Four-year Blue Line construction begins


Samantha Tadelman

Four-year Blue Line construction begins

By Assistant Metro Editor

To make commutes more efficient and improve train stations, certain stops along the O’Hare branch of the Chicago Transit Authority Blue Line will be periodically shut down for weekend construction beginning March 21.

As a part of the $492 million Your New Blue program, stations from Grand Avenue to O’Hare will close for construction on specific weekends, with the first closure affecting stations between Logan Square and Western Avenue the weekend of March 21. The stations are expected to reopen by 4 a.m. March 24, according to a Feb. 24 CTA press release.

The first leg of the project will focus on repairing the elevated tracks along Milwaukee Avenue from Damen Avenue to Logan Square. Through August, there will be seven weekend closures between the Western and Logan Square stations and three weekend closures between the Damen and Western stations. During the four-year-long project, The CTA will rehabilitate 13 stations and replace old train tracks, according to the press release.

Ridership on the O’Hare branch has grown 25 percent in the last five years and 33 percent in the last 10 years, according to the CTA press release.

Brenna Conway, transit campaign coordinator for the Active Transportation Alliance, said it is necessary to invest in the Blue Line because it is one of the most heavily traveled CTA lines; however, updating the infrastructure will not fix all the problems riders face. Overcrowded trains cause commuters to wait and watch trains pass during busy hours, making the CTA less efficient, she said.

“We are still facing a problem on the Blue Line with capacity,” Conway said. “We need to be able to carry more people faster and more comfortably. We need to make sure we do more projects that specifically focus on getting people where they need to be.”

Brian Nadig, secretary of the Jefferson Park Chamber of Commerce, said he looks forward to the improvements that will be made to the Jefferson Park stop because the number of “troublemakers” seems to decrease when transit stations are remodeled.

Nadig said he hopes the CTA rehabilitation will increase ridership and he thinks surrounding businesses will also benefit from the upgrades.

“When you increase ridership,” Nadig said, “you get more people coming through the neighborhood.”

George Karzas, owner of the Gayle Street Inn Chicago, 4914 N. Milwaukee Ave., a restaurant next to the Jefferson Park Blue Line stop, said although construction may cause delays and inconveniences, the Jefferson Park station desperately needs renovations.

“You have to go through the pain and the unpleasantness of restructuring to make it better,” Karzas said. “You have to look at the end result. This is going to make Jefferson Park better, so if you’re not into Jefferson Park being better, then move along.”

Nancy Becker, owner of Una Mae’s, 1528 N. Milwaukee Ave., a clothing store next to the Damen stop, said she fears the station closures could negatively affect business. She said she worries her shoppers will go elsewhere because of closures.

“I am crossing my fingers that I don’t see much of a difference,” Becker said. “It’s already our [busiest] season and this winter has been kind of hard. The idea of closures doesn’t help things.”

The CTA will offer free shuttle buses and rail transfers to curtail delays caused by rail construction, according to the CTA press release.