It’s been a long time coming for many, but good news was announced Thursday for CTA Blue Line users.

The Chicago Transit Authority released information about a Blue Line Forest Park Branch Feasibility/Vision Study that will assess needs of the branch between the Clinton and Forest Park stations. Essentially, CTA officials will determine if and how more user-friendly stations can be constructed.

This study, which will offer long-range planning options and ways to modernize rail lines, also has the potential to stimulate new economic development for communities along I-290, according to the CTA news release. It will be paid for through a combination of federal funds and in coordination with the village of Oak Park, whose leaders helped secure a chunk of money to conduct the study.

But Forest Park is also in on the conversation.

“The village has been working with CTA for the last six months,” said Village Administrator Tim Gillian. Gillian said the Illinois Dept. of Transportation task force has started to include CTA representatives in meetings about expanding the Eisenhower Expressway.

“CTA was invited because some part is likely to include the modernization of the Blue Line and possibly an extension to somewhere, to be decided,” said Gillian.

Oak Park secured grants in 2005 through a transportation bill to expand bridge decking near stations along the Ike to make it safer for pedestrians and bicyclists. The funding must be met with a 20 percent match, but CTA agreed to pick up that portion.

CTA has vowed to continue to identify and work with key stakeholders along the route, according to the press release. Because the Blue Line feasibility analysis will be done in coordination with IDOT’s current planning for the circle interchange and reconstruction of I-290, the planning will involve multiple stakeholders.

Enhancing the Blue Line stops along the Ike and expanding the line west to Maywood and even Hillside is something leaders in Forest Park, Oak Park and other nearby communities have said could help address congestion issues on the expressway.

Rob Cole, Oak Park’s assistant village manager, said the CTA needs to be in on the conversation.

“An investment in the Blue Line is an investment in improving traffic issues on I-290,” he said. The two transportation systems operate in tandem. It’s synergistic. You can’t divorce one or two of the other.”

The newest Blue Line Feasibility/Vision Study is anticipated to be completed by late 2013 or early 2014.

Gillian said Forest Park has been talking to IDOT and the CTA about walkability issues.

“Quite honestly, the biggest things discussed [by the village and CTA] were pedestrian safety,” Gillian said.

“Walkability and safety at Harlem, Desplaines and Circle [avenues] were at the forefront of our discussions with IDOT and the CTA,” he added.

Gillian said future land use in Forest Park is heavily determined by access to transportation hubs.

“The big words now are transit-oriented development, or ‘TOD’ areas,” Gillian said. “There are very few spots within Forest Park that don’t fit into transit-oriented development.”

“It will be a major component of the land use and marketing strategies that may come out of the comprehensive plan.”

Blue Line Feasibility/Vision Study and other projects

This summer, CTA will share a variety of potential options or alternatives as part of its Blue Line study. During that time, CTA will obtain feedback from the community and key stakeholders and return with final concepts in the fall which will be coordinated with the Eisenhower expansion meetings. Anyone interested in the Blue Line Forest Park Branch Feasibility/Vision Study can submit inquiries to BlueWestStudy@transitchicago.com.

 

The study area street boundaries extend a block east of the Clinton Station at Canal Street on the east to Mannheim Road on the west and between Madison Street on the north to Roosevelt Road on the south.

 

As a long-range plan is developed, CTA has several other projects that are either under way or planned and will improve the service and experience for customers on the West Side. These include:

  • Forest Park Branch Heavy Maintenance: In 2014, CTA will make track and other structural repairs on the Forest Park Branch, improvements that will increase safety and reliability until a more comprehensive reconstruction plan is devised and funded.
  • Austin Station Renewal: This summer, CTA maintenance crews will perform a "swat team" style approach to renewing the Austin Blue Line station to repair, clean and make improvements to the station.
  • Green Line Upgrades: Customers along the Harlem/Lake Green Line branch will benefit from work beginning soon that will upgrade the line's network and communications infrastructure. As part of this project work, stations along this branch will receive new public address systems, upgraded and/or additional security cameras and new electronic signage throughout the station houses and platforms.

Jean Lotus

Jean Lotus loves community journalism. She covers news, features, two school boards, village council, crime, park district and writes obits for Forest Park Review. She also covers the police beat for...