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Spruced-Up California Station Reopens After Six-Week Closure

CTA Chairman Terry Peterson, State Senator Iris Martinez, Emanuel, Borggren, Durbin, and Claypool. Photo: Lisa Phillips.

The freshly renovated California station on the Blue Line’s O’Hare branch reopened today after being closed for six weeks, an interminable wait for locals who rely on the train stop. Originally opened in 1895, the station recently received both structural and cosmetic improvements. These include a larger building footprint, refurbished walls, stairs, and platforms, new lights and signs, and more bike racks.

California is one of 13 stations on the O'Hare Branch, from Grand to Cumberland, that are being rehabbed as part of the CTA’s $492 million “Your New Blue” initiative, which also includes repairs to aging signals, power systems, and tracks. Launched nine months ago, the project is the largest investment in the Blue Line since it was extended to the airport in 1984. The branch currently carries about 80,000 riders each weekday.

Speaking at the California stop’s ribbon-cutting ceremony this morning, CTA President Forrest Claypool boasted that the station rehab was completed on time and on budget. He added that the Blue Line work will “not only make the [riding] experience more comfortable, but also ultimately take ten minutes off the commute to O'Hare Airport from downtown and back.” Claypool noted that the faster travel times will be a boon for local commuters, as well as tourists coming into the city from O’Hare.

“All of this is part of an unprecedented $5 billion CTA modernization plan launched by Mayor Emanuel in 2011, and supported staunchly and consistently by Governor Quinn and Senator Durbin,” Claypool added. “It's been a true partnership from the very beginning between the state and city… demonstrating that modern, effective mass transit is worth the investment -- because of the jobs, and because of the [improvement to] quality of life in neighborhoods like Logan Square.”

Erica Borggren, acting secretary of the Illinois Department of Transportation, speaking on behalf of Governor Pat Quinn, argued that investing in transit helps the city and state stay globally competitive. She promised that the current work is a harbinger of more such investments to come during a third term for Quinn, who hopes to be reelected on November 4.

Construction workers from the project. Photo: Lisa Phillips

“There was a time when federal investment in mass transit had come to a standstill,” said Senator Dick Durbin, who is also up for reelection next month. “Luckily, that time is over. We fought to make sure that the Core Capacity grants in Washington came home to Chicago and to the region. It means good paying jobs.” Durbin then saluted the workers from the project, several of whom were in the audience, wearing hardhats and Day-Glo safety vests.

“We aren't finished -- we're just getting started,” Durbin added. “Come next May, we’ll have a new federal transportation bill. I'm going to be fighting in Washington, if given the opportunity, to make sure that we continue to bring this money home, creating good jobs and safe transportation, and the kind of infrastructure that builds the economy.”

Emanuel noted that the stretch of the Blue Line between Damen and California has the fastest ridership growth of the entire ‘L’ system. He also thanked the workers, as well as CTA customers who have been putting up with station closures and detours during the Your New Blue construction.

Starting next Monday, October 20, the uber-busy Damen station will be the next O’Hare Line stop to be closed for six weeks of rehab work. Hang in there, Wicker Park-Bucktown residents -- hopefully, the hassles will be worth it in the long run.

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