Find your alternate CTA commute for next week's Wells Street bridge work

Brown Line and Purple Express riders: Better start thinking now about how you'll get to work in the Loop next week. The Wells Street bridge will close to CTA traffic starting at 10 p.m. Friday, reopening more than a week later for the Monday morning rush on March 11.

I wrote about the alternatives two weeks ago. Here they are again.

Here's the deal. For AM-PM rush period service  (6 to 1 a.m. and 2 to 7 p.m.):

  • There will be no Purple Line Express service. The Purple Line will stop at Howard and regular users of the express train will have to board a Red Line.
  • One of every three southbound Brown Line trains will terminate service at the Merchandise Mart. There will be a free shuttle bus from the Chicago Avenue station to the Clark/Lake and Washington/Wells stations.
  •  The remaining two-thirds of southbound Brown Line trains will travel through the Red Line subway tunnel, with Brown Line service ending at Roosevelt.
  •  There will be a free Loop shuttle train to assist Brown Line riders who exit another train in the Loop. It will run from about 4:30 a.m. to about 1:30 a.m.
  • The CTA also will add temporary weekday bus service to the peak travel directions during the AM and PM rush periods along the #37 Sedgwick route. Some of this additional service will be put in as a temporary deviation to the route with service starting at the Armitage Brown Line station (via “#37A Sedgwick/Armitage” buses) and then connect to North/Clybourn Red Line Station and resume the regular #37 route at North and Sedgwick. The #37 extends south into the Loop to the Clinton Blue Line stop. Additional service will also be added to the #37 Sedgwick route starting/ending at Fullerton.
  • Additional bus service also will be added to other existing bus routes: #22 Clark AM/PM rush; #146 Inner Drive/Michigan Express and #147 Outer Drive Express PM rush only.

Meanwhile, at the same time as the bridge closures, the CTA will rebuild the ‘L’ structure track junction at Lake and Wells Streets, also known as Tower 18, and replace tracks in the curves at Hubbard and Kinzie, just north of the Merchandise Mart. Tower 18 is the busiest junction on the CTA 'L' system and the main elevated line entryway into the Loop from the north, with 5 of 8 rail lines passing through every weekday. This junction handles nearly 700 trains a day and nearly 500 on the average weekend.

This work is part of the $33.8 million Loop Track Renewal project launched in March 2012. By performing the work while CDOT completes the Wells bridge repairs, CTA says it will reduce the duration of the work by eight days. Additionally, combining the work will save CDOT and CTA $500,000 in construction coordination costs.

Right now I pick up the Red or Brown line at Belmont - whichever comes first. But next week I think I'll try a bus commute. Maybe the No. 156 LaSalle. Time to experiment and mix it up.

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  • Not mentioned (maybe mentioned before) was that when the Tower 18 junction is torn out, no Loop trains will approach it, and thus, for instance, the west side Green and Pink end at Clinton (4 weekends, noted at the bottom of the Wells St. reconstruction page, Mar. 2-3, 9-10, Apr. 27-28. May 4-5).

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    In reply to jack:

    I was thinking the same thing, there really has been no mention that this work would also effect the Green/Pink lines.

  • In reply to Ryan Wallace:

    Orange, too.

    Apparently the new crossovers mentioned in the more recent Construction Reports will get a workout.

  • In reply to jack:

    Agreed, It begins this week Saturday with those 500 a day weekend trains NOT going through Lake and Wells. That's Brown, Orange, Pink, and Green lines. And unless the mainstream media does a blitz tomorrow, a lot of weekend riders are going to in for a surprise. Part of that "plan ahead" has got to be being informed before Saturday, otherwise everyone will be on those shuttle buses instead of perhaps using alternate lines.

    For instance, if riders on the west side/west suburbs knew before Saturday, they might switch to the Blue line or parallel bus routes instead of getting on a Pink or Green line train for the loop. Although Orange line riders will probably be told on the train to switch at Roosevelt to the Red line for State St. service. Same with Brown line riders this weekend.

    Based on the comments here, if Brown line riders aren't completely aware of what starts this Saturday (or Monday for weekday only commuters), then one can only hope for the best for the Brown, Pink, Green, and Orange line riders this weekend and next.

  • Ha ha. I live in Edgewater and board at Thorndale. What are my alternatives? A two-hour trip on the 136? Hot air balloon? Zip line?

    My friends and I have been talking about what a joke this whole thing is. Although this is now featured on the CTA's home page, they have done very little to effectively communicate to riders about what will be a very disruptive project.

    I was thinking about this for 45 minutes this morning while my Brown Line train was stuck behind that stalled Purple Line. My train left Sedgwick and stopped abruptly while the train was still on the curve just south of the station -- and we stood there for 45 minutes! Why did we even pull out of Sedgwick? Why strand a bunch of people on an immobile train? If this is all it takes (a defective door relay) to strand, delay and inconvenience thousands of commuters, how about next week when they'll be trying to squeeze 2 out of 3 Browns into the tunnel that is already stacked with Reds?

    Next week is going to be an absolute disaster. And it's not just going to affect Purple and Brown Line riders. This is going to affect EVERYONE. The Red will fill up with Evanston riders, so before it even reaches Irving Park it will be standing-room-only. At Fullerton and Belmont, Brown and Purple riders will attempt to squeeze on, and I can't imagine many of them having much success. Also, people who can flee the trains for buses will do so, so you can count on the lakefront buses getting more packed than they already are and more people just choosing to drive to work. And don't forget that people who live off the Brown corridor will also opt to take the Damen or Western buses to the Blue Line, so ridership there will increase as well.

    So the CTA has put together a robust communication plan to warn riders and will be beefing up alternative bus service, right? Nope! On the contrary, as someone else pointed out, they recently killed #11 service that, while slower, closely follows the Brown Line route. They're "increasing" service on a few buses that mostly serve only people who live from Belmont south.

    The CTA fails consistently at communication and common sense. Next week is going to suck for a lot of people. I'm amazed that this isn't a bigger story.

  • In reply to mikely:

    The one thing you imply, but do not state, is that you changed from Red to Brown at Belmont or Fullerton. Obviously, that wouldn't make sense next week, unless you were interested in the 66% of the Brown Line trains that end at Mdse. Mart. Certainly no point in assuming that you will be able to travel on to the Loop L.

    I agree with most of the rest you said. I figure that some point around 2015, the whole "rapid transit" system will be shut down if present trends continue, notwithstanding what some self-proclaimed retired CTA employee says in the "liar thread."

  • In reply to jack:

    Indeed. I work in the Willis Tower and on most days I stay on the Red Line and walk across the Loop from Jackson. But that walk gets old and every once in a while I switch things up. So today I was feeling lazy and thought "ooh, that short walk from Quincy will be nice," and decided to switch to the Brown at Belmont. Big mistake.

  • In reply to mikely:

    "Ha ha. I live in Edgewater and board at Thorndale. What are my alternatives? A two-hour trip on the 136? Hot air balloon? Zip line?"

    I think you answered your own question then.

  • In reply to jack:

    Jack said: " Obviously, that wouldn't make sense next week, unless you were interested in the 66% of the Brown Line trains that end at Mdse. Mart"

    Isn't that number backwards....1/3 (33%) go to the Mart; 2/3 (66%) go to the subway with half in subway going to 37th and the other half to Midway.

  • In reply to chicagopcc1:

    Since the web page says "some," and only refers to Roosevelt and Mdse Mart, and doesn't mention Midway in this context, I don't know that either.

    But since you claimed on chicagobus.org to have one time touched as Cineston, and had "exclusive information," should we go with your "exclusive information" and exclusive expertise or not?

  • In reply to jack:

    After further consideration, your 66 2/3 % figure IS more accurate. The trains diverted that will end up at Midway will be concentrated within only about 30 - 45 minutes of the rush hour schedule leaving Kimball 0600 to 0945.

  • In reply to mikely:

    Mikely wrote: " my Brown Line train was stuck behind that stalled Purple Line. My train left Sedgwick and stopped abruptly while the train was still on the curve just south of the station -- and we stood there for 45 minutes! Why did we even pull out of Sedgwick? Why strand a bunch of people on an immobile train? If this is all it takes (a defective door relay) to strand, delay and inconvenience thousands of commuters, how about next week when they'll be trying to squeeze 2 out of 3 Browns into the tunnel that is already stacked with Reds?"

    I accidentally came across the radio transmission of the incident you described. To answer your question, CTA Rail Control routinely holds following trains at stations and they did so on Wednesday. Unfortunately, it sometimes takes time to determine whether a defective train can be easily corrected. The train in question was experiencing a "defective door relay" after rounding a curve. The operator had to walk his train, looking for any open or partially closed door, hoping to find the door, cut it out if needed, and then be on his way.

    But the relay defect was only symptomatic of a more serious problem and in the end they discovered that the head cars would not move under ANY condition and they had to push those cars with the rear four cars to the first station where the defective train's passengers were removed and the train was taken out of service clearing up the blockade. By this time, several trains behind the blockade had been unloaded and turned to provide service in the other direction. Other trains were moved to stations where passengers were allowed to exit and choose alternate transportation.

    Unfortunately the trains, like yours, immediately behind the defective train were stuck in limbo. I heard Rail Control repeatedly remind operators to make announcements on those trains, so yes, CTA is concerned about communications. I hope this unofficial explanation helps.

  • In reply to chicagopcc1:

    And I guess that Kevin and Chris wonder why I say the L is becoming inoperable.

  • In reply to jack:

    I don't wonder why, I just don't agree with you on your assertion that it will become inoperable.

  • I'm also surprised by the lack of communication. This is starting in a few days and I haven't noticed any extra signage or notices at any stations, and I ride the Brown line downtown every day.

    The only thing I've seen is the regular tiny "service disruption" signs that look just like all the other ones and the postings here and on other blogs.

    Sadly, I was reminded yesterday morning and this morning (which both had major delays on the Brown) that I don't have many other options to get to work, now that the Lincoln bus is gone.

  • Just think what a mess it will be if a train gets stalled in the tunnel & the others can't go 'over the top' as they often do when there's a problem.

    And what happens if they have problems replacing the worn sections of the Wells Bridge?
    A far longer mess!

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