CTA begins work on 100-year-old viaducts in Evanston

Alexandria Johnson

Evanston and the Chicago Transit Authority started work on three 100-year-old Purple Line viaducts at Dempster, Greenleaf and Grove streets after receiving state funding through the assistance of state Sen. Jeff Schoenberg (D-Evanston) this summer.

At a joint-ward meeting Tuesday at Nichols Middle School, 800 Greenleaf St., CTA representatives, Ald. Melissa Wynne (3rd) and Ald. Donald Wilson (4th) outlined the schedule for rehabilitation.

“It’s good for the community and it’s good for the CTA,” said Stephen Mayberry, a CTA project consultant. “It’s been so easy working with the city of Evanston, so it’s a win-win for all. To call them an excellent partner is an understatement.”

Mayberry noted the project will take away some of the slow zones and also improve the aesthetics of these areas. He added the project will require minimal night work and temporary closures.

Installation of the three viaducts will require full street closures. Grove Street will have detours Oct. 10 to 23, Dempster Street will be affected Oct. 24 to Nov. 6 and Greenleaf Street is scheduled for Nov. 7 to 20. Next spring, two lines will temporarily shut down and a bus shuttle will be offered as a travel alternative.

“All three of the viaducts are adjacent to my ward, and I am excited to get them done,” Wilson said. “If you look at the country as whole, failing infrastructure is one of the biggest problems.”

The Main Street viaduct received similar work in 2005, and the Church Street viaduct was reconstructed in 2006.

City officials said the viaducts at Dempster, Greenleaf and Grove streets have been a long-term priority but lacked appropriate funding. Schoenberg eventually pushed for Evanston to receive state funding for the project.

“I would like to especially thank Senator Schoenberg. He’s helped make sure the funding for the viaduct is available,” Wynne said. “We are very pleased and excited to have these three viaducts be replaced. The change is going to be wonderful when it happens. I really look forward to it.”

The contract duration for the project is scheduled through May 2013; however, the CTA and the city are working to complete the project next spring.

“This is good. The viaducts definitely need the work, and it’d be good to have fresh (supports) and get the Purple Line moving faster,” said Zoila Gonzalez, who lives between Grove and Dempster streets.

The $10.3 million contract includes replacing the concrete viaducts with a longer steel bridge span and also replacing ties, rails and the bridge drainage systems. Signal and communication cables will be relocated, and new sidewalk, fencing and landscaping is also planned for each viaduct.

“I think everyone’s excited about this. It is long overdue, and frankly it’s a safety hazard whenever a train goes by,” said Matt Trewartha, who lives near the Dempster Street viaduct and is the legislative aide to U.S. Rep. Robyn Gabel (D-Evanston).

When the projects are completed, the city will host a celebration for the community. Debbie Hillman, who has lived in Evanston for over 30 years near Dempster Street, has attended similar celebrations after watching the reconstruction of other viaducts in the area.

“This is so exciting as a community,” Hillman said. ” I saw the temporary supports go up, and I was there when they called them permanent temporary supports. This is a community event I will be at.”

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