By Tara Deering
TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER
Date of Publication: June 8, 1999
Source: Chicago Tribune
U.S. Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (R-Ill.) and U.S. Sen. Slade Gorton (R-Wash.), who is a member of the Senate Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee, got a firsthand look Monday morning at the deteriorating Douglas branch of the CTA's Blue Line and the efforts being made to keep it accessible.
In the last few years, emergency shoring has been erected along the route and train speed has been reduced to only 15 miles per hour on about 30 percent on the line.
"The day in which the engineering staff says it is not safe to run the trains here, we'll stop running trains here," said CTA President Frank Kruesi.
But Fitzgerald hopes that day never comes. "The senators and I are going to go to bat for this project," he said. "If we can get this repaired with the assistance of the federal government, we'd like to see it repaired."
The Douglas branch of the Blue Line reconstruction is a $420 million jointly funded project between the state and federal governments. The CTA already has been promised the $78 million needed from the state under the Illinois FIRST public works program, but it still needs $315 million in federal assistance for the estimated three-year reconstruction.
Last month, the House Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee proposed allocating only $2 million for the Douglas branch project after the CTA had asked for $77 million. If only the proposed $2 million makes it through the federal funding process, Kruesi said work on the line will most likely be delayed.
Though Fitzgerald plans to negotiate with the House and Senate, he said competing with aviation and other cities' mass transit projects for federal funds will be challenging.
"You're not going to get $315 million in a single year, but you don't have a single-year project," he said.
Gorton, a Chicago area native who was invited on the tour by Fitzgerald, said Monday's tour will help him decide when it comes time to vote on funding for the CTA project.
If funds become available for construction, Kruesi said the Blue Line will not close. Instead, construction work will be done during the day and on weekends to accommodate daily commuters.