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CTA piles up hefty to-do list

GOING PUBLIC

  • The Blue Line O'Hare branch is due for an upgrade in 2014.
The Blue Line O'Hare branch is due for an upgrade in 2014. (Antonio Perez/Chicago…)
December 23, 2013|By Tracy Swartz, @tracyswartz | RedEye

If 2013 was the year of the Red—thanks to the summer reconstruction of the southern portion of the Red Line—then 2014 will be the year of the Blue. The CTA is expected to begin work in the spring on a $492 million, four-year project to ease the slow zones and upgrade stations on the O'Hare branch of the Blue Line.

The agency and the city next year also will continue to work on current ventures, including improving the 95th Street and Clark/Division Red Line stations, building the new Cermak-McCormick Place Green Line stop and reducing slow zones on the Brown Line.

Here, Going Public rounds up the other big-name CTA projects for 2014.

>>Loop express bus implementation: The Chicago Department of Transportation is expected to begin work next year on Loop bus rapid transit, express bus service that typically relies on bus-only lanes and traffic signal priority for buses. The city has said the $32 million project could improve overall bus travel times through the Loop by three to nine minutes per trip.

>>Wilson Red Line renovation: The $203 million project will involve renovating the 1923 station house, making the station accessible for riders with disabilities and creating a transfer point for the Purple Line Express. The Uptown station has been crowned by Going Public in the past as the CTA's "Crust Station" for its grime, pigeon excrement and lack of accessibility.

>>Ventra transition: The CTA already was supposed to have completed its full transition to Ventra, the agency's new fare payment system, this month but the CTA slowed the switch so Ventra vendor Cubic Transportation Systems could work out glitches. Full transition, which includes the elimination of Chicago Cards and disposable magnetic cards, is inevitable in 2014, though no switch date has been announced. The CTA said Friday that Cubic is meeting many of Ventra's performance standards, a requirement for full transition, and Ventra is used to pay for nearly three out of four CTA rides.

Cat-ch it?

Where is Turtle? A sign in a Wicker Park building adjacent to the Damen Blue Line station house encourages riders if they see Turtle the cat in the window of the building to "take my photo and tag #CTACAT." The sign says Turtle's Twitter handle is @TheCTACat but there is no profile associated with that handle.

Stationary

A weekly dispatch from a CTA station of note

This week: Kostner Pink Line

Missed connections? More like no connections. The Kostner stop in North Lawndale is one of 13 of the CTA's 140-plus rail stations that doesn't have a CTA or Pace bus stop at the station. Perhaps that's why it sees the least number of entries, fewer than 500 on weekdays, of any Pink Line station.

Next up: Morse Red Line

tswartz@tribune.com

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