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Mayor Rahm Emanuel and U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx today announced that $120 million of federal funding has been secured for the $492 million Your New Blue project, the largest investment in the O’Hare branch since it was extended to O’Hare International Airport in 1984.
“By modernizing the Blue Line, we are investing in Chicago’s future, as it not only serves as a vital transportation link connecting O’Hare and downtown but it serves as a key economic engines for scores of Chicago neighborhoods,” said Mayor Emanuel. “This federal funding will help us ensure that we build the infrastructure Chicago needs to succeed economically in the 21st Century.”
“Every Chicagoan knows how important it is to be able to take a convenient, reliable trip on the L to and from O’Hare,” said Secretary Foxx. “By upgrading the Blue Line, this project will improve access to 21st century transportation for the entire region. Going forward, we want to bring these opportunities to other parts of the country, working with Congress to develop a long-term funding solution for transit, roads, bridges and other crucial infrastructure.”
The Mayor and Transportation Secretary Foxx were joined by Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) Chairman Terry Peterson, CTA President Forrest Claypool and area labor leaders at the Cumberland Blue Line station, one of 13 stations receiving improvements as part of Your New Blue.
“Chicago has the second busiest mass transit system in the country, but also one of the oldest. That’s why I’ve made it a priority to provide the federal support needed to make comprehensive renovation projects like Your New Blue possible. I’ve been a supporter of the TIFIA loan program and am glad to see Chicago taking the lead in putting it to good use,” Durbin said. “This project will increase Blue Line capacity, improve reliability and de-crowd trains. Importantly, it will also allow passengers to travel more smoothly from O’Hare, the world’s busiest airport, to downtown. Investing in mass transit is good for our infrastructure and economy, and I will continue to work with Mayor Emanuel and the Administration for projects that ensure Chicago will have a safe and modern system for decades to come.”
Senator Durbin’s efforts and advocacy for this project were instrumental in getting the $120 million in funding through the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA). TIFIA provides credit assistance for qualified infrastructure projects, and is designed to fill market gaps and leverage other investment by providing capital. It is intended for infrastructure projects of regional or national significance and due to the flexibility of the program, many qualified, large-scale projects that might otherwise be delayed or tabled can move forward quickly, providing an immediate boost to jobs while laying the foundation for continued economic growth.
“The Blue Line, connecting O’Hare to downtown, plays a vital role in Chicago’s economy. The Blue Line transports almost half of CTA’s daily rides-- rides that get suburban and Chicago residents to and from work, rides that carry out-of-town travelers, and rides that bring businesses to Chicago. The Your New Blue project will create more than 10,000 jobs, reduce commute times, increase rider capacity, and grow our tourism industry,” said Rep. Quigley. “We need 21st century infrastructure, and Your New Blue puts us on that path. As a member of the THUD Appropriations Subcommittee, I will continue to prioritize investments in the CTA to update our century old transit system, create jobs and improve travel times for riders.”
The four-year, $492 million Your New Blue program, announced in late 2013, is an ambitious service improvement project on the Blue Line that will benefit more than 80,000 customers who use the O’Hare branch each weekday. In addition to station improvements, the project upgrades tracks and modernizes signal systems to speed train travel and make it more reliable.
The project will also create more than 1,300 good-paying jobs in construction, engineering, design and other construction-related fields.
Ridership on the O’Hare Branch of the Blue Line is growing rapidly, with more than 25 million station entries in 2014. Weekday ridership has grown 25 percent over the past five years, and 33 percent over the past 10 years—outpacing the growth of the rail system as a whole. Annual ridership on the O’Hare branch increased by 6.3 million rides over the past 10 years, the second highest for any branch after Red North Main, which added seven million rides.
In 2014, the CTA made substantial progress on Your New Blue, including the completion of the first three of 13 stations that will receive upgrades. Damen and California both received substantial improvements and the Western station, which underwent a major rehabilitation in 2001, also received improvements. All three stations were built in 1895. Also completed was track work between the Logan Square and Damen stations that is providing a smoother ride and reducing commutes by as much as 10 minutes each way.
Your New Blue is part of Mayor Emanuel’s unprecedented investment in the CTA since May 2011. In the last three-and-a-half years, the Mayor has invested $5 billion in transit projects to modernize the rail and bus system and secure a foundation for future growth. Among the improvements are new buses and rail cars, new and rebuilt rail stations, and technologies to improve the customer experience, like Bus and Train Tracker screens and 4G wireless in all CTA subways.