line riders deserve – which is safer, faster and more reliable.”
The Forest Park branch of the Blue Line was built in the late 1950s and has received targeted investments, including signal upgrades, station improvements, and routine track maintenance since, according to a news release.
However, after more than 60 years of heavy use, track components along the entire branch are now beyond their useful life. Nearly 70% of the Congress Branch Blue Lines have slow zones, creating significant delays, CTA said.
Once complete, track improvements will remove approximately 15,000 feet of slow zone, which the transit authority estimates will reduce travel times by two minutes.
The overall reconstruction of the Forest Park Branch will be carried out through multiple phases as funding becomes available, CTA said. Reconstruction of the track between Illinois Medical District and UIC-Halsted is part of the project’s first phase and includes replacing all rail ties, rails and ballast in the area. Work will also entail rebuilding the track drainage system and the traction power and signal components to accommodate trackwork.
Project work will also include accessibility improvements to the Racine station, which will be performed through a separate contract. The Racine station is one of 42, non-vertically accessible stations identified for upgrades in the CTA’s All Stations Accessibility Strategic Plan. The improvements planned for the station include adding a new elevator, revamping the station house, and extending the platform to allow for new stairs at the Racine Street entrance.