Wells Street Bridge Construction To Cause Downtown 'L' Interruptions

By Lizzie Schiffman Tufano on February 11, 2013 2:53pm | Updated on February 11, 2013 4:19pm

 Chicago Department of Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein (left) and Chicago Transit Authority President Forrest Claypool asked for the public's patience at a press conference about service interruptions.
Chicago Department of Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein (left) and Chicago Transit Authority President Forrest Claypool asked for the public's patience at a press conference about service interruptions.
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DNAinfo/Lizzie Schiffman

DOWNTOWN — Headaches are coming soon for Brown and Purple line "L" riders whose routes include the Wells Street Bridge over the Chicago River.

For two nine-day stretches — March 2-10 and April 27-May 5 — the bridge will be shut down to "L" traffic, forcing the CTA to make drastic changes for the Brown and Purple lines, which cross the bridge just south of the Merchandise Mart.

Commuters make more than 77,000 one-way transit trips across the bridge every weekday, CTA Vice President of Service Planning Michael Connelly said at a press conference Monday, so the closure could have a significant impact on downtown travel during the 18 days of construction.

Shuttle buses and re-routed trains will be used to accommodate impacted commuters.

During the weekday rush hour from March 4 through March 8 — and then from April 29 to May 3 — one of every three southbound Brown Line trains will end their routes at Merchandise Mart, forcing riders to take a free shuttle from the Chicago Avenue station, or to hop on a Red Line train at an earlier transfer point.

The remaining two southbound Brown Line trains will be rerouted to the Red Line State Street subway system, where service will end at the Roosevelt station.

Midday and evening Brown Line service will see fewer trains operating less frequently.

Gabe Klein, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Transportation, said Monday that the double-decker movable bridge, in service since 1922, has "outlived its useful life, and is in need of a complete reconstruction."

The project, expected to be completed by November, will include replacing mechanisms that operate the bridge, CTA rails and beams, and will remove and replace the red-colored movable sections of the bridge known as leaves.

These improvements to the Brown and Purple Line railways are part of the $33.8 million Loop Track Renewal Project launched in March 2012.

"While the roadway will be closed for the duration of the project, the schedule of construction work is designed to keep the CTA rail service interruptions at a minimum," Klein said Monday. "It will be the first time the city has replaced large sections of the bridge that also carries CTA trains. It's really an incredible feat of engineering when you consider that there's maritime traffic underneath."

 Renovation of the Wells Street Bridge over the Chicago River will cause headaches for "L" riders this spring.
Renovation of the Wells Street Bridge over the Chicago River will cause headaches for "L" riders this spring.
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Getty Images/ Tim Boyle

On March 1, traffic under the bridge will include a 250-ton section to replace the existing south side leaf, which will be floated up the river into place on a barge and installed by two daily 12-hour, 60-worker shifts through March 9.

While crews work to finish the repairs, which also include replacing the bridge's "landmark parts," additional Red Line service and free shuttles will accommodate the added stress.

On weekends between March 2-10 and from April 27 to May 5, Brown Line service will end at Chicago/Franklin. Green and Pink lines heading east will go no further than Washington/Wells, and northbound Green Line trains will stop at Adams/Wabash, with a shuttle to connect service gaps.

"Plan ahead," CTA President Forrest Claypool said Monday. "Allow extra commuting time during this bridge reconstruction project."

For more information on reroutes during construction, visit the Wells Street Bridge information page on the CTA's website.

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