CTA's Howard-station renovation complete

The work week just got easier for riders who use the Chicago Transit Authority's Howard station.

Three years after the CTA approved a $56.7 million contract to renovate the station, construction work is complete. Weekend riders may have noticed the newly renovated auxiliary entrance to the station, which opened Friday.

The station, at 1649 West Howard, has seen an overhaul that officials heralded as a boon to revitalization in the nearby neighborhood. And former CTA president Frank Kruesi highlighted how the renovation would make the station accessible to people with disabilities.

The project included renovating a station house and platform areas and installing four elevators, escalators, brighter lighting, benches, bike racks, new wind breaks and canopies to protect riders during bad weather. It also called for work on the existing Howard Street viaduct and retail space on the north side of Howard Street.

In June, officials re-opened the renovated south entrance to the station, which provided a path from station platforms to the multilevel parking garage and bus terminal completed in 2001 and 2002. The south entrance also made Howard the 83rd CTA rail station to be accessible to people of disabilities. The CTA has 144 rail stations.

Built in 1908 and rebuilt during the 1920s, the station is a free transfer point for the Red, Purple and Yellow lines. It also serves seven CTA bus routes and two Pace suburban bus routes.

Ridership at the station is heaviest Monday through Friday, with 5,982 rides on an average weekday, 4,228 on an average Saturday and 3,063 on an average Sunday. According to CTA records, Saturday ridership has declined 17 percent since the contract for the project was approved in January 2006.

Meanwhile, ridership on the Red Line, the CTA's busiest line, grew from about 64.4 million rides in 2005 to about 66 million rides in 2008.

Officials say they will decorate the Howard station with original artwork, including a suspended stainless-steel sculpture and a ceramic-tile mural.