The Chicago Transit Board on Aug. 14 approved the hire of a general contractor to perform track and structural work on the blue line O’Hare branch between the Damen and Logan Square stations that will improve travel times, eliminate all slow zones and help to slow the development of future slow zones, reducing future maintenance and repair costs.
Following a competitive bid process, a contract valued at $20.4 million was awarded to Kiewit Infrastructure Co. for the Milwaukee blue lline track renewal project.
The project will address slow zones not repaired during previous construction projects. “Slow zones” are implemented when track conditions are too poor to allow trains to travel at top speeds of 55 mph. Currently, blue line trains operating to and from O’Hare and the Loop incur speed restrictions ranging from 35 mph to 15 mph as a precautionary measure following track inspections that found that the wooden rail ties were in poor condition and in need of replacement.
The project is just one of a number of initiatives to invest in Chicago’s transit infrastructure. Mayor Rahm Emanuel Mayor has prioritized transit infrastructure improvements to enhance service to customers and position the CTA for growth.
“We want to ensure safe and reliable train service, free of slow zones, exists between O’Hare Airport and downtown Chicago,” said CTA President Forrest Claypool. “This project will not only address slow zones already in place, but it will also help prevent the development of future slow zones by replacing track and components that are nearing the end of their useful lifespan.”
In addition to replacing deteriorated wooden rail ties along the elevated structure, project work will also entail the replacement of tie plates, fateners and footwalks. Project work is expected to begin in the spring and continue through the fall of 2014. Every effort will be made to minimize impacts to customers, including scheduling work that will impact service to overnight or weekends only.
Funding for this project is a combination of sources, but is primarily funded with grants from the Illinois Department of Transportation and the TIGER III program, which is a federal grant program designed to improve transportation infrastructure.
Between 2007 and 2009, CTA completed two projects that targeted slow zones affecting service between the O’Hare and Addison stations and the stretch of track north of Division to south of Clinton in the Dearborn subway.