Not so blue much longer? CTA Blue Line gets huge $492 million upgrade

The state's top politicians joined forces today to announce plans for Your New Blue, a four-year rehab to improve track and stations along a 12.5-mile stretch of the CTA's Blue Line from Grand north to Cumberland, as well as upgrades to the signal system between the Jefferson Park and O’Hare stations.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Gov. Pat Quinn both tried to make political hay with this big project to improve service for the 80,000 riders who use the Blue Line every weekday along that north branch.

Here are the highlights of the four-year plan, says the CTA:

  • Extensive station renovations at the Grand, Chicago, Division, Damen, California, Logan Square and Jefferson Park 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 and prevent slow zones in the Milwaukee Subway (Damen to Belmont) and Dearborn Subway (Grand to Division), respectively.
  • 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 Current infrastructure was built in 2005 and is inadequate and outdated.

Funding for Your New Blue is expected to come from local, state and federal sources. The first projects are expected to get underway in 2014, says the CTA. The project is expected to begin with track work, following by station renovations, power upgrades and then signal improvements.


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  • I use the Addison blue line stop and lived through the last big project. Not thrilled, but I understand it has to happen.

    But I do think it is a pretty poor time to announce this. People are so pissed at Ventra they are going to complain even more than unusual about this upgrade. CTA has a huge lack of public support right now. Everyone is blaming the CTA, not specifically Cubic.

  • In reply to johnpseudonym:

    The Cubic thing will be resolved one way or the other in about 6 months. The Mayor's entourage (minus Ari) didn't say when the first shovel goes in. The contracts would have to go out to bid, and the solicitations are not on the procurement page yet.

    In fact it is probably the opposite--Emanuel springs this one now to get the heat off Ventra. Billl Cameron was quick to point out that "news manager* Emanuel did not take questions."

    Apparently Emanuel and Durbin think they get a lot of political mileage of announcing these sort of projects, although it appears {as Scooter pointed out} the work may be redundant. For instance, Claypool said something about the need to replace the signal system, even though CTA just replaced it a couple of years ago in the "O'Hare/Forest Park/Block 37" project.

    *Heard that here before this week?

  • In reply to jack:

    What was the "O'Hare/Forest Park/Block 37" project?

    Some of this work definitely needs to be done though.

    I don't understand the Addison concrete repairs. I ride this every weekday and I don't see anything wrong with the concrete. I'm sure the elevator will be nice for those who need it.

  • In reply to chris:

    I shouldn't have to Google it for you, but here is a reference.

    I misnamed it (name is "Dearborn/Congress/Kennedy/Block 37 Signals") but I remembered it and a search for " 'block 37' + signals" worked.

    My understanding was that the 5000s couldn't be tested on the Blue Line unless the signals were upgraded to avoid radio interference between the DC/AC inverters and the old signal system.

  • In reply to jack:

    Thanks. The O'Hare part threw me off so I thought you were talking about something different.

  • In reply to chris:

    Someone else pointed out that the O'Hare portion could mislead, since the project only went to Jefferson Park. The reason was that past Jefferson Park was the first application of bidirectional signals.

  • In reply to chris:

    I have to amend my last remark. In the Blue Line case, much of the territory starting with the Milwaukee L to Forest Park was still using wayside signals from the 1950s. "Existing train control systems on the Blue Line that are between 35 and 54 years old" is mentioned in the linked document, as well as AC traction.

  • In reply to jack:

    Oh! You are so right about trying to take the heat off Ventra! I really enjoy this blog and everyone who comments here, thanks!

  • In reply to johnpseudonym:

    I forgot to notice that Quinn was mentioned in the post, and we sure know what his motivation is. Apparently he is going to run against Rauner (my bet) on the basis that he fixed the pension mess and the CTA, all for the "little people."

  • Not to counter mass opinion...but this is awesome news. Those stations are some of the nastiest stations in the CTA network. Having Division as my home station for 4 years, no coat of paint is going to fix the disaster that station is. The north end of the red line is probably the most in need of the money, but the blue line is close behind it. It's always been the #2 stepchild to the red. Plus, they needed to fix the signals and traction power before the 5000/7000's can be utilized.

  • In reply to mustangthz:

    ...the rats need to be scarier. Red line rats are the size of feral pigs, blue line rats are a more manageable household pet size.

  • In reply to mustangthz:

    Read above; they already fixed the signals and power in the "Dearborn/Congress/Kennedy/Block 37 Signals" project and at least tested the 5000s on all parts of the system.

    However, I am starting to think that CTA is intentionally trying to deceive the taxpayers that CTA is actually doing something with the half billions of money they announce periodically. This is sort of sounding like the 2005-2007 Dan Ryan project, that cost $250 million, did not fix what was claimed, and essentially had to be ripped out (maybe except the signal relay houses) in 2013. The scope of this project is so uncertain that I'll bet no one can pinpoint what the half billion will fix, if anything. Note this NewsRadio 780 105.9 story noting that Huberman apparently lied about the scope of work done on the Blue Line in 2007.

  • In reply to mustangthz:

    You're wrong as the Red is always the stepchild to the Blue & Orange Lines.
    That's because the Blue & Orange Lines go to airports & occasionally carry "important people".
    But the North Red only goes to Howard St., which is the south end of the Juneway Jungle!

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