Bridge replacement to close Purple Line

lizabeth Gibson

Construction will close the El’s Purple Line from 8:30 p.m. today until 1 a.m. on Monday, Chicago Transit Authority officials said at a press conference Thursday.

People who normally ride the Purple Line can use a shuttle that will make stops near Purple Line stations from Linden to Howard until the El reopens.

The closure will allow the CTA to install a new steel viaduct, which consists of a 100-foot bridge and supports, for the Purple Line over Main Street. A 95-year-old concrete viaduct currently supports the tracks.

“This is something we have been waiting for for a long time,” Ald. Melissa Wynne (3rd) said at the press conference. The construction is in her ward.

Exposure to the elements seriously deteriorated the crumbling viaduct, CTA President Frank Kruesi said. It is probably past due for a replacement, he added.

“I would say this lasted about 85 (years),” Kruesi said. “So we were a little late.”

The project will cost the CTA about $3.7 million. Another replacement along the Purple Line is budgeted for $3.5 million in 2006, according to the CTA.

Construction on the viaduct began in August and should be completed by the end of the year.

Bus lines, which were redirected around the construction that blocked off Main Street between Custer and Chicago avenues, will return to their regular routes Nov. 18.

The new bridge and concrete supports, called abutments, are already built and are on the blocked-off piece of road. Construction workers will lift the structure 10 feet, rotate it and then roll the bridge into place.

But first, they must break apart the old abutments and viaduct.

“This whole bridge has to come down,” said Glenn Zika, vice president of engineering for the project.

The new 440,000-pound bridge will last about another 100 years, Zika said.

Higher clearance will allow taller vehicles to drive under the overpass. The new bridge also will end the need for trains to slow down as they cross the viaduct, which will speed up the route, Kruesi said.

He said the CTA is performing an incredible feat to make sure the construction does not interfere with rush-hour traffic Monday through Friday, but he wishes there was a way to install the bridge without disrupting service.

“But we can’t do that,” Kruesi said.

The last major closure of an El line occurred Memorial Day weekend of 2003. The CTA closed the Orange and Green Lines to straighten out a sharp S-shaped curve on the southern part of the Loop.

The CTA will take advantage of the shut-down to make other improvements, officials said.

They will fix the track, eliminating more slow spots. The closure also will give the CTA a chance to clean El stations and make repairs such as replacing rail ties. Weather permitting, the Purple Line will receive a power-washing and paint job.

“This today is symbolic of things getting better,” Mayor Lorraine H. Morton said.

The Purple Line is the sixth most-used of the seven El lines. The route served an average of 10,363 passengers per weekday and 12,962 total on Saturday and Sunday in September 2005.

Weinberg junior Jenny Simonson said she might need to change her plans to celebrate her friend’s 21st birthday in Chicago because of the closure, but she said a speedier El line would make it worthwhile.

“It’s the best solution,” Simonson said. “It’s not like they can set up a temporary El or anything.”

But the CTA could have picked a better time, said Weinberg junior Taylor Britsch, who uses the El to move around Evanston during the winter.

“With the cold coming this week, it was a very bad idea to close the Purple Line now,” he said. “People need to use it to survive.”

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