As part of the reconstruction of the historic Wells Street Bridge over the Chicago River, Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) service into the Loop will be interrupted for two nine-day periods while the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) puts into place new sections of the double-decker movable bridge.
The first CTA service detour will occur from March 1st through March 10th wherein CDOT will replace the south half of the bascule bridge. The second service break will be April 26th through May 5th, as the north section of the bridge is replaced.
During the shutdown, construction crews will dismantle and replace the movable leaves with new pre-fabricated sections, which are being assembled off-site and will be floated up the river on barges.
At the same time, the CTA will rebuild the Loop ‘L’ junction at Lake and Wells Streets, known as Tower 18, and perform additional track replacement at the curve over Hubbard Street between Wells and Franklin Street.
The Tower 18 work was originally scheduled to be part of the ongoing Loop Track renewal project. But by performing the work while CDOT completes the Wells bridge repairs, CTA will reduce the duration of the work by eight days. Additionally, combining the work will save CDOT and CTA $500,000 in construction coordination costs.
The Tower 18 junction is one of the busiest railroad junctions in the country, handling nearly 700 trains on an average weekday and nearly 500 trains on an average weekend. Five of the CTA’s eight rail lines pass through the junction.
“While train service will be interrupted, this is a great opportunity to fully restore the historic Wells Street Bridge. It has outlived its useful life and is in need of a complete reconstruction,” said CDOT Commissioner Gabe Klein. “It has been in service since 1922, and has been a key transportation link for cars, trains, bikes and pedestrians for the past 90 years.”
The bridge’s historic elements, railings, bridge houses and major structural components will be replaced to preserve the 1920s look of the bridge. Crews will replace the trusses and all of the steel framing for the lower level road and upper level railway structures. The mechanical and electrical components will also be replaced.
The contractor, Walsh/II in One (JV), began work on November 5th, closing the bridge to vehicular and pedestrian traffic. The project is expected to be complete by the end of November 2013. While the roadway will be closed for the duration of the project, the schedule of the construction work is designed to keep CTA rail service interruptions at a minimum.
During the two nine-day closures, to run from late Friday through early Monday of the following week, CTA will provide alternative bus and rail service.
On weekdays, Brown Line trains will alternate between terminating at Merchandise Mart or continuing into the Loop through the State Street subway. Bus shuttles will be available at the Chicago Avenue rail stop as well as special shuttle service on the Loop Elevated to make sure passengers can efficiently reach their usual destinations. Purple Line trains will not run south of Howard.
During weekends, service on the rail lines that serve the Loop will be impacted. Brown, Pink and Green Line (Lake Street) trains will terminate just outside the Loop. Orange and Green Line (South) trains will terminate at different stops in the Loop. Shuttle buses and a Loop shuttle train will operate.
“CDOT and CTA have worked together to coordinate the two projects to minimize the impact on CTA customers and reduce the overall project cost,” said CTA President Forrest Claypool.
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