CTA and Pace offer alternatives during rebuild of Forest Park Branch of Blue Line
August 10, 2023
On July 23, the CTA began Phase I of their multi-year, multi-phased project to make service along the Blue Line’s Forest Park Branch faster, safer, more reliable, and accessible for riders. This project will rebuild a total of seven rail stations to make them fully accessible and replace and upgrade track infrastructure to eliminate slow zones.
The Forest Park Branch of the Blue Line is currently the slowest portion of the CTA rail network, with slow zones amounting to over 75% of the trip. This is due to the long-outdated rail lines and signals that have forced trains to operate at slow speeds. The rebuild project is intended to speed up travel times and improve reliability to meet current ridership demands.
Through October, Phase I Part B of the rebuild will halt Blue Line train service between UIC-Halsted and Illinois Medical District stations; however, free shuttle buses will be provided for connections through the area. Forest Park-bound riders will be asked to exit the train at Jackson for an accessible transfer to shuttle bus services offered right outside the station.
During the construction, riders are also encouraged to hop on a local bus to reach Green or Pink line stations instead, which serve the Loop area and connect directly with Blue Line trains to O'Hare from downtown, as an alternative option to avoid shuttle bus transfers.
As an incentive, the CTA is offering free rides on select CTA and Pace bus routes operating between the Green and Pink lines on the West Side and reduced ‘L’ fares at West Side stations on Green, Pink and Blue lines. The dedicated fare-free zones in which drivers will allow customers to board for free include:
Reduced fares are in place for riders using Ventra cards boarding the Green Line between Harlem/Lake station to Ashland station; the Pink line between 54th/Cicero station to Ashland station; and the Blue Line between Forest Park station to Illinois Medical District station.
For more information and a map of bus connections and fare zones, click here.
The first phase of the Forest Park Branch Rebuild is a concrete step in improving our regional transit system by renovating obsolete infrastructure that does not meet the current needs of our riders. The Racine station redesign in Phase I is projected to grant universal rider accessibility by adding clearly defined pathways, an ADA-accessible ramp, and a new elevator to and from train platforms, bus stops, and other major modal transfer points. The Forest Park Branch Rebuild project supports the goals outlined in the RTA’s strategic plan Transit is the Answer to achieve a fully accessible transit system and increase service reliability and efficiency.
More funding is needed to advance future phases of the Forest Park Branch Rebuild, which in total is estimated to cost $3 billion. Recent infusions of capital funding to the RTA from the state and federal government have made a big impact, but more will be needed for the region to fully address the long-term project backlog after decades of underfunding. The region still lacks sustainable funding to improve and expand the system’s infrastructure long-term. Increased funding for transit operations is also needed to support frequent and reliable service on the newly rebuilt infrastructure.
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