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The Chicago Transit Authority's (CTA) Blue Line O'Hare Branch will undergo a $492 million overhaul of track, signal system and stations, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn announced yesterday.The "Your New Blue" plan calls for several improvements along a 12.5-mile stretch of the line between the Grand and Cumberland stations, as well as upgrades to the signal system between the Jefferson Park and O’Hare stations. The projects are expected to provide faster travel times and create more than 1,300 jobs, CTA officials said in a press release.The overhaul is the "largest comprehensive investment" for the line since the O'Hare branch extension was built from Jefferson Park to O'Hare in 1983, they said."Like the Red Line South project we just completed on time and within budget, this Blue Line plan is far-reaching and long overdue, and will help meet increasing demand," said Emanuel in a prepared statement.Funding for Your New Blue is expected to come from local, state and federal sources, CTA officials said. 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 trackwork, followed by station renovations, power upgrades and signal improvements.Ridership on the O’'Hare Branch is growing rapidly, with more than 25 million station entries in 2012. Weekday ridership has grown 25 percent over the past five years, and 33 percent 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 7 million rides, CTA officials said.The work includes extensive renovations at seven stations and repairs at four stations; concrete platform repairs and installation of a new elevator at the Addison station; track improvements to eliminate and prevent slow zones in the Milwaukee Subway; signal improvements between O'Hare and Jefferson Park; traction power upgrades; and special track improvements near O'Hare station and in the Rosemont rail yard.
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