Chicago Avenue and Ogden Avenue, West Town
Blue Line: Milwaukee-Dearborn Subway
Address: 800 N. Milwaukee Avenue
Established: February 25, 1951
Original Line: Milwaukee-Dearborn Subway
Previous Names: none
Station (1951, A/B service annulled after one AM rush period)
Status: In Use
Chicago/Milwaukee is typical of the downtown Dearborn and State Street subway stations. Described at the time as of a "modern design" (really somewhere between art deco and art moderne), the mezzanine station has smooth concrete floors and ceilings and white glazed tile walls (sometimes referred to as "structural glass"). The fare control booths are made of stone walls with a small ventilation grate near the bottom and glass windows on all four sides. Turnstiles were steel.
The island platform has red no-slip concrete floors, curved concrete ceilings and I-beam steel columns. Fluorescent lights and illuminated station signs hanging from the ceilings originally finished the decoration. When compared to the ornate subways of New York, London or Paris (built at least several decades before), these stations and their simple, deco-style designs may seem starkly utilitarian but they are very much a product of their era. Though much of the structural work of the Dearborn Subway subway was concurrent with that of State Street's (which opened in 1943), the Dearborn line's was held up until 1951 due to wartime materials shortages. Even then, it was only open at the north end, with cars forced to turn around at LaSalle/Congress until the south end's completion years later.
Chicago received some signage upgrades in March 2004. During a shutdown of the Milwaukee-Dearborn Subway from 2200 hours Saturday, March 6 to 0600 hours, Sunday, March 7, for the installation of telecommunications cables, CTA personnel took the opportunity to install new Green Line Graphic Standard station name signs on the tunnel walls, replacing KDR-style signs installed in the 1980s. Because of the limited time allowed, only the gray-background station name signs themselves were installed at that time; the blue "tabs" to be installed later. In October 2005, the symbol signs on the columns were replaced with new Green Line Graphic Standard versions as well.
Your New Blue: Station Improvements
On December 5, 2013, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Governor Pat Quinn announced a comprehensive improvement plan for the Blue Line O'Hare Branch (including the northern portion of the Dearborn Subway), an overhaul that will provide faster travel times and updated stations while creating more than 1,300 jobs.
The $492 million plan, called Your New Blue, includes several track and station improvement projects along a 12.5-mile stretch of the Blue Line between the Grand and Cumberland stations, as well as upgrades to the signal system between the Jefferson Park and O'Hare stations. The overall Your New Blue program, beginning construction in 2014 and planned to last four years, is a package of several discrete projects ranging from station improvements to track renewal, signal replacement, traction power upgrades, and subway tunnel water mitigation efforts.
Chicago is one of the stations planned to receive improvements under the program. The scope of these improvements -- identical to those also planned for the Division and Grand stations in the Dearborn Subway -- include street-level entry stairway improvements, including new entry kiosks at each stair opening, new granite stair treads and risers, new glazed wall tiles, repainted ceilings, and new lighting. The mezzanine is planned to receive an epoxy finish on concrete floor, new plaster ceilings, new, high-efficiency lighting, and new stainless steel exit rotogates, while the stairs to platform will see the installation of new granite stair treads and risers, repainted ceilings, and replacement lighting. The escalator between the platform and the mezzanine is to be replaced. Planned improvements on the platform include new granite flooring, new stainless steel over concrete block walls, replacement of painted doors with stainless steel, new light fixtures in a steel shroud over platform, and new furniture.1 As part of CTA's enhanced Safe & Secure security upgrades throughout its system, new HD cameras will be installed on both the mezzanine and platform levels, along with new audio speakers on the platform.2
On August 15, 2018, the CTA Board approved a $30 million project to renovate and modernize the Grand, Chicago and Division Blue Line stations. The CTA board awarded the Grand-Chicago-Division Blue Line renovation contract to F.H. Paschen, S.N. Nielsen & Associates, LLC. Paschen is an industry leader in infrastructure construction and rehab projects, and has extensive experience in heavy rail transportation, including mass transit, several CTA projects among them.3
This Chicago-L.org article is a stub. It will be expanded in the future as resources allow.
1. "Your New Blue." CTA website, accessed January 11, 2014.
2. "CTA Awards Contract for Modernization of Grand, Chicago and Division Blue Line Stations." CTA press release, August 15, 2018.