The Chicago Transit Authority’s (CTA) Blue Line O’Hare Branch is set to undergo a $492m four-year overhaul programme to provide faster, improved, comfortable and more reliable commutes.

Announced by mayor Rahm Emanuel and governor Pat Quinn, the Blue Line investment plan will involve upgrading several tracks, signal systems and stations along the 12.5-mile stretch of the Blue Line.

Mayor Emanuel said: "Like the Red Line South project we just completed on time and within budget, this Blue Line plan is far-reaching and long overdue, and will help meet increasing demand.

"This plan represents a huge investment in CTA riders and visitors travelling to Chicago via O’Hare and many vibrant communities along the North and Northwest Sides. It’s also part of our latest efforts to modernise our transit system for the 21st century."

Currently, more than 80,000 customers use stations along the branch each weekday. Over the past five years weekday ridership on the O’Hare Branch increased by 25%.

"This plan represents a huge investment in CTA riders and visitors travelling to Chicago via O’Hare."

As part of the more than $4bn transit improvements announced by Emanuel in 2011, the Blue Line plan funding will be provided by local, state and federal sources.

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Upgrades to the tracks are intended to remove and prevent slow zones in the Milwaukee Subway from Damen to Belmont and Dearborn Subway from Grand to Division, respectively.

Improvements to the track near the O’Hare station and in the Rosemont rail yard will aim to reduce delays and for efficient operations.

The stations that will undergo renovation include Grand, Chicago, Division, Damen, California, Logan Square and Jefferson Park. Repairs will be carried out at the Irving Park, Montrose, Harlem and Cumberland stations.

In the subway tunnels, wireless infrastructure will be modernised to provide faster and more reliable voice, data and web service to customers and workers in the subway.

While the project schedules are yet to being finalised, work will start with track work in 2014 followed by station renovations, power upgrades and signal improvements.

Image: CTA Blue Line L @ U of I Halsted. Photo: David Wilson from Oak Park, Illinois, USA.