The Jefferson Park platform, looking southeast in July 1999. The staircase in the background leads up to the station fare controls. The sign on the left was the last original KDR-style sign left in the station. It was removed in November 2002. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

Jefferson Park (4900N/5400W)
Milwaukee Avenue and Gale Street, Jefferson Park

Service Notes:

Blue Line: O'Hare

Accessible Station

Transfer to Metra: Union Pacific - Northwest Line

Owl Service

Quick Facts:

Address: 4917 N. Milwaukee Avenue
Established: February 1, 1970
Original Line: West-Northwest Route, Milwaukee branch
Previous Names: none

Skip-Stop Type:

Station

Rebuilt: 2000-01
(elevator added, minor renovations)
Status: In Use

History:

A four-car Douglas-Milwaukee "B" train, including car 6567 at the rear, pulls into (or possibly out of) Jefferson Park station on July 8, 1971. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Joe Testagrose)

In the late 1960s, it was decided the Milwaukee Line was to be extended passed the Logan Square terminal. The original proposed route of this extension was quite different than the one adopted. As proposed in December 1962 by consulting firm of Parsons, Brinckerhoff, Quade & Douglas, the 10-mile extension would have continued northwest from Logan Square to the proposed Crosstown Expressway, then north in the median to the Northwest Expressway and thence northwest in the median to a terminal at Cumberland Avenue (8400W) near Higgins Road with an additional extension to O'Hare Airport later. This extension was projected to attract 9,700,000 riders annually and cost $36,000,000. The cancellation of the Crosstown Expressway project was no doubt one of many reasons this alignment was rejected in favor of continuing north from Logan Square via a subway to the Kennedy Expressway, then northwest to Jefferson Park via the median with four intermediate stations.

The Kennedy Extension was planned and funded coincidentally with the Dan Ryan Line and the two started under design and construction together. Though its end-to-end length is actually shorter than the Dan Ryan Line, the Kennedy project was far more complex and time-consuming, including a substantial length of subway and an expressway overpass that was constructed without interrupting traffic. The project cost $50 million.

The extension and station opened February 1, 1970. The line and station are described in these paragraphs from the brochure the city issued to commemorate its construction:

"The Kennedy rapid transit line extends 5.2 miles beyond the old Logan Square 'L' Terminal. At Sacramento Avenue, south of Logan Square, the tracks descend from the elevated structure and go into subway, proceeding in a northwesterly direction beneath Milwaukee Avenue, turning north in Kimball Avenue, then crossing under the eastbound and express lanes of the Kennedy Expressway and continuing northwest nearly four miles farther to a new terminal in the expressway at Jefferson Park near Milwaukee Avenue.

"Along the way... three ultramodern stations are provided in the median - at Addison, Irving Park-Pulaski, and Montrose. In the mile and a quarter subway section there are two stations... the Logan Sqaure-Diversey station, with entrances on Milwaukee at Kedzie and Spaulding near Diversey, and the Belmont-Kimball station.

"Subway construction... was carried out by the open cut method in three main stages to minimize inconvenience to residents and businesses...

"Coinciding with the start of operations, CTA bus routes serving the northwest section of the city and adjacent suburban communities are being revised for maximum coordination of connecting service at each station...

"The major portion of the new line is designed for speeds up to 70 mph, although the actual maximum operating speed will be 58 mph..."

Among the bus routes instituted to serve the Jefferson Park station was the #40-O'Harexpress route, operating nonstop between the "L" terminal and O'Hare International Airport, setting the stage for the rapid transit extension to the airport 14 years later.

The rectilinear form used by Skidmore in the Kennedy stations is clearly espoused in the squared-off stainless steel agent's booth, turnstiles, fare control barriers, and overhead illuminated sign box at Jefferson park station, looking south in the unpaid area on August 10, 1970. For a larger view, click here. (Photo from the CTA Collection)

The design of Jefferson Park and the other three median stations of the Kennedy extension -- as well as the two subway stations that were part of the project -- were 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 "open plan" concept, built of white steel and glass panels for maximum illumination and visibility through the station frame and skin. Improved visibility and security, ease of cleaning and more comfortable working conditions for CTA employee were design goals. Skidmore took the Kennedy-Dan Ryan ("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 supports of the transparent platform canopies and the structures of the station enclosures are white-painted steel frames, and the enclosures themselves are glass. 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.

The stations' design even formed a harmony with the 150 rapid transit cars, the 2200-series units, that were ordered to serve the new Kennedy and Dan Ryan lines, which used the same design philosophies and basic shapes, and an entirely new system of signage with a redesigned typeface and clean graphic style (still used by CTA today, in a modified form), making a fully integrated design throughout the entire project.

The platform is long enough to accommodate an 8-car train and a steel-framed canopy extends beyond the center line of the tracks, partially covering the trains. The off-street bus transfer facility is provided with a direct connection to the station. The station house has a good deal of open space for waiting passengers. It also originally housed a concessionaire and a Greyhound intercity bus ticket office. The back of the facility contained a trainroom and office for the terminal. The corridor leading to the fare control area from the bus terminal has a direct connection to Metra's Jefferson Park station on what is now the Union Pacific-Northwest Line (originally the Chicago & North Western's Northwest Line).

Because the line is confined to the median of an expressway, a conventional multitrack yard was not feasible beyond the station. However, there was sufficient room to squeeze a three-track yard to store 108 cars into the median, stretching to Foster Avenue, plus a two-car inspection facility.

Favorable ridership eventually allowed the line to be extended to O'Hare Airport, with service to beyond Jefferson Park to River Road starting February 27, 1983 and reaching its terminal at O'Hare September 3, 1984. The modest yard was removed and the tracks easily extended beyond Jefferson Park. Now a through-station, it remains one of the CTA's most heavily-patronized facilities. Once the line was extended and a new trainroom was built at O'Hare, the Jefferson Park trainroom became a CTA training and instruction facility. The CTA Training and Instruction Department used this space until March 26, 2006. The Greyhound station also moved from Jefferson Park to Cumberland, leaving the former ticket office to house another concession.

 

Jeff Park Gets Renovated

The new mezzanine-to-platform elevator, fare controls, and CA booth (left; the latter of which were relocated due to the new elevator), looking northwest in the paid area in August 2001. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

In 2000, the CTA began construction at Jefferson Park that included a new elevator for ADA compliance, new granite flooring, and six additional maintenance rooms. By the end of April 2001, installation of new hand- and guardrails and 90% of the flooring replacement work was complete. The elevator tube frame was installed and flooring replacement work at the pedestrian bridge was also complete. Construction of the elevator, which is located in the center of the platform in between the north and south stairways, got underway. The flooring replacement and mechanical rooms was completed in May. By July 2001, work at Jeff Park was substantially complete. Installation of plumbing fixtures and wiring for the ceiling heaters and other electrical devices had been completed. A new CA booth had been installed in the station house and stainless steel high barrier gates had been installed to form a pathway to the elevator. The floor in the passageway from the bus bays and Metra station to the fare controls had also been replaced. New signage for the passageway (and for the Metra station, which still says "C&NW to Harvard", even though Union Pacific took over the Chicago & North Western operation many years ago...) was being prepared and was installed in Fall 2001. The elevator was not officially in service until late Summer 2001.

New station name signs, following the Green Line Graphic Standard, were installed at four Blue Line stations in late 2002/early 2003, including Jefferson Park. The fabrication and installation of these signs was actually the continuation of the renovation work that was completed here in 2000-01. Jefferson Park received the new signs back in November 2002. The initial installation of the signs was on new white steel poles and brackets mounted on the median wall between the tracks and the Kennedy Expressway traffic lanes (identical to those previously installed at Sox-35th and 95th/Dan Ryan), thus placing them facing the platforms rather than on them. A few days later, additional signs were installed on the platform itself. New brackets were installed along the centerline of the island platform in the spaces between the columns, suspended from the canopy frame. These signs replace the original KDR station name signs, most of which have been long missing from the station. At the time the new signs were installed, only one set of the original KDR station name signs (which were mounted along the tops of the stainless steel windbreaks) remained, in a windbreak beyond the north stairs from the platform to the mezzanine. That windbreak and the two original 1970-vintage station name signs were removed when the new signs were installed. The remaining symbol signs were left in place.

 

Recent Developments

At its June 4 , 2003 monthly meeting, the Chicago Transit Board approved a $569,973 contract for Chicago-based Camp Dresser & McKee, Inc. to design and prepare construction bid documents for the CTA's "Front Door Program" that will add amenities to station entrances throughout the rail system. The "Front Door Program" includes making improvements to station entrances, enhancing connections to bus routes and improving bicycle access and storage facilities. Seven stations are scheduled for entrance upgrades as part of the initiative, including Jefferson Park. Funding for this contract is provided by the FTA and the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA).

On June 6, 2005, the CTA launched a pilot program at eight rail stations (as well as on 10 of its wide-door Nova buses) to help speed boarding for customers by dedicating one turnstile as an express fare payment lane (called a "Go Lane") for those paying with either Chicago Card (regular or Plus) smartcard fare media. The dedicated lanes are identified by signs over the turnstile and on the floor in front of it. The eight selected rail stations in addition to Jefferson Park were Howard, Chicago, 79th and 95th/Dan Ryan on the Red Line; and both the Thompson Center and 203 N. LaSalle entrances to Clark/Lake, the Randolph-Washington mezzanine of Washington/State, and the Randolph-Washington mezzanine of Washington/Dearborn downtown. CTA chose these stations because they are geographically balanced and serve a high volume of customers who transfer between bus and rail.

The pilot was conducted to determine if providing a dedicated turnstile at stations would help to speed boarding and, therefore, speed service. The pilot also provided an additional incentive for customers to switch to Chicago Card fare options. The faster and easier the boarding process, the more the transit experience is improved for existing customers. Faster boarding also helps to attract new customers.

CTA monitored the Go Lane boarding times during morning and evening rush periods to measure time saved during boarding, as well as the ratio of customers using electronic fare media compared to cash or transit cards. Customer reaction and ease of use were also evaluated as part of the pilot to determine whether use of Go Lanes should expand.

In 2005, a statue of Thomas Jefferson was added to the plaza in front of Jefferson Park Transit Center, seen looking east on November 3, 2005. The statue, standing at a podium with the Declaration of Independence, was paid for with donations ranging from $1,000 contributions from business owners to nickels raised through a "Nickels for Jefferson" campaign. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

In 2005, the Jefferson Park intermodal facility received a number of improvements. The $4 million project, half of which was funded by an Illinois FIRST grant secured by State Rep. Joe Lyons, D-19th, was a joint project between the CTA , Metra, the Union Pacific Railroad (owner of the Metra line), the Illinois Department of Transportation and the Chicago Department of Planning and Development. Lyons said individual projects already in planning stages at each of the agencies were combined into one large operation which resulted in significant savings and better coordination.

The plaza in front of the bus terminal, facing Milwaukee Avenue, received a facelift, including new benches, landscaping, lighting,and station identifiers. The plaza, which attracts a large number of pigeons, also received a sound system which broadcasts the bird calls of the pigeons' natural predators to try to reduce the nuisance of the birds. At the center of the plaza, a new life-sized statue of President Thomas Jefferson (for whom the Jefferson Park neighborhood, and thus by extension the station, was named) was installed. The statue depicts Jefferson standing at a podium as he signed the Declaration of Independence. The statue stands on a circular granite base, divided into 13 wedges representing the 13 original colonies. One of Jefferson's quotations -- "The will of the people is the only legitimate foundation of any government" -- is imprinted around the outer edge. A time capsule, which includes essays from the children from schools in the surrounding area, was buried at the statue's feet. The statue was made possible through a fund drive organized by the Jefferson Park Chamber of Commerce. The half-block of shops on the eastern extension of Gale Street -- really the north end of the North Terminal bus bay more than an actual street -- will get a new, tree-lined sidewalk. The CTA also installed new graphics on the facia of the bus terminal canopy, naming the facility, providing its address, and marking it with the logos of the three tenant transit agencies.

The pedestrian tunnel that connects that bus terminal with the "L" and Metra stations is also programmed for improvements. The walls of the tunnel are to get new lighting and a display case to exhibit artwork done by local grade school students, with the goal of adding color to the otherwise plain tan brick as-built walls and provide customers a sense of spaciousness.

The Jefferson Park Metra station, which sits atop the pedestrian tunnel, is also being renovated. The last significant improvements to the station were the headhouse on the inbound platform built circa the 1950s and the stairs and escalators installed at the south end of the station when the CTA intermodal facility opened in 1970. The Metra station is also accessible from the east from the headhouse and ground-level parking lot along an eastern extension of Northwest Highway or a bridge over the Kennedy Expressway near Argyle Street, and from the west by a bridge over the Kennedy Expressway and tunnel under the tracks north of Gale Street. The 1950s headhouse is located at the north end of the station, at the opposite end from the intermodal facility.

The Metra improvements include a new headhouse on the inbound side adjacent to the intermodal facility and accessible from the pedestrian tunnel. The depot will include a large, heated waiting area. Accessible access to the platforms from the pedestrian concourse was originally to be achieved with elevators, but the installation process was deemed to be too disruptive. It was instead decided to install a ramp. However, because of the high elevation of the Metra track level above the tunnel, and the requirement for the slope of the ramp to be shallow enough to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the ramp will have seven "switchbacks" as it makes it way up the 17 feet to the Metra station. The ramp will be fully enclosed within the Metra depot building. The outbound platform will also have a smaller enclosed depot building. A track-level, pedestrian crossing will provide a connection from the accessible inbound platform with the outbound side. The existing stairs and escalators from the pedestrian tunnel, installed when the CTA station was built in 1970, will remain and deposit commuters directly on the Metra platform waiting areas.

 

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.

Jefferson Park is one of the stations planned to receive improvements under the program. The scope of these improvements includes work in the bus terminal, to the station house, and to the platforms. In the bus terminal, planned improvements include replacement of the canopy over the walkways and station entry with a new, architecturally significant design to highlight entrance leading to station, replacement of lighting with new LED lighting to highlight the station, installation of public art, and pavement replacement. The station house, pedestrian bridge and fare control area is to have the curtain walls replaced, repainting of the station exterior, replacement of the escalators and stairs, new lighting, and repairs and refinishing of all surfaces. The platforms are programmed to have the canopy skylight system replaced, new lighting, and repairs and refinishing of all surfaces.1

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

 

This view of Jefferson Park looks south in 1973, three years after the terminal opened, from the Argyle Street pedestrian bridge over the Kennedy Expressway. 6000-series cars, seen on both tracks below, were common on the line, along with the Budd-built 2200s, which were designed specifically to service the Kennedy Extension. Note the Chicago & North Western commuter trains in the upper right, with the bi-level coaches and locomotive in their old yellow and green livery. The Jeff Park terminal featured an intermodal connection to the C&NW station. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Gerald Widemark)


 

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The six-car dedication train, with car 2256 at the head end, has made it to the end of the new Kennedy Extension at Jefferson Park, seen looking southeast on January 30, 1970. The boxy shape of the 2200-series railcars was designed to match the similar aesthetics of the new stations and facilities. The large rear portion of the terminal building with smaller windows near the roofline, closest to the camera, was originally a trainroom and clerk's office for when the station was the end of the line. Today, it is a Training & Instruction office. (CTA photo)
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The six-car dedication train, now with car 2277 at the head end, is at Jefferson Park waiting for its next departure as part of the opening ceremonies for the Kennedy Extension on January 30, 1970. The rectilinear glass-and-steel street-level station house above the tracks, with full-height windows and an open floor plan for maximum visibility, was typical of the Modernist stations designed for the Kennedy and Dan Ryan extensions; the 2200s were designed to have the same aesthetic philosophy. Note that the pedestrian bridge over the expressway connecting the station to the bus terminal, Milwaukee Avenue and the C&NW commuter station is open, with just a railing for protection. It was later enclosed with full-height windows. (CTA photo)

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The Jefferson Park station was designed to be an intermodal facility, with access to CTA buses, CTA rapid transit trains, Pace buses and Metra's C&NW (now UP) Northwest Line. The bus terminal, seen at left in June 1991, is shared by 10 CTA bus routes, plus Pace routes. It was also once used by Greyhound, until the intercity carrier relocated to Cumberland when the O'Hare extension opened. (Photo by Art Peterson)

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New station name signs were installed at Jefferson Park in November 2002 in two sets. One group are on new white steel poles and brackets mounted on the median wall between the tracks and the Kennedy Expressway, facing the platforms. A few days later, additional signs were installed on the platform itself on new brackets installed along the centerline of the island platform, suspended from the canopy frame. One of the signs outside the tracks is seen here on November 24, 2002, shortly after installation. (Photos by Graham Garfield)

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A Douglas-Milwaukee "B" train of orange/green/cream colored 6000s pulls into Jefferson Park terminal as a Congress-Milwaukee "A" train of Mint Green and Alpine White 6000s begins its trip to Desplaines on July 6, 1971. (Photo by Doug Grotjahn, Collection of Joe Testagrose)

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A six-car Congress-Milwaukee "A" train led by car 2265 leaves the Jefferson Park Terminal on July 6, 1971. (Photo by Doug Grotjahn, Collection of Joe Testagrose)

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Unit 2291-2292 make up a Douglas-Milwaukee All-Stop train, loading passengers at Jefferson Park Terminal on August 16, 1970. (Photo by Joe Testagrose)

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Cars 2557-2558 trail four 2200-series units on a West-Northwest train approaching Jefferson Park on August 17, 1978. A set of 2400s leads sets of 2200s on another train heading in the other direction. (Photo by Doug Grotjahn, Collection of Joe Testagrose)

Notes:

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