Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Provided below are answers to some of the most commonly asked questions regarding the Douglas branch rehabilitation project. if you have any other questions not answers by the FAQ or elsewhere in this section, you can email me or call the CTA® at 1-888-YOURCTA (1-888-968-7282).
Q: When will construction begin? When will the project be completed?
A: Work has already begun!! Chairman Valerie B. Jarrett and President Frank Kruesi led a ceremonial groundbreaking at the line's Pulaski station on September 10, 2001. Actual work started at Pulaski and 54/Cermak in October. The CTA® estimates completion of the rehab project in 2005.
Q: How much does this project cost? Where is the money coming from?
A: The price tag of the Douglas Rehabilitation Project is approximately $482 million. Under a Full-Funding Grant Agreement with the US Department of Transportation, the federal government will pay $384 million, with $80.9 million coming from Governor George Ryan's Illinois FIRST program and the balance coming from regional funding.
Q: Is the CTA® going to close the Douglas branch during the reconstruction? Will any stations close during the reconstruction?
A: No. The CTA® is going to keep the line in operation for the duration of the reconstruction process. After the ridership dip that was experienced following the closure of the Green Line during its rehab in 1994-96 (a dip that has, by the way, been largely recovered and in some areas surpassed), the authority decided it was in the not in the best interests of the riders of themselves to close the line or any stations during the project.
What allows this to take place is the fact that weekend and late night service was suspended in April 1998 in a series of service revisions. This down time gives the contractors time to do their work without the interference of trains and customers. Most of the heavy, large-scale work (structural modifications, demolitions, et cetera) will be done during those off-peak hours when there is no service. Crews will do other work, especially on stations, during the week while trains are running.
Although no stops will close during the project, station houses will certainly have to be closed for some of the duration. During these phases, many stations will have temporary entrances for access to the platforms while new permanent stations are being constructed. However, all stations will remain open in one form or another curing the project.
Q: Will any of the stations close permanently as a result of the reconstruction, as with the Green Line in 1994-96?
A: No. The CTA® has stated that they are firmly committed to keeping all current Douglas branch stations in operation. The Douglas branch currently has eleven stations and will reopen with eleven stations. Actually, the CTA® will be creating more station entrances when the project is complete. In addition to some stations that will get entrances on both sides of a street, the following stations will be accessible from two streets after the project is completed: Hoyne will become accessible from Damen (with an auxiliary entrance at Hoyne), Kildare will become accessible from Kostner (with an auxiliary entrance at Kildare), and 54/Cermak will get an auxiliary entrance at Laramie.
Q: Will the CTA® be restoring or rehabilitating any of the historic stations along the line?
A: Sort of. Of the twelve stations on the line (eleven in operation, plus the abandoned Laramie station), four are of completely modern construction (Polk, 18th, Central Park, and Cicero) and have no appreciable historical elements that merit preservation. Three of these (all but Central Park) are being left largely unmodified in the project. Another, Pulaski, has a historic platform, but it is in poor condition and does not merit preservation. (Its station house is modern.) Similarly, Kildare and 54/Cermak have many historic elements and are interesting to view from that standpoint, but their historic integrity is compromised and their preservation would be a questionable endeavor.
This leaves only five stations on the branch -- Hoyne, Western, California, Kedzie, and Laramie -- all of which are historical in one way or another. Laramie, the newest of the lot (1910), has been closed since 1992, but was left intact. It is being reactivated to serve as a temporary terminal while 54/Cermak is rebuilt, but the station house is not being used. The word we hear is that it will not be used as a station on the rebuilt Douglas branch, but that the CTA® has deemed the station "historic" and plans to leave the building intact.
Another two of the five, Hoyne and Kedzie, were also deemed "historic" by the CTA® and will be "preserved". The authority has agreed to retain the original, historic Kedzie station house (1902) and integrate it into the new station facility. The interior will be gutted and the fare controls and booth removed. It will serve only as an entrance and foyer to the new fare controls, which will be housed in a new addition to the built on the back of the original building. The historic side platforms and canopies will be deconstructed and reconstructed together as an island platform; the historic, decorative railings and lighting will probably not be retained. Although this will physically preserve Kedzie's historic elements, it does very little preserve its historic integrity and context.
Hoyne (1896) actually has no station house to save, but does have a set of original platforms in good condition. Hoyne's fare controls will be demolished in favor of a new station, whose main entrance will be one block east at Damen, with an auxiliary entrance at Hoyne. As at Kedzie, the historic side platforms and canopies will be deconstructed and reconstructed together as an island platform, with the same pros and cons present as in the Kedzie scenario. The CTA will be installing plaques at Hoyne and Kedzie when the renovation is complete to denote its historic status.
California (1902) has a station house identical to Kedzie and has an interior with much more historic integrity, but its original canopies were removed in the 1970s and replaced with an unattractive full-width box canopy. Western is a very unique station with an 1896 Craftsman rear and sides, but a newer 1930s Art Modern facade. Its platforms and canopies are also intact. Although Western and California are also of a unique, historic nature, the CTA® will be demolishing these stations in favor of completely new facilities.
Q: I sometimes hear the line referred to as the "Cermak branch" and sometimes the "Douglas branch". Are these, in fact, the same thing and if so, what gives?
A: Yes, the "Cermak branch" and the "Douglas branch" are the same line: a 6.6-mile branch of the Blue Line that starts at Loomis junction near Paulina and Harrison on the Near West Side of Chicago and ends at 54th Avenue and Cermak Road in suburban Cicero. Why two names? Chalk it up to old habits dying hard.
Historically, the branch has been called the "Douglas branch" since the 1950s (shorted from the original "Douglas Park branch") and this is what most Chicagoans know it as. In the early 1990s, the CTA® gave the seven rapid transit lines color names (with the West-Northwest Route becoming the Blue Line) and in the late 1990s, the authority completed their renaming scheme by changing the names of some of the branches to correspond with the names of their terminals. Thus, the Douglas branch (which ends at 54/Cermak, which is itself a name change from "Cicero-Berwyn Terminal"... Go figure...) became the "Cermak branch" on all maps and other official public information. It makes some sense, as the line does also parallel Cermak Road for most of its length (though it is not immediately adjacent to it).
However, many Chicagoans like to hold on to their comfortable old nomenclature and continue calling it the "Douglas branch". The CTA®, however, muddied the waters a bit by calling the project the "Douglas Renovation Project" in a lot of their public relations and media materials, rather than calling it the "Cermak Renovation Project", as their revised nomenclature would suggest. So, in a sense, both names are correct, though the CTA's® official maps say "Cermak branch".
Q: Will the CTA® restore 24-hour and/or 7-day a week service on the Douglas branch when the project is completed.
A: On May 4, 1999, the Chicago Tribune reported that, testifying at a legislative hearing, Chairman Valerie Jarrett said she would be "very disappointed" if weekend and late-night service on the Douglas branch of the Blue Line was not restored after the reconstruction is completed. "If we spend the kind of money that we are talking about spending to rehab the Douglas branch, I would be very disappointed if we could not restore service," Jarrett said at the time.
In September 2000, CTA® spokeswoman Noelle Gaffney said her agency will consider beefing up hours of service after the project is completed. However, such a service increase would be dependent on the ridership being there. On September 10, 2001, Gaffney said the CTA® will not consider increasing the Blue Line's hours until the project is completed in October 2005. Any new service would be added incrementally as demand grows, she said.
At the monthly meeting of the Chicago Transit Board on October 14, 2004, CTA® announced that weekend service on the Douglas branch would resume in January 2005. Service was to be restored by diverting half of the trains from the Forest Park branch to the Douglas branch, a reversal of how the weekend Douglas service was "cut" in 1998 (in point of fact the runs were not eliminated, they were simply diverted to the Forest Park branch, doubling that line's service level regardless of demand). As of October 2004, CTA® said no decision has been made about resuming late-night "owl" service on the Douglas branch.