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CTA Blue Line Closure Sends Flood of Travelers into Wicker Park Hub

By Alisa Hauser | August 23, 2014 2:58pm | Updated on August 25, 2014 8:42am
 The Milwaukee, Damen and North avenues intersection.
Wicker Park Traffic at Main Intersection.
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WICKER PARK —  Droves of displaced passengers flooded into Wicker Park's main intersection Saturday as a small army of workers from the Chicago's Office of Emergency Management and Communications (OEMC) directed the travelers to shuttle buses as part of a weekend-long closure.

Stationed in front of Starbucks at Damen, Milwaukee and North avenues, one OEMC worker in a bright orange vest screamed at a distracted woman crossing the street to "get the ear buds out!"

Because the Damen "L" station at 1558 N. Damen Ave. was closed for westbound rail traffic, passengers such as Jocy Bernard were forced to exit at Damen and take a CTA shuttle bus to Logan Square to continue to Rosemont.

Bernard, who is visiting from Wisconsin this weekend, said she was not bothered by the inconvenience.

"It's Chicago, I would expect delays," Bernard said.

Though the OEMC worker declined to share her name, Brian Earl, a regular fixture who passes out fliers at the intersection, was watching the spectacle from his post on a cement island.

"She has to be aggressive because her job is one of the most stressful in the world," Earl said of the OEMC worker.

Earl added, "I would want to have a beer with her after [her shift] so I can hear stories about how she almost watched people die."

Though this weekend is the last of the weekend closures between Logan Square and Damen for the CTA's $492 million "Your New Blue" project, the next step will be closing stations at California Avenue in Logan Square and Damen Avenue in Wicker Park for six weeks and nine weeks respectively, the CTA previously announced.

Local residents were unaware of impending longer-term station closures. 

When informed of the Damen station's nine-week long closure by a reporter, Sam Chand, a Wicker Park resident who was walking to the shuttle bus quipped, "Awesome, fantastic." 

Rich Labriola, owner of Stan's Donuts at 1560 N. Damen Ave., who was hanging out in his shop for an 85- cent promotion, said he was not aware that the station would be closed for nine weeks.

"Nine weeks is a long time but you have to roll with the punches," Labriola said.

The second phase of the Your New Blue project, which will begin next month, will start with a renovation of the California, Western and Damen stations.

Station renewal work starts Sept. 4 with the temporary closure of the California station for 42 days as crews perform extensive station house and platform upgrades and repairs to the nearly 120-year-old station.

Similar work will be performed on the Damen station, which is scheduled to be closed for 63 days or nine weeks beginning October 20.

For more info about the project, visit www.transitchicago.com/yournewblue.

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