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Rail News: Passenger Rail

CTA begins Douglas Branch reconstruction


Chicago Transit Authority Sept. 10 broke ground on its largest capital improvement project ever: the $482.6 million renovation of its Cermak (Douglas) branch of the Blue Line.

The agency plans to replace five miles of track, ties and foot walks; rebuild or renovate eight stations; remove and replace 350 elevated structural spans; install 700 caissons; upgrade the signal and communication systems; and complete other improvements.

Parts of the 6.6-mile branch are more than 100 years old and deteriorating, requiring trains to run at 15 mph over nearly half the segment. With improved track conditions, officials expect trains to operate at 55 mph — and reduce transit times from 54th/Cermak terminal to downtown from 45 minutes to 25 minutes.

Joint venture construction contractor Kiewit/Delgado plans to perform most track and structure work on weekends when trains aren’t running on the branch. Work not at track level, such as constructing station houses, electrical substations and foundations, will be done on weekdays.

Of the project’s total cost, $384 million is being provided through a full funding grant agreement. An additional $80.9 million is coming from Gov. George Ryan’s Illinois FIRST program, and the remainder from regional funding sources.