The station house at the Irving Park Road entrance to Irving Park station is seen looking east on August 31, 2008. The rectilinear shape of the building and its steel frame and glass construction belay its International style design. Irving Park is the only Kennedy-Dan Ryan station whose fare control area is below the expressway lanes. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

Irving Park

(4000N/4100W) Irving Park

(4000W/3900N) Pulaski

Irving Park Road and Pulaski Road, Irving Park

Service Notes:

Blue Line: O'Hare

Owl Service

Quick Facts:

Address:

4131 W. Irving Park Road (Irving Park entrance)

3900 N. Pulaski Road (Pulaski entrance)

Established: February 1, 1970
Original Line: West-Northwest Route, Milwaukee branch
Previous Names: none

Skip-Stop Type:

Station (1970-1983)

Station (1983-1995)

Rebuilt: n/a
Status: In Use

History:

The Skidmore-designed Irving Park station main entrance interior is seen on August 31, 2008, very much as it was originally built. Note how everything is harmoniously rectilinear in design, thanks to Skidmore's holistic approach. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

The extension of the Milwaukee Line of the West-Northwest Route (the forerunner of today's Blue Line) reached its new terminal at Jefferson Park via a new subway and the median of the Kennedy Expressway. After running in subway under Milwaukee and Kimball avenues, the line crosses under the eastbound lanes of the John F. Kennedy Expressway at School Street (3300N), ascends to the surface and continues northwest another four miles in the median of the Kennedy Expressway to Jefferson Park (5400N). Built concurrently with the Dan Ryan Line -- and together known as the Kennedy-Dan Ryan ("KDR") project -- the Kennedy Extension incorporated several new design features that were considered revolutionary or at least very modern for the time.

The design of the six stations of the Kennedy Extension was carried out by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill under the direction of Myron Goldsmith, who developed a modern, functional form in the late International style popular at the time. Improved visibility and security, ease of cleaning and more comfortable working conditions for CTA employees were design goals. Skidmore took the KDR project in a unique direction, designing all aspects of the new lines to harmonize in both shapes and materials. All windbreaks, dividers, and ticket booths were stainless steel. The formal and functional criteria were expressed in several ways: open, uncluttered, brightly lit interior spaces; durability, safety, maximum efficiency of movement; lightness and purity of structure. The shape of everything, from the buildings to the agents' booths, to the trashcans, followed together into a seamless design philosophy, which perfectly captured the boxy, purely functional International Modern style for which Skidmore is so well known.

Irving Park is one of four median stations on the Kennedy Extension, which were the centerpieces of Skidmore's design for the line. The International style stations were constructed of white steel and glass providing maximum visibility from adjacent streets and highways boxy. In terms of interior arrangement and design for the passenger, Skidmore generally followed the edict of modernist pioneer Mies van der Rohe that "less is more." Except for at a few locations, there were no concessions provided for passengers. Air conditioning and a compact washroom with a toilet were provided in the agents' booths. Restrooms were for employees only, although payphones were provided for the public. Stainless steel turnstiles, now an industry standard, were first used in the KDR stations. The amenities and traffic circulation fit with the architectural design of the station: efficient but purely functional. Stations were designed with turnstiles and agents booths arranged for maximum queuing and circulation effectiveness. The Dan Ryan and Kennedy stations were also set up to allow Pay On Train operation, although without all of the complicated gates and rearrangement built into the Congress stations. The boarding platforms are long enough to accommodate 8-car trains. The supports of the transparent platform canopies, which extend beyond the center line of the tracks, are white-painted steel frames. Self-service infrared radiant heaters are located at windbreaks on the platforms.

The Pulaski auxiliary entrance is seen looking southwest on August 31, 2008. The original station building has been modified with a set of entry doors where the agent's booth originally was, high exit rotogates, and new tile cladding. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

Irving Park station is different from other Kennedy-Dan Ryan stations in a few ways. Although it's general design, style, and arrangement are similar, the site conditions dictated some deviations. Unlike most KDR locations where the expressway is below grade and the cross-streets pass on viaducts, resulting in station houses and fare control areas above the platforms, at Irving Park Road the expressway passes over the street. This results in the only KDR station at which the station houses and fare control areas are below the platforms. (Cermak-Chinatown's entrances are below the platforms, but the fare control areas at elevated, at platform level.)

The layout of the station also differs from other KDR stations. Like Congress Line stations, the Irving Park station bridges the distance between streets (Irving Park and Pulaski roads) and has two entrances, resulting in an unusually long platform to reach those two streets. The layout for this station dates back to the station's first conceptual layout seen in the 1958 New Horizons for Chicago's Metropolitan Area transit plan (see rendering below). While most KDR stations were long enough to berth an 8-car train, Irving Park's platform us nearly 530 feet long, sufficient to berth a 10-car train. Beyond this, the platform-level continues even farther as a railing-enclosed walkway to cross to the far sides of Pulaski and Irving Park roads to auxiliary exits, allowing egress on both sides of both streets, preventing the need to cross wide, busy streets to make bus connections. The far sides (north side of Irving Park and east side of Pulaski) were built to high rotogate exits, while the near sides of the streets were built to entrances staffed by ticket agents and equipped with turnstiles. The platform is also somewhat narrower than other KDR stations, only about 12 feet wide.

In the early 1980s, the CTA was facing financial problems and sought ways to bring costs under control. One such economizing method was to reduce the hours of ticket agent coverage at many stations, especially those with multiple entrances. As a result, the auxiliary entrance at Pulaski was closed to entering customers on January 24, 1982 except during morning rush hours Monday through Friday. At all other times, the Pulaski end of the station was exit-only. This lasted 10 years until the CTA once again found itself in a position to reduce costs. Effective February 10, 1992, the Pulaski entrance was closed completely -- one of several stations and station auxiliary entrances closed at the same time -- becoming exit-only at all times.

The introduction of CTA's Cubic-manufactured electronic farecard equipment in the mid-1990s provided the opportunity to reopen auxiliary entrances without paying the costs of staffing them. The new fare control equipment included a High-Barrier Gate (HBG), a tall, cage-like rotating gate that, unlike an exit-only rotogate which turns in only one direction, has a farecard-reader attached that will unlock the gate to rotate in the entering direction with a valid farecard. The CTA reopened the Pulaski entrance with the installation of an High-Barrier Gate in October 1998, one of several auxiliary entrances reopened with HBGs around that time. The CTA renovated the entrance by adding doors to enclose the building and adding new tile wall cladding.

The CTA continued to improve access to the station by installing additional HBGs. In summer 2004, the auxiliary exit to the north side of Irving Park Road was improved with the installation of an HBG, allowing customers to enter on the north side of the street (with a valid farecard) in addition to the main entrance on the south side of the street. This provided more convenient bus transfers by eliminating the need to cross the busy multilane Irving Park Road.

In spring 2008, the CTA replaced the original KDR-style signage with Green Line Graphic Standard station name signs and symbol signs. The work included removal of the 1970-vintage green (indicating its former status as a "B" station in skip-stop operation) column and station name signs on the platform, as well as the installation of new entrance signs over the main (Irving Park) and auxiliary (Pulaski) entrances.

 

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.

Irving Park is one of the stations planned to receive modest improvements under the program. The scope of these improvements includes repairs to damaged concrete on the station platform, replacement of existing deteriorated canopy skylights along the platform, and modest renewal of the station house and platform areas.1

The scope, design, and timeline for the station improvements under Your New Blue are still being finalized.

 

The Irving Park platform, looking northwest on August 31, 2008, sports its newly-installed station name and column signs. The original stainless steel windbreaks were also replaced with new shelters using modular parts formerly used for bus stop shelters during spring 2008. The station still has its original aggregate flooring and plexiglas skylight "bubbles" in the Skidmore-designed steel canopy. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)


 

NorthwestExp@Pulaski.jpg (182k)
Artist's rendering from the 1958 New Horizons for Chicago's Metropolitan Area of the proposed Northwest Expressway extension where it would pass Pulaski Road. The Irving Park-Pulaski station facility that was built is very similar in appearance to this rendering. including the multiple entrances. (Graham Garfield Collection)

irvingpark.irvingpark03.jpg (153k)
The auxiliary entrance on the north side of Irving Park Road is seen looking west from the bus stop on August 31, 2008. The stairs were part of the original station construction, but the signage was added in 2004 to promote the new entrance capabilities. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

irvingpark.irvingpark04.jpg (168k)
This High-Barrier Gate was added at the northwest end of the walkway from the platform to the north side of Irving Park Road. This location was originally outfitted with an exit-only rotogate to allow egress to connecting buses but prevented entry. This HBG, seen looking southeast from the unpaid side on August 31, 2008, was installed in summer 2004 to allow entrance and improve accessibility to the station. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

irvingpark.pulaksi02.jpg (137k)
The east side of Pulaski Road sports an auxiliary exit, allowing customers to transfer to northbound Pulaski buses without crossing wide Pulaski Road. The Irving Park station has our egress points, on both sides of the two streets it serves. This view looks north on August 31, 2008. Note the JCDecaux bus shelter for northbound buses, although the whole area is under a solid expressway bridge. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

Notes:

1. "Your New Blue." CTA website, accessed January 11, 2014.