The Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) will close the Wells Street Bridge over the Chicago River to traffic and pedestrians beginning on Monday, November 5th for a year-long reconstruction of the historic structure.
Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) trains will continue to use the bridge during the project, except for two nine-day service interruptions next spring, when the CTA will also rebuild the Loop ‘L’ junction at Lake and Wells Streets, known as Tower 18.
“This is a great opportunity to fully restore the historic Wells Street Bridge, which 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), will begin work on November 5th, and is expected to be complete by the end of November 2013. Southbound vehicular and pedestrian traffic on Wells will be rerouted to the LaSalle and Clark Street bridges over the Chicago River. Southbound bicycle traffic will be able to cross the river on the Clark Street Bridge. The CTA #11 and #125 buses will be rerouted via Kinzie, LaSalle and Wacker back to Wells.
While the roadway will be closed for the duration of the project, the schedule of the construction work will be designed to keep CTA rail service interruptions at a minimum.
At the same time that the Wells Street bridge work is under way, the CTA will rebuild the ‘L’ structure junction at Lake and Wells Streets, known as Tower 18. That work will require two nine-day closures of the Wells bridge to CTA Brown and Purple Line trains — one in early March 2013, the other in late April.
“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.
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, said Claypool.
During the two nine-day closures, to run from early morning Saturday 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 from the Mart as well as special shuttle service on the Loop Elevated to make sure passengers can efficiently reach their usual destinations.
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.
CDOT has been working to notify the neighborhood and motorists about the Wells Street Bridge project and related detours through meetings with the surrounding businesses and neighborhood organizations; collaboration with the CTA and local elected officials; and the placement of on-site electronic message boards.
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