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Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Award for Architectural Excellence, 3rd Place

Situated on Chicago’s near Southwest Side, the Cermak (Douglas) branch stretches along 6.6 miles of track from 54th & Cermak east to Harrison Street and Congress. Built before 1912, over the years, the condition of the branch deteriorated, causing ridership on the branch to fall 50 percent between 1979 and 2000.

To attract riders back and improve services to the area’s residents, in 2001, the Chicago Transit Authority embarked on a $482 million rehabilitation project, involving extensive work on eight CTA rail stations, five miles of track, signal and communications equipment, traction power system and infrastructure rehabilitation.

The project’s use of comprehensive design methods allowed for appropriate design strategy at each segment of the line. The project incorporated historic elements, including the renovation of the original Kedzie Station, the reconstruction of the rail bed using up-to-date materials, technical innovations replaced outdated systems, and public art was specially designed and installed at each station.

Based on the community recommendations, today each of the branch’s stations is fully accessible, has Braille signage, uses ambient lighting, as well as oversized windbreaks, benches, and heaters at the platform level. The stations also include improved waiting areas for bus customers.

The result is a new and vibrant enhancement to the transit system in Chicago that improves multiple locations within the neighborhoods. It advances the public transit system of the region in a major way as well as the quality of life in the areas it serves.

For rejuvenating critical infrastructure, improving the transportation options for thousands of Chicagoans and beautifying the neighborhoods through which the trains run, the Chicago Transit Authority for the Cermak (Douglas) Blue Line rehabilitation is the winner of the 3rd place Richard Driehaus Award for Architectural Excellence in Community Design.