Milwaukee-Dearborn Subway System – Chicago IL


In February 1939, bids were collected by the city subway department to begin construction for the first section of the Milwaukee-Dearborn street subway system that would create a 3,322 foot section of the tunnel between Chicago and Haddon avenues (“Dearborn St. Subway”). This system was part of a larger four part plan to build a large scale 50 mile subway system (“Four Stages”). The expansion would extend rapid service by adding additional subways and connecting existing elevated tracks. The project was largely funded by the New Deal’s Public Works Administration after plans were completed and agreements were made in 1938. The Milwaukee-Dearborn system specifically would add 3.85 miles of subway tunnels onto the tracks already in place. To carve out the tunnels, 200 ton steel shields bore twin tunnels along the proposed route (“Start Subway Tunneling Work”).

The initial plan was to have the tunnel pass under the pre-existing La Salle street tunnel but instead it was decided to have the subway cut through the tunnel. This would keep the subway at the same grade level as the other loading platforms that were currently about 40 feet below the surface (“Change in Tube Plan”). Due to the $23,130,000 in grants the project received from the PWA, the Milwaukee-Dearborn subway system would connect the Logan Square and Humboldt Park area with a more direct route to Congress and La Salle in the loop (“Strangest Hike in Town”).

Construction began in March 1939 and continued until World War II began and rationing effort affected the materials being used to work on the tunnels. In 1942, the Milwaukee-Dearborn subway system was about 80% finished when work was halted until after the war in 1945. It then took until February 1951 for the tunnels to be fully completed and operational (“Blue Line”).

Source notes

"Change in Tube Plan Will Close La Salle Tunnel." Chicago Daily Tribune [Chicago] 25 March 	1939: 1. ProQuest Archiver. Web. 15 Apr. 2014

"Dearborn St. Subway Bids To Be Opened Today." Chicago Daily Tribune [Chicago] 2 	February 1939: 1. ProQuest Archiver. Web. 15 Apr. 2014

"Four States of Subway Project." Chicago Daily Tribune [Chicago] 31 October 1939: 1. 	ProQuest Archiver. Web. 15 Apr. 2014

Morgenstern, George. "Strangest Hike in Town, Thru Chicago's Subway." Chicago Daily 	Tribune [Chicago] 25 May 1941: 1. ProQuest Archiver. Web. 15 Apr. 2014.
" Start Subway Tunneling Work in Loop Today." Chicago Daily Tribune [Chicago] 6 February 	1940: 1. ProQuest Archiver. Web. 22 Apr. 2014


"Blue Line: Milwaukee-Dearborn Subway." Chicago"L".org. CTA, n.d. Web. 15 Apr. 2014.<>

Project originally submitted by Laura Nickerson, Columbia College on May 20, 2014.

We welcome contributions of additional information on any New Deal project site.


Location Info

Milwaukee and Division Stop
Chicago, IL 60605

Location notes: The line runs from the Division and Milwaukee stop to Clinton Blue Line stop

Coordinates: 41.903354, -87.666510

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