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$75M contract for Racine Blue overhaul brings CTA closer to 100% ADA accessibility goal

2:51 PM CST on February 14, 2023

A train pulls into the Racine Blue Line station. Photo: Jeff Zoline

The CTA is about to do a major renovation of the Racine Blue Line Station on the Near West Side. Originally built in 1958, the 'L' stop's makeover will include the installation of an elevator, a wheelchair-friendly ramp going from the station house to the platform, upgrades to the Loomis Avenue auxiliary entrance and exit, an extended platform, and new stairs.

Once the renovations have been completed, the station “will have clearly defined accessible pathways to and from train platforms, bus stops, and other major modal transfer points,” according to a CTA news release. "All the fare arrays, shelters, benches, passenger information, and other features along the pathway will also be redesigned to both remove barriers and make way for universal access."

The Chicago Transit Board approved a contract of up to $75.4 million with contractor FH Paschen, S.N. Nielsen & Associates, LLC, after a competitive bid process. Funding for the project is coming from the Rebuild Illinois state infrastructure fund. The start and end times for the project have not been announced yet.

The Racine entrance. Image: Google Maps
The Racine entrance. Image: Google Maps

"This is another exciting step forward in our commitment to making the entire CTA rail system fully accessible," said CTA president Dorval Carter, Jr. in a statement. "The CTA has collaborated with Chicago’s disability community to pursue a vision of 100 percent accessibility for all customers. Thanks to the funding we received through the Rebuild Illinois capital program, we’re now able to ‘unlock’ one more station and soon provide a fully-accessible transit option for not only this West Side community, but for any of the millions who travel our rail system each year."

The contractor will also make upgrades to the traction power system that provides the power for the trains. The work includes adding a new power substation at Morgan Street, and replacing equipment at the Hermitage Avenue substation. The CTA says this work will improve reliability, and it's part of larger plans to add more trains to this line, which is currently experiencing major crowding issues due to reduced service.

The Loomis auxiliary entrance and exit. Image: Google Maps
The Loomis auxiliary entrance and exit. Image: Google Maps

The Blue Line renovations will be the latest in the CTA’s All Stations Accessibility Program, launched in July 2018. According to the CTA website, ASAP was designed to be "the first-ever blueprint for making 42 remaining non-accessible rail stations vertically accessible over the next 20 years."

In a January 2020 interview with Streetsblog, disability rights group Access Living's policy analyst Adam Ballard noted that two decades was a long time to wait for a fully accessible system. "Of course, I would like to see it done sooner... But I’ve gotten to know how the funding sources work well enough to know that there’s only so much the CTA can do, and they’ll need a lot of help from the state and especially the federal government to get this job done."

ASAP got a major boost last December when officials announced that $118.5 million in funding from the federal infrastructure bill would be earmarked to make the Irving Park, Belmont, and Pulaski Blue Line stations wheelchair accessible.

At this moment, 103 out of 147 'L' stops are accessible, or percent of all CTA stations. Including the aforementioned stations, nine out of the remaining 44 non-ADA accessible stations have received funding for accessibility upgrades and are either under design or construction.

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