By Dan Kening
Tribune staff reporter
Date of Publication: September 10, 2001
Source: Chicago Tribune
Relief is finally on the way for riders of the crumbling and crawling Cermak (Douglas) branch of the CTA Blue Line.
The four-year, $482 million reconstruction of the 100-year-old elevated line kicked off today when CTA Chairman Valerie B. Jarrett and President Frank Kruesi led a ceremonial groundbreaking at the line's Pulaski Road station.
Built as the Douglas Park line of the Metropolitan West Side Elevated Railroad, a predecessor of today's CTA, the Cermak branch serves the West Side and west suburban Cicero with 6.6 miles of track that runs parallel to Cermak Road.
The line runs from its western terminus at 54th Avenue and Cermak in Cicero east to Paulina Street, where it turns north and meets with the Blue Line Forest Park (Congress) branch at Harrison Street.
Five miles of track will be replaced. Over the years, nearly half of the line's track has deteriorated, resulting in "slow zones" that require trains capable of up to 55 m.p.h. to go only 15 m.p.h., slowing service along the line, officials said.
Eight of the line's 11 stations will be rebuilt: at 54th/Cermak, Kildare Avenue, Pulaski Road and Central Park, Kedzie, California, Western and Hoyne Avenues.
Other improvements include new escalators at the Polk Street station, new rail signals and communications equipment and a reconstructed rail yard at 54th/Cermak.
CTA spokeswoman Anne McCarthy said service disruptions would be "minimal" because construction will take place after service ends at 12:40 a.m. weekdays, and on weekends when the line does not operate.
McCarthy said no schedule changes are expected, though riders may experience some inconvenience when temporary platforms are put in service while stations are being rebuilt.
Survey work is currently underway. The project's first phase is to begin in October, when concrete foundations for support beams will be poured at the Pulaski station, McCarthy said. Later this fall, reconstruction is to begin on the 54th/Cermak station.
The project is being paid for by a $384 million federal grant, $81 million from the state's Illinois FIRST program and the remainder with local funds.