New CTA "FastTracks" to speed commutes, improve rail reliability and ease O'Hare Blue Line customer challenges


The Chicago Transit Authority's (CTA) new $179 million Fast Tracks program for track repairs and maintenance is designed toshave six minutes off a typical round-trip commute on the Red, Blue, Brown and Green Lines and provide smoother rides for ‘L’ customers.


Included in this program, which is scheduled to complete in 2021, are electrical power improvements along the Blue Line O’Hare branch. Those improvements, according to the CTA, will allow additional trains to run during high-ridership times, reducing customer platform wait times and crowded trains. 

The $179 million investment, which is to repair and upgrade rail, rail ties and electrical power in multiple locations throughout the system, is being funded through a small increase in fees charged to app-based ride-hailing companies operating in Chicago. The fee, proposed by the Mayor and approved by City Council in November, is the first of its kind in the country to directly support investment in public transportation, according to the CTA. 

They also report that since 2011, the CTA has completed, begun or announced more than $8 billion in modernization projects, ranging from new and completely rebuilt rail stations to new buses and railcars. 

“By modernizing and expanding our bus and rail services, CTA costumers will spend less time traveling and have more reliable public transportation options,” Mayor Emanuel said. “As the nation’s first city to develop and dedicate it solely to transit, we are rebuilding our CTA system and ensuring future generations can depend on it.” 

CTA President Dorval R. Carter, Jr. points out that “With this important new source of funding, the CTA can continue to make investments that directly benefit our customers by improving their daily commutes.”  He further explains that the ride-hailing fee is especially important, because the State of Illinois has not passed a capital bill to support transportation and transit projects since 2009. “CTA still has a significant need for capital investment. FastTracks is a great start, but state support will be critical to continuing investment that’s critical to both maintaining and modernizing our system.” 

The first phase of FastTracks begins on the Green Line just south of 35th Street. Work moves to other locations through 2021, including improvements along:

  • Green Line South (between 18th and 35th Streets; between 35th and 59th Street; and along the Cottage Grove and Ashland branches)
  • Green and Pink Lines (between Clinton and Ashland)
  • Blue Line O’Hare branch (electrical power improvements)
  • Red and Blue Line subways (State Street and Dearborn)
  • Blue Line Congress branch (Clinton to Forest Park)
  • Brown Line (between Southport and Western) 

The track work across these rail lines will remove slow zones and increase service reliability. The improvements entail a combination of repairing and replacing sections of iron rail; replacing deteriorated wooden rail ties; and adjusting and maintaining track ballast. 

Work will be completed outside of weekday peak-ridership hours to minimize the impact to customers.



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