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Blue Line Rehab to Make Only a Single Station Accessible

1:12 PM CST on December 19, 2013

All buses are accessible, and the Addison station will soon allow a fully-accessible transfer. Photo: John Greenfield.

The Chicago Transit Authority will spend $492 million rehabilitating tracks and stations on the Blue Line between the downtown subway and O'Hare airport in an effort to speed service and improve the customer experience. But the project will make only one station accessible to people with disabilities, out of 11 stations slated for a rehab that are currently inaccessible. (A total of 13 stations are being renovated and upgraded.) The one station that will receive accessibility upgrades is Addison.

CTA responded to a question about this on Facebook, saying that they met their responsibility for the number of "key stations" that must be accessible when they finished the Brown Line rehab in 2009. While the CTA no longer has to upgrade existing stations to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, it continues to upgrade them. Of 145 stations, 97 are accessible -- three were upgraded just this year in the Red Line South rehab project.

The question that remains is "Why Addison?" -- especially when a report from the Infrastructure Accessibility Task Force in November 2012 said Damen, Belmont and Irving Park, and California had the greatest need for accessibility measures. The task force, comprising CTA staff, consultants, and representatives from the disability community, ranked stations on factors including ridership by people with disabilities, the number of people who live nearby and use paratransit, and senior services locations, among others.

Addison's score wasn't listed, but CTA developed a design concept to add an elevator, estimating its cost at $5 million. CTA spokesperson Tammy Chase said that Addison was selected "because of its ridership and the ability to make that station accessible."

Weekday ridership for Damen, however, is more than two times higher than Addison. The agency also developed four upgrade scenarios for the Damen station, and it does look they they would be more costly. Two of the Damen options were estimated to cost $12 million and call for two elevators and possibly a transfer bridge. The two other scenarios probably cost more, since they include a new station house, though no estimates were given.

Damen Blue Line Station
The Damen station house will get new flooring, new lighting, and a new ceiling. Photo: Serge Lubomudrov

Chase said that the IATF report was "not a ranking of what projects were most likely to be completed." She added that Damen has many challenges, because of how it's situated among other buildings. Chase wrote that "alterations have to minimize impact to historical elements of the stationhouse," an historical landmark, and that the station is surrounded by other landmark buildings. The deciding factor, then, was that Addison, with its single platform below the Addison Street bridge, has a "fairly straightforward" design, according to Chase.

CTA does have several other upcoming station accessibility upgrades: Quincy on the Loop elevated lines, Wilson Red Line, and the Washington/Wabash station on the Loop elevated that will replace Randolph/Wabash and Madison/Wabash.

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