CTA begins first disruption to Purple Line Express, other lines

A sign in the Foster Street CTA station alerts passengers to service changes, including a lack of Purple Line Express service, associated with the Wells Street Bridge reconstruction in Chicago. The disruptions will run through March 11, followed by another nine-day period beginning April 26.

Ina Yang/Daily Senior Staffer

A sign in the Foster Street CTA station alerts passengers to service changes, including a lack of Purple Line Express service, associated with the Wells Street Bridge reconstruction in Chicago. The disruptions will run through March 11, followed by another nine-day period beginning April 26.

Ciara McCarthy, Reporter

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The Chicago Transit Authority has halted Purple Line Express train service through March 11 due to construction, temporarily lengthening commutes for some Evanston El riders.

The Chicago Department of Transportation scheduled the first half of reconstruction of the Wells Street Bridge from Friday through March 11, which means CTA trains between Merchandise Mart and the Loop will be suspended. CDOT’s reconstruction will occur in two parts. Workers are constructing one half of the bridge during this nine-day period and will build the second half from April 26 to May 6.

Because CDOT’s reconstruction prevents CTA trains from operating, the CTA will conduct its own repairs during the same time period. CTA usually schedules repair work on weekends only but decided to coordinate its construction with CDOT’s so travelers would suffer minimal delays.

The CTA’s repairs are part of the larger Loop Track Renewal Project, which began in March 2012 and will cost $33.8 million. The ongoing construction will address special track work needed near the Tower 18 junction. This junction is the busiest in the CTA, Lukidis said. She said the junction handles five of the CTA’s eight rail lines, amounting to nearly 700 trains a day. These two periods of repair will likely be the final phases of the Loop Track Renewal Project.

“It was perfect timing to coordinate those efforts and do work while the Wells Street Bridge was already going to be shut down,” CTA spokeswoman Lambrini Lukidis said.

The conjunction of these projects will reduce work time by eight days and reduce costs by $500,000, according to a news release.

Although CTA and CDOT’s coordination was intended to shorten the overall delay time, commuters are still burdened by the additional time added to their commute during this nine-day period. So far, the construction has suspended Purple Line Express and caused longer travel times for Red and Brown Line trains.

Phyllis Younkins commutes from Chicago to Evanston every day for work and said the delays have caused her typical travel time to extend from one hour to an hour and 45 minutes.

“It’s terrible,” she said. “Generally the trains run every five to six minutes. Now, we’re waiting nine minutes.”

The CTA has encouraged commuters to leave early or find alternative transportation during this time period. Younkins said this wasn’t an option for all commuters.

“You have to leave early, but where I live, I can’t leave that much earlier. I’m already leaving at 5:45 to get here at 7:30 to 7:45,” she said.

Construction crews will be working during the week and on weekends to finish the job as soon as possible, Lukidis said. After the second nine-day repair period ends in May, there should be no further significant delays to CTA trains.

Weinberg senior Madeline Lechner commutes to NU’s Evanston Campus from CTA’s UIC-Halsted station. Because of this construction, Lechner now has to change trains twice instead of just once, adding about 15 minutes to her usual hour and 15 minute commute.

“It’s something I can live with, but definitely inconvenient,” she said.

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