WORK is to get under way shortly on the long-awaited refurbishment of Chicago Transit Authority’s Blue line Douglas branch in the southwest of the city. On July 11 the CTA board awarded a $317m contract to Kiewit Construction and Delgado Erectors for reconstruction of the 10·6 km between Hoyne and 54th Avenue/Cermak.

This includes an 8 km elevated section, which dates in part from 1896 and has deteriorated so badly that trains are limited to 24 km/h in some places. Adding an extra 10min to journey times, this has contributed to a 50% drop in ridership over the past 20 years.

Over the next four years, a new structure will be built alongside the present viaduct to replace 350 spans and 700 support caissons. Partial single-track working will allow some weekday services to operate throughout the process. Six stations will be totally rebuilt with full acccessibility for disabled passengers. New bi-directional cab signalling and optic fibre communications will be installed, together with six new signal interlockings and new or refurbished substations. Around 8 km of rail, sleepers and pointwork will be replaced.

The storage sidings at 54th Street yard will be reconfigured, and a new maintenance building added.

  • On August 3 CTA agreed to take up a third option for Alstom to refurbish another 108 subway cars at a cost of over US$60m. The December 1997 contract covering 284 cars and three options for 96, 110 and 108 will see all Series 2600 cars fitted with new AC drives, cab signalling, air-conditioning and public address.