Left: The Randolph-Washington mezzanine, looking west on June 8, 2001. The station mezzanine remains largely as it was remodeled in 1982, with its granite wall treatments, stainless steel paneling, and even its period signage! For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

Right: The Washington-Madison mezzanine, looking northwest on August 16, 2001. Remodeled just a year later, most of the same materials were used, but in a different configuration. The creation of the glass partition wall was an unusual feature. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)


(127N/36W) Randolph-Washington

(19N/36W) Washington-Madison

Washington Street and Dearborn Street, Loop

Service Notes:

Blue Line: Milwaukee-Dearborn Subway

Owl Service

Quick Facts:


127 N. Dearborn Street (Randolph-Washington mezzanine)

19 N. Dearborn Street (Washington-Madison mezzanine)

Established: February 25, 1951
Original Line: Milwaukee-Dearborn Subway
Previous Names: none

Skip-Stop Type:


Rebuilt: 1982
(Randolph-Washington), 1983-84 (Washington-Madison)
Status: In Use


Washington/Dearborn is typical of the downtown Dearborn and State Street subway stations, consisting of two mezzanine entrances feeding each end of the stop, which is a designated portion of a long "continuous" platform that stretches the length of the Loop. The Dearborn Subway's continuous platform, a bit shorter than its record-setting State Street cousin, is 2,500 feet long. Washington, as a transfer station, also had two passageways to the State Street Subway one block east. One was at the mezzanine level between the Randolph-Washington mezzanines of each subway, while the other was in the paid area and ran between the platforms below Jackson Boulevard.

A Douglas-Milwaukee "B" train made up of Boeing-Vertol 2400-series cars stops at Washington/Dearborn in 1978. It is interesting to note that despite it being 27 years after the Dearborn Subway opened and the CTA being in the middle of their second large-scale signage initiative (this time the KDR-style signs), this photo contains a large amount of original-design signage dating back to the subway's 1951 opening, including name signs and smaller symbol-type signs on the outer tunnel wall and the Type F illuminated hanging signs over the center platform. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Brian J. Cudhay)

The architecture of the station was streamlined Art Moderne with some Art Deco elements, simple and austere compared to earlier subways in New York, London, Paris or other systems but very much in the style and fashion of the period in which it was designed. At street-level, the entrances were very simple, consisting of stairs down from the sidewalk surrounded by simple tubular railings with a smooth identification pylon at the back with Deco rings around the top. The fare controls were at a lower mezzanine level beneath Dearborn Street. The station mezzanines had broadly curving walls, which served to both reinforce the Moderne, streamlined architectural style employed in the Initial System of Subways station as well as to direct passenger flow through subtle design cues. The interior had smooth concrete floors and ceilings, red for the former and a neutral color for the latter. The fare control booths had an angled Deco design and were made of stone walls with a small ventilation grate near the bottom and glass windows on all four sides, allowing for maximum visibility of the mezzanine for the station agents. Turnstiles were steel, with some angled toward the entrances and a number of self-serve coin-operated models for efficient traffic circulation. Each mezzanine also had several amenities for the use of passengers, such as public phones, lockers, restrooms, and concessions.

The mezzanines at Randolph-Washington and Washington-Madison were largely the same except for one difference: the mezzanines had different wall finishes as originally built. This is a result of the Randolph-Washington mezzanine opening concurrently with the State Street Subway, eight years before the Washington-Madison mezzanine and the operation of the Dearborn Subway (see below for more on the gap between subway openings). Although the subway line itself wasn't open, the upper-level transfer tunnel and Randolph-Washington mezzanine opened concurrently with the State Street Subway -- as did the passageway and mezzanine at Adams-Jackson -- to allow convenient passage from Dearborn Street to the State Street station via a below-grade walkway. Although it was not operationally necessary to do so (since it didn't need to function as a fare control facility or allow access to the platform), the wall surfaces of the Adams-Jackson mezzanine were finished when it opened, so it featured the structural glass wall cladding and black marble-faced structural columns that the State Street stations opened at the same time did. By the time the rest Dearborn Subway was finished and service inaugurated, the Department of Subways and Superhighways made some modest changes to the station finishes. As such, the Washington-Madison foresaked the easily-broken structural glass walls and marble-faced columns of the State Street Subway for off-white glazed ceramic tile.

Despite both mezzanines being remodeled in the early 1980s, the platform at Washington/Dearborn has been largely unmodified. This view looks south at the stairs to the Washington-Madison mezzanine on June 8, 2001, with original backlit signs over the stairs. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

The island platform had red no-slip concrete floors, curved, barrel-vaulted concrete ceilings and a row of I-beam steel columns along each platform edge. Unlike some of the more ornate subways in other cities, the walls along side the tracks in the stations were left as unfinished concrete rather than tiled. To aid in station identification, each station had a color scheme that was used in the accents like tile borders, platform column color, and signage lettering and background. The colors blue, red, green, and brown were rotated in sequence beginning up at Division & Milwaukee. Washington's accent color was blue. A specially-designed Futura typeface was used throughout the subway on metal, tile, and backlit glass signs. Fluorescent lights and illuminated station signs hanging from the ceilings finished the decoration.

The low-level transfer tunnel, which was built in 1939-1943 as part of the original construction of the subways but not opened until the Dearborn tubes were put into service, was simple in design and execution, befitting the streamlined architecture of the Depression-era subways. The floor was smooth red concrete, the same as the station platform. The ceiling of the majority of the tunnel was smooth arched concrete, while the walls were large, smooth glazed tiles with a light green trim along the top (consistent with Washington being a "blue" station in the subway's scheme of four rotating highlight colors). At each end, where the stairs to the subway platforms were, the ceiling dropped down and became flat due to presence of the trackbed above it. The wall tiles also changed from the large horizontally-rectangular tiles to small vertically-rectangular ones. There were two stairs to each island platform at each end of the transfer tunnel. In the middle of the tunnel, both walls had lettering inlaid in the tile, in the Futura typeface used throughout the original subways, directing passengers which direction State and Dearborn streets were.

Though much of the structural work of the Dearborn subway was concurrent with that of State Street's (which was begun in 1938 and opened in 1943), construction on the Dearborn line was suspended in 1941 due to wartime materials shortages. Even after the war was over, it was another several years before work was resumed. Finally, the Milwaukee-Dearborn Subway was completed and opened on February 25, 1951, eight years after the State Street tube was inaugurated. This is when Washington station opened.


Changes and Renovations

In the early 1960s, construction began on the new Chicago Civic Center, Chicago's first major public building to be constructed in a modern rather than a classical architectural style, located above the station on the block bounded by Randolph, Dearborn, Washington, and Clark streets. Designed by the architectural firms of C.F. Murphy Associates and Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, the building was a famous example of the then-popular International Style architecture, based on the revolutionary steel and glass designs of world-famous architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. The Civic Center, which was the tallest building in Chicago from 1965 to 1969 until surpassed by the John Hancock Center, uses huge spans of steel framing and thus has no major interior columns, just twelve huge exterior columns with 87-foot steel trusses running lengthwise and 48-foot spans running crosswise. It also was the first-ever use of self-weathering Corten steel as an exterior "skin" for a skyscraper, which develops a patina of permanent rust-colored oxidization. The Civic Center also includes a large plaza -- with a fountain and the monumental, controversial sculpture by Pablo Picasso built of the same Corten steel as the building -- and its lower level is the hub of Chicago's underground pedway system. It was in these last two elements that its construction affected the subway, whose mezzanine was at the same level as the pedway and whose entrances on the west side of Dearborn rose up into the future plaza space.

This view looking southeast into the Randolph-Washington mezzanine from the Civic Center concourse in 1970 tells an interesting story of the station. The mezzanine's interior finishes date from its 1943 opening, 8 years before the subway actually began operation. The entranceway framing the view was built in 1964 when the Civic Center was constructed and the west quarter of the mezzanine was remodeled. The view provides an interesting juxtaposition between the new and old. For a larger view, click here. (Photo from the CTA Collection)

Construction of the $87 million Civic Center project began on February 28, 1963 and on July 17 the stairs from the mezzanine to the street on the west side of the Randolph-Washington mezzanine were closed. When the west side reopened, the northwest stairs were gone but the southwest stairs were widened and modernized with new flooring, new wall cladding, and a new street-level entrance. The plaza entrance was low and subtle, faced with the same granite used in the rest of the Civic Center Plaza. Over the stairs was a backlight sign with punchout letters saying "C.T.A. Subway" on the top line and "Chicago Civic Center Concourse" on the second. The mezzanine remained unmodified, however, with the exception of the sealed northwest stairway. The connection of the existing transfer tunnel between the State and Dearborn subways and the Civic Center concourse represented the beginning the the downtown underground Pedway system. The first occupants moved into the new Civic Center in May 1965 and on May 2, 1966, the 31-story Civic Center was officially dedicated. The Chicago Civic Center was renamed the Richard J. Daley Center on December 27, 1976 in honor of the late mayor who died in office just seven days earlier. The sign over the stairway from the plaza was changed accordingly.

Amid a series of station closures and service reductions in the 1970s, the Washington-Madison mezzanine entrance to the station was reclassified as a part-time entrance, closed from 2200 to 0600 hours Monday-Saturday and all day Sundays effective September 12, 1976. This situation continued for nearly 25 years, with the exception of a brief period when the other mezzanine was being renovated (see below). This operating plan was reversed at a press conference on Monday, June 5, 2000, when CTA President Frank Kruesi announced that beginning Saturday, June 10th and Sunday, June 11th, six downtown area "L" and subway stations and seven station entrances that were closed late at night or on weekends would be open at all hours that trains are in service. One of the seven secondary part-time entrances to be reopened was Washington-Madison. Starting at 0600 hours Saturday, June 10th, Washington-Madison entrance returned to 24-hour operation. Opening these stations and entrances is just one of the components of a $539,000 service improvement package that was passed by the Chicago Transit Board in May 2000.

On Friday, May 7, 1982, Mayor Jane Byrne announced the Subway Renovation Program. Encompassing both the State and Dearborn Street Subways, the renovation program included the continuous platforms on State between Lake and Congress and on Dearborn between Randolph and Van Buren; the 14 mezzanines along these platforms; and the four pedestrian passageways connecting the State and Dearborn Subways here and at Jackson at both the mezzanines and platforms. In addition, mezzanines and platforms would have been renovated at Chicago, Grand, Harrison, and Roosevelt on State and the Lake Transfer and LaSalle/Congress stations on Dearborn.

At all mezzanines, the existing facilities were to be stripped back to their basic structural shell and completely renovated with gray granite panels with stainless steel accents. New fare collection facilities, lighting, flooring, and column coverings were also to be installed. A uniform system of signage and maps would be provided and facilities for the enhancement of passenger security would be incorporated. Amenities such as telephones and concession areas would also have been provided as appropriate. At the platform level, new lighting, flooring, wall, ceiling, and column treatments would have been provided. Stairways and escalators from the platforms to the mezzanines would be replaced or renovated in kind. Signage, maps, benches, and concession facilities will be compatible with those developed for the mezzanine.

The Randolph-Washington mezzanine closed on May 7th and renovation began Tuesday, May 25, 1982 here and simultaneously at the Randolph-Washington mezzanine on the State Street Subway. At the same time, the Washington-Madison mezzanine temporarily returned to 24 hour service for the duration of the renovation work. Work was completed swiftly, with the Randolph-Washington mezzanines on both the State and Dearborn Subways reopening on November 26, 1982. On the same date, the Washington-Madison mezzanine returned to part-time hours.

Work at the other stations proceeded at a delayed rate or, in some cases, not at all. The Washington-Madison mezzanine here was the only other station remodeled during Byrne's administration. The mezzanine closed on July 25, 1983 and was reopened, completed, on September 3, 1984. The mezzanine was refurbished in the same general style as at Randolph-Washington -- gray granite wall surfaces with stainless steel accents and equipment -- though in a different configuration and layout. The Washington-Madison mezzanine remained part-time, open for entry 1400-1900 hours Monday-Friday only and 0600-1900 hours Monday-Friday for exiting. The only other stations remodeled under this program were Adams-Jackson mezzanines at Jackson/State and Jackson/Dearborn in the early years of the Richard M. Daley administration, some eight years later. None of the platform-level remodeling was ever completed under this program.

An artist's conception of the renovated Randolph-Washington mezzanine, looking north from behind the stairs to the platform. The design calls for a liberal use of color to create an interesting station environment. (Image from Muller & Muller Architects)

The City did not revisit the idea of completing the Washington renovation for nearly a decade until, in the late 1990s, it was again in CDOT's capital program. The Chicago Department of Transportation's 2002-05 Capital Improvement Program had the engineering and design for the renovation of Washington /Dearborn. Muller & Muller Architects is responsible for architectural design services for the renovation of the Randolph-Washington mezzanine and high-level transfer tunnel. The firm is responsible for review of the station entrances, mezzanines and platforms and for making recommendations on a unified architectural treatment for the downtown stations along the Blue Line. Work will be kept to a minimum at the mezzanine at Washington-Madison. Project work at Randolph-Washington was to include new wall and floor surfaces, ceiling finishes, new elevators, new escalators and stairway finishes, new concession areas, kiosks, aboveground stairs, revisions to platform ETS systems and maintenance needs. Whatever the scope of the project ends up being, it seems that it has been postponed again: Reconstruction is now not estimated to begin, pending funding, until 2015 on the Washington/Dearborn Blue Line stop, according to CDOT.

On Friday, July 16, 2004 at 1800 hours, the stairs to Randolph-Washington from Daley Plaza closed for reconstruction. As part of a remodeling of the plaza, the driveway to the underground parking garage directly to the north of the subway stairs was extended south and thus the stairway was narrowed. The extended driveway covered the east half of the former stairway, with the west half remaining. During the work, customers used the Daley Center pedway to reach the station during weekday business hours, or either of the stairs on the east side of Dearborn or the pedway from the Red Line mezzanine 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The stairs reopened in September 2004.

Besides renovating the entire south mezzanine and platform, the CTA is also assuring that other aspects of the station are kept in working order. Continuing to upgrade and replace some of the oldest escalators in the "L" system, the CTA embarked in 2003 on a project to replace several downtown subway escalators. Decisions on which escalators receive rehab or replacement were based on the age of the escalator, the condition of the escalator and the volume of customers passing through the station. The escalators pegged for replacement included seven on the Red Line at Monroe, Jackson and Harrison stations, and two on the Blue Line at Monroe and the platform-to-mezzanine escalator at Randolph-Washington. On June 4, 2003, the Chicago Transit Board approved a $642,569 design contract for the escalator replacement project. Chicago-based Globetrotters Engineering Corporation was selected to provide architectural and engineering services for the project following a competitive bidding process. Construction work took place in 2008-10; the Randolph-Washington platform-to-mezzanine escalator was returned to service on May 4, 2009. The total project cost was $28.8 million, with a construction cost of $17.7 million. The Regional Transportation Authority and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) provided capital funding for the design contract, while construction used FTA funds.

The "Go Lane" in the Randolph-Washington mezzanine of Washington/Dearborn station is seen looking south on June 6, 2005. Marked by the floor and overhead signs, the TransitCard slot is covered over, giving Chicago Card users an exclusive express lane. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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 the Randolph-Washington mezzanine of Washington/Dearborn were Howard, Chicago, 79th and 95th/Dan Ryan on the Red Line; Jefferson Park on the Blue Line; and both the Thompson Center and 203 N. LaSalle entrances to Clark/Lake and the Randolph-Washington mezzanine of Washington/State 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.


Changes for Block 37 Construction

The upper-level transfer tunnel -- now part of the downtown Pedway system -- dates to the opening of the State Street Subway in 1943. The wall tile in this November 14, 2005 view is original, but the flooring and stainless steel light trays are from a later remodeling. The tunnel closed temporarily two days after this photo for reconstruction as part of Block 37. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

On Wednesday, November 16, 2005, the upper-level transfer tunnel between the Randolph-Washington mezzanines on the State Street Subway (Red Line) and Milwaukee-Dearborn Subway (Blue Line) closed for the construction of the Block 37 development on the land above it. The tunnel, which was a short but heavily-used section of downtown Chicago's underground pedestrian tunnel (aka 'the Pedway'), needed to be closed because excavation for the Block 37 development's foundation and lower levels required its demolition.

The Block 37 development was planned to feature a mix of uses including shops, restaurants, offices, a hotel and a residential tower. In addition, the project was to include a new subway tunnel running diagonally across the site on a northwest-southeast angle, connecting the Red and Blue line subways, and a basement-level station that was planned to ultimately serve a CTA airport express train service to O'Hare and Midway airports. When the Block 37 development was completed, the Pedway tunnel was to be integrated into the lower level of the building. The old straight, narrow, low-ceiling tunnel would be replaced by a wider, more open walkway with retail stores and an entrance to the Block 37 CTA station. However, in 2008, the CTA Airport Express "superstation" was mothballed due to cost overruns, lack of capital funds to make the other infrastructure improvements needed to make an airport express service feasible, and limited interest from private operators to run the express service, as was desired by the CTA.

The newly-enclosed stairs to the lower-level transfer tunnel are seen looking northeast on February 18, 2011 as an O'Hare-bound train departs the station. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

The construction of the Block 37 development, and specifically the subway tunnel beneath it, affected Washington station again when, in Fall 2006, construction had progressed to the point where preparations had to be made to make the connections to the existing subway tunnel. The Block 37 tunnel construction required the temporary closure of Washington/State at midnight on Monday, October 23, 2006. At the same time, the lower-level transfer tunnel connecting the Washington Red and Blue line subway stations was also closed effective the same date, leaving the transfer tunnel at Jackson for free connection between the Red and Blue lines.

The new Pedway under Block 37 opened after rush hour on Friday evening, November 20, 2009. At the time, the developer was still putting finishing touches on the mall and none of the Pedway-level stores were open. However, some of the stores opened shortly after, along with the connection to the street-level arcade of stores. The new Pedway, rather than being its own tunnel, was fully integrated into the lower level of the Block 37 mall, with the middle of the Pedway being an atrium open to the floors above and allowing natural light into the walkway.

As a result of the Block 37 construction, the north entrance stairs to the Randolph-Washington mezzanine on the east side of Dearborn Street were permanently closed. The stairs and street-level entrance railings were removed because they conflicted with the loading dock of the new development. The stairs were replaced with a new stairway within the Block 37 building itself. The south stairs on the east side of Dearborn, the stairway on the west side of Dearborn in Daley Plaza, and the direct entrance from the basement of the Daley Center remained as access the mezzanine.

In February 2011, with the lower-level transfer tunnel closed and no timeline for reopening it, the CTA covered the stairs down to the tunnel and removed the wayfinding signs over both stairways as part of a general cleaning of the station. The stairway openings were covered with plywood, which was painted clay red to match the color of the concrete floors. Strap railings were attached over the openings of the stairway railings to fully enclose the stairway openings, with signs attached instructing passengers not to enter inside the railings. The stairways can be reopened if necessary, but the enclosure of the openings provides a more finished appearance to the station. The platform columns and ceiling were painted and light fixtures cleaned at the same time, as part of a general cleaning of the station platform and mezzanines.

The Washington/Dearborn stop on the continuous platform of the Milwaukee-Dearborn Subway, looking north on February 18, 2011. Other than the blue tactile edging, AV and backlit signs, and newer signage, the platform remains largely as it was when it opened in 1951. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

randolph-washington03.jpg (121k)
As part of the construction of the Chicago Civic Center and its plaza, the southwest stairs to the Randolph-Washington mezzanine were widened and modernized. The new plaza entrance was low and subtle, faced with the same granite used in the rest of the Civic Center Plaza. Over the stairs, seen looking north on September 3, 1970, was a backlight sign with punchout letters saying "C.T.A. Subway" on the top line and "Chicago Civic Center Concourse" on the second. (Photo from the CTA Collection)

randolph-washington04.jpg (186k)
The more things change, the more they stay the same: in this June 30, 2004 view, the Civic Center -- since renamed the Daley Center in 1976 -- and plaza stair entrance remain exactly the same. Some of the background buildings, like Marina Towers, are also still present, but much of the surrounding streetwall has been demolished and rebuilt in the intervening four decades. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

washington01.jpg (81k)
The Washington/Dearborn stop on the continuous platform of the Milwaukee-Dearborn Subway, looking south on June 8, 2001 as an O'Hare-bound train of 2200s speeds away from the station toward the Northwest Side. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

washington-TransferTunnel.jpg (90k)
The State and Dearborn subways, begun at the same time and only a block apart downtown, were designed to have free transfers between them at two stations via low-level tunnels. Here, passengers are using the transfer tunnel at Washington to go from one subway to the other. It is not uncommon to see customers with suitcases (as the Blue Line services O'Hare Airport), especially at Washington (the first of the two transfer stations after O'Hare). (Photo by Paul McAleer)

As part of the planned renovations to the Randolph-Washington mezzanine, the high-level transfer tunnel at Washington between the Red and Blue line subways was also to be remodeled. Higher ceilings and a liberal use of color were part of Muller & Muller's designs. These plans have since been supplanted when the tunnel became part of the development of Block 37. The tunnel is also part of the downtown Pedway system. (Image from Muller & Muller Architects)