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Wells Street Bridge Closure Gives Commuters Monday Morning Headache

By Quinn Ford | March 4, 2013 12:48pm | Updated on March 4, 2013 3:54pm

DOWNTOWN — Confusion and frustration.

That's what some commuters said they were feeling Monday morning as they encountered detours on their way to work due to construction on the Wells Street Bridge.

The project, which will replace both leaves of the 90-year-old bridge as well as the CTA rails that run on bridge, will affect CTA service through March 11, city officials said. It is the first phase of work that will close the bridge to commuters. The second phase will run from April 27 to May 5. The improvements to the Brown and Purple Line rails are part of the $33.8 million Loop Track Renewal Project launched in March 2012.

Monday morning, Kim Williams got off a Brown line "L" train at the Merchandise Mart and paused.

"Now where's the shuttle bus at?" she asked herself aloud.

Williams, who said she commutes from Evanston to the city's West Side for work, found the CTA's Purple line express was not running Monday. She said she was told to board a shuttle bus from the Brown Line into the Loop to continue her commute.

The city is providing free shuttle buses for "L" riders, but Williams said she was confused about how to find the buses.

"All they told me was go to LaSalle," Williams said. "[The city is] not doing too good a job letting people know what to do."

The CTA has service changes posted on its website and recommends riders dedicate extra time for their commute or use alternative means of transportation.

Williams said that's what she plans to do.

"Maybe the Red Line or the Blue Line or something," Williams said, shaking her head. "This is a real headache. I bet this adds at least two hours to my day."

Commuters make more than 77,000 one-way transit trips across the Wells Street bridge every weekday, CTA officials said. In addition to shuttle buses, re-routed trains are being used to accommodate commuters

One of every three southbound Brown Line trains will end their routes at Merchandise Mart. 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 trains running less frequently.

Kendall Royzen, who works just a block away from the Merchandise Mart "L" stop in the city's River North neighborhood, said she has known about the CTA service changes for two weeks.

But she said she had no idea sidewalks would be closed around the construction site. As a result, she had to walk an extra four blocks and down an alley to get to her office.

"It's kind of a pain in the you-know-what," Royzen said. "Our entire street is blocked off, so I can't imagine how our clients are going to feel for the week and a half."

Royzen said now she knows the sidewalks will be blocked off, she will "plan accordingly and get some extra coffee in the morning" for the longer walk.

She said the construction is a pain but hopes the project will speed up the city's public transportation in the future.

But Royzen still had one major complaint.

"The only thing is why couldn't they wait until it reached at least 50 degrees?" Royzen said with a laugh. "Then we're not all freezing while we're walking to work."