CTA: Additional Work Means Removal of 8 Miles of Slow Zones This Year

CHICAGO — The Chicago Transit Authority announced an aggressive schedule to eliminate eight miles of slow zones on branches of two of its busiest rail lines – the north branch of the Red Line and the subway portion of the O’Hare branch of the Blue Line.

The subway portion of the Blue Line work is underway and will be completed by mid-September and the Red Line work will be completed by year-end. Over the last ten weeks, CTA engineers have been focused on developing a detailed specification for re-building the Blue Line tracks from Addison to O’Hare.

“We know our customers have been extremely frustrated with the Blue Line’s reliability and speed, and we have been focused on a plan to restore the Blue Line to full speed as quickly as possible,” CTA President Ron Huberman said.

CTA plans to bid out the specification for this work over the next two weeks, and plans to award a contract this fall. Based on engineer estimates, the CTA believes the restoration of the full Blue Line will be completed over the next 15 months.

Since last summer, slow zones along those routes have significantly added to travel times for riders. The CTA board today approved modifying existing contracts to accomplish more work and allocating existing bond revenue to cover the cost of these necessary repairs.

“We have heard our customers’ frustration with slow zones and today we are acting to address their concerns,” Chicago Transit Board Chairman Carole Brown said. “I am pleased that we are able to leverage existing contracts to begin this work and I look forward to working with state lawmakers to increase transit investment to bring our entire system to a state of good repair.”

By using vendors already in place and already experienced with this type of work, CTA expects to get more work done in a shorter amount of time than if the work was re-bid. The estimated cost is $14.7 million for both the Blue and Red Line (excluding the Addison to O’Hare portion of the Blue Line).

“Our rail customers have told us that one of their greatest frustrations with the CTA relates to the slow commute times on both the Blue and Red Lines. Although our budget issues are not yet resolved, I feel that the level of frustration riders have expressed dictates that we dedicate the funds we do have to eliminating these slow zones and improving travel times as quickly as possible,” Huberman said. “This is a first step. We are aggressively developing a comprehensive slow zone plan, but in the interim, these plans will tackle areas that impact tens of thousands of CTA riders every day.”

Huberman cautioned that the construction work will impact travel during off peak hours and will involve weekend closures in some areas where crews will replace deteriorated wooden rail ties with concrete rail ties.

“The repairs will cause some disruption to service and we will keep riders informed of any expected delays and available alternate service, but the short-term pain will be worth the long-term payoff – faster trips and more reliable service,” he said.

Now, throughout the fall, crews will also work on the Red Line tracks in the subway from Grand to Clark/Division to remove slow zones currently hampering travel times, and from Armitage to Diversey along the tracks shared by Brown, Red and Purple Express trains.

“This is a significant investment but one that will have immediate results as more rail ties are replaced and speed restrictions continue to be lifted,” Huberman added. “I believe our customers understand that the disruptions they may experience while work is being done will ultimately result in less frustration and a better commute.”

— Railfanning.org News Wire