Montrose Avenue and Knox Avenue, Irving Park
Blue Line: O'Hare
Address: 4600 W. Montrose Avenue
Established: February 1, 1970
Original Line: West-Northwest Route, Milwaukee branch
Previous Names: none
Rebuilt: 2016 (platform renovation)
Status: In Use
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 employee 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. The shape of everything, from the buildings to the agents' booths, to the trash cans, 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 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. All windbreaks, dividers, and ticket booths were stainless steel.
The International style median 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, though payphones were provided. Stainless steel turnstiles, now an industry standard, were first used here. The amenities and traffic circulation fit with the architectural design of the station: efficient but purely functional. Stations were designed with wide walkways and no blind corners, 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, though without all of the complicated gates and rearrangement built into the Congress stations. The boarding platforms were long enough to accommodate 8-car trains.
Montrose is one of four median stations, which were the centerpieces of Skidmore's design for the KDR project. The station features entrances on the both sides of Montrose Avenue, each a rectilinear building of white-painted steel frame with full-height glass curtain walls located at street level and cantilevered over the tracks below. The buildings are small, with each enclosing a stairway and escalator to to platform level and with space for passengers transferring to buses to wait inside. The stairs and escalator from the north station house lead directly to the fare controls located inside an enclosure at the south end of the platform. The vertical access from south station house leads down to a platform-level walkway between the tracks that leads under the roadway overpass to the fare control area. The stainless steel ticket agent booth and turnstiles were at platform level; the booth is now used by a Customer Assistant, and the original turnstiles were replaced with Cubic-manufactured electronic farecard equipment -- turnstiles and vending machines -- in the mid-1990s.
Typical of the Skidmore-designed KDR stations, the Montrose platform featured large-aggregate terrazzo flooring and a canopy supported by a single row of square support posts. The canopy, which extends beyond the center line of the tracks, has a white-painted steel frame with rows of translucent domes. Self-service infrared radiant heaters are located at windbreaks on the platforms. The platform is curved, which was not ideal but workable because conductors worked the doors on the train and were positioned in the center of the train where they visibility from the midpoint of the curve. After conductors were withdrawn from trains in the 1990s, cameras and monitors were set up to assist the Operator with the view down the train when closing the side doors.
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 red (indicating its former status as a "A" station in skip-stop operation) column and station name signs on the platform, as well as the installation of new entrance signs on the front fascias of both street-level station houses.
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.
Montrose is one of 13 stations planned to receive improvements under the program, with Montrose to receive improvements more modest in scope. Addison, Irving Park, Montrose, Harlem and Cumberland stations were packaged as a group for design and construction, and all five stations had significant deterioration to their island platform decks and particularly the edges cantilevered toward the tracks. To address this, the stations received new platform edge and topping replacement. In addition, walkway railings and platform furniture such as benches, windbreaks and trash cans was rehabilitated or replaced as needed. Light fixtures were provided with new lamps and ballasts, and all five stations were repainted.
On March 11, 2015, the Chicago Transit Board approved the award of a $25.6 million contract to F.H. Paschen and S.N. Nielsen for the renovation of five O'Hare branch stations, including Addison. Design work began in spring 2015, with rehabilitation work at the Addison, Irving Park, Montrose, Harlem and Cumberland stations to begin in fall 2015. All stations remained open during the construction period, except for a small number of weekend-only closures at Addison and Montrose. In addition, in order to carry out the platform renewal work, each station's platform was closed half at a time, longitudinally down the middle. Trains bypassed the side of the platform being worked on, which was barricaded from passenger access to allow the deck topping to be removed and replaced. Each half-closure and bypass period lasted three weeks (except at Harlem and Cumberland, which were shorter), during which passengers had to "back-ride" (riding to the next stop, exiting and boarding a train back in the opposite direction) or use alternate existing bus or rail services. While inconvenient, the partial station closures allowed the CTA to keep the stations open for customers at all times during platform work.
Montrose station's platform renewal began with the O'Hare-bound side of the platform, which closed from the evening of April 26 through, May 17, followed by the Forest Park-bound side from the evening of May 17 to June 7.
Montrose required two weekend closures, because there was no practical way to replace the platform decking in the fare control area and maintain and safe pathway through the work area for passengers. A bus shuttle was operated between Montrose and Irving Park stations during these closures, the first of which occurred on April 29-May 2; the second closure occurred on June 3-6. In addition, the south entrance/exit to the Montrose station temporarily closed from 9pm, Tuesday, May 17 to Tuesday, June 7, requiring passengers to use the north entrance/exit located across the street, on the north side of Montrose Avenue.
Renovation work at Montrose was substantially completed by late Fall 2016.
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