New CTA projects begin Monday - among 8 set for this year

Two of the latest CTA and CDOT construction projects are both slated to begin on Monday. When you add in the next phase of the Blue Line project set to begin in the fall, that's eight total construction projects this year, either underway, planned or completed.

So you can't say the CTA is just sitting around doing nothing. Good to see they are working on these capital improvement projects.

Two projects set to begin Monday:

  • Loop Link Transit Project: This "express" bus project will help ease congestion, modernize traffic flow, and improve Loop connections to neighborhoods. By improving reliability downtown, service quality will increase, benefiting neighborhoods throughout the City. The six bus lines to be included in the Loop Link project are the J14, 20, 56, 60 124 and 157.
  •  Construction of Washington/Wabash Loop elevated station: The $75 million station construction project will combine the century-old stations on Wabash at Randolph and at Madison. The project will provide customers with a brand new rail facility, improve Loop-train travel times, decrease operating costs and increase rail accessibility for all riders.
  • Union Station Transit Center. Construction on a project related to the above two, the Union Station Transit Center, will begin later this spring, creating a new off-street CTA bus-boarding center just south of Union Station and relieving traffic congestion around the train station that serves 120,000 people each day.

These are other projects underway, scheduled to get underway this year, or completed this year

  • Wilson station reconstruction. The construction phase of this $203 million project began last week. For a full year, the southbound Purple Line Express trains with share a track with the Red Line from Wilson to Belmont as the Purple Line track is demolished and rebuilt.
  • Your New Blue: The next phase of this $43 million project begun in 2014 focuses on station rehab work at Addison, Irving Park, Montrose, Harlem and Cumberland. This work valued at almost $26 million will begin in the fall.
  • Ravenswood Connector slow zone elimination work: The rehabilitation project is a $71.2 million investment includes the repair and replacement of components on the steel structure between the Armitage and Merchandise Mart elevated stations.
  • Clark/Division Station Renovation: This $41 million project continues and should be completed this year. It includes modernizing and upgrading the existing station house’s platform, station interiors and mezzanine and a new mezzanine at LaSalle - which opened last year.
  • New Cermak-McCormick Place Green Line station: This $50 million station opened in February.

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  • WOW! 8 projects at once!
    Be sure and leave your home early no matter if you're driving or on the CTA.

  • In reply to ApresSki:

    I'm impressed with the projects, hopefully they're kept on time and On budget!!

  • Why reduce the number of stations on Wabash? This project is misguided.

  • In reply to CongerEel:

    It makes sense in some ways, but not others; having 2 stops instead of 3 certainly speeds things up, just like they did on Wells.

    "Misguided" is an understatement however -- by moving it a Block further south along Wabash -- away from Randolph and the Pedway, which could have provided an enclosed ADA Compliant connection to Millennium station and the Red and Blue Lines (plus stores, shops, and Government offices).

    This clearly demonstrates how the disconnect between the Agencies damages Transit Riders, some of whom will now have to walk an additional 2 blocks (outside at -10 in February) to make a transfer.

    Fun for a woman with packages, kids, and a stroller.

  • Once the station is complete, and the old Randolph station demolished, it would be nice to see them build an enclosed, elevated walkway from Randolph to the new station. Basically, use the airspace vacated from the old station, and build an elevated pedway along the tracks, with ADA access at street level.

  • The question on this one (and more pertinently, if CDOT can get going on the CMAQ grant for State-Lake) whether CTA or CDOT can get easements in adjoining buildings, like CTA has in the Thompson Center. I don't know if I would assume that going through the former Marshall Field building is the only way to the pedway, and certainly their subway entrance to the State St. subway is now worthless.*

    _______
    *When I was little, I was impressed by that most of the major department stores had subway entrances. Now, one can basically write off that there are major department stores on State St.

  • The lack of pre-boarding on the new Madison/Washington express is a major oversight. Having lived with Ventra for over a year now, I think we can all agree that the card is *much* slower than the old Chicago Cards. I was boarding the #66 at Chicago and Franklin, and it took nearly 2 minutes to board ~15 people. The card readers are just too frikin slow, and that's when the riders have the cards out and ready. Add a few mindless riders that have to dig out their cards, and the entire process drags.

  • In reply to SpinyNorman:

    Lack of preboarding is definitely a problem, but since the "platforms" are not grade separated from the street, there wouldn't be any way to prevent someone from jaywalking from Daley Plaza to the street side of the platform, for instance. Maybe they can do something like putting the paid areas in plexiglass enclosures with sliding doors opening when the bus arrives, but I mentioned (in connection with a proposal to have gated platforms on the Jeffery BRT), I don't think bus passengers want to stand in a position where they would be sitting ducks for drive by shooters.

    On the other hand, about the only way to get into the paid area of an L station is to get on the tracks at somewhere like Kedzie Brown Line and be able to jump up about 3 feet. Possible, but not as easy as I described for "elements of BRT."

  • In reply to jack:

    One solution would be to simply make the ride free. For years, Portland had a free fare zone within the central business district. Since the route basically extends from the commuter rail stations to Michigan Ave, I don't see why it couldn't be a free ride.

    Option 2 would be to conduct random inspections. This is obviously a bit harder with an "electronic" fare card, but a inspector could carry a portable scanner, and use it to determine if a rider boarded with a card.

  • In reply to SpinyNorman:

    Obviously, CTA can't afford to do either (give away free fares, nor hire bus conductors).

    Rochester NY had a similar system, including most buses routed through downtown, but did away with the free fare zone when it built a downtown transit center (sort of similar to the Pace Harvey TC, but enclosed). Besides doing away with through buses, they had previously done away with issuing transfers, which meant that riders now have to pay a second fare to ride through downtown, although that was ameliorated by reducing the fare to $1 and selling $3 day passes on the bus (through the GFI farebox).

    The other problem with Option 1 is that while the Loop Link is restricted to that area, the buses that use it aren't--they go all the way to River East and Streeterville and westbound to 24th and Cicero. Madison and Austin, and Jefferson Park. It would be worse if SB J14 were not on Monroe instead of Madison.

    Option 2 can be done, but essentially gets one into why Metra can't get off the schneid on "open fare" media.

  • In reply to SpinyNorman:

    I've noticed two things about Ventra.
    1. It works well in the suburbs, where tall buildings are rare. I take the 215 to Old Orchard regularly & west of Howard/McCormick, delays due to card reading errors are rare. That means Cubic did some incompetent testing & the CTA fell for it.
    2. The other weird thing is that when the first passenger to board almost always has to tap the card more than once, but then the following passengers usually just have to tap once. That means there's a problem with connecting to the server. It's probably not the signal strength, but crappy software at the server end.

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    Both (especially the first) indicate cell phone problems, and both Ventra and Bus Tracker use cell phone links.

    If it were the server, you would have comparable errors at rapid transit stations, but there they appear to be hard wired.

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    I boarded the eastbound #66 at Larrabee this morning. Three of us boarded the bus. The first person spent 30 seconds attempting to get her card to read with no luck. She made 5 or 6 attempts. The next person tried, with the same result. I was the last to go, and after 30 to 40 seconds, no nice. I boarded the bus anyway. The driver moved the bus 15 feet forward, and each of us were able to tap and get a 'Go'.

    So, over 2 minutes to board 3 passengers. How on Earth is this progress? The area is well known for having poor wireless coverage. Using a cell phone is hit or miss.

    Frankly, the Ventra software needs a major rewrite. If the reader cannot communicate with the server, it *must allow the user to board*. It's not the rider's fault. It's not the driver's fault. It's not the other passengers' fault. The system was designed assuming wireless coverage is perfect. It's not. We shouldn't be subjected to extended boarding delays because some dumb sh*t engineer sitting in an office decided wireless was a good idea.

  • In reply to SpinyNorman:

    While conforming my point that it is probably cell dead spots, to get back to your initial point, what is CTA going to do if a platform at say Washington and LaSalle is a dead spot? I suppose they could install a repeater or something like the subway 4G system, but I doubt that they could figure it out.

  • In reply to jack:

    A repeater would be easy, but as you note, they'd have to be smart enough to test the signal at the stop to begin with to determine if it was reliable and strong. I'm not going to give them that much credit. If we were talking about chimps at the zoo, then I'd have no problem believing they could figure it out.

  • In reply to SpinyNorman:

    Hilkevitch's column confirms that part of the problem is with "telecommunications" problems with the wireless carriers.

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    You are so right about this. If I'm the first passenger to board, this happens to me almost every time. Damn frustrating. This is not the way to board quickly!

  • In reply to mulder42:

    It sounds like the cell phone link has to dial the number and get connected to the server before reading, not that it is a radio that is always on. I don't know if that's the case, but....

    Similarly, BusTracker checks in every minute or so, not continuously.

  • Prehaps the City Department of Transportation decided that more transfers are the result from CTA bus lines than Metra Electric since the location puts alongside the downtown Loop Link Transit Project, this "express" bus project will help ease congestion, modernize traffic flow, and improve Loop connections to neighborhoods. By improving reliability downtown, service quality will increase, benefiting neighborhoods throughout the City. The six bus lines to be included in the Loop Link project are the J14, 20, 56, 60 124 and 157. The rationale for the station location must be in the documention somewhere.

  • In reply to chicagopcc1:

    I'd go with the simpler answer. Constructing the new station between the existing stations means that the existing stations can remain open during construction. Imagine the gnashing of teeth that would occur if they closed either station for a year. They're following the same approach they used when they constructed the Washington/Wells station, no?

  • In reply to SpinyNorman:

    I guess the question is what they did when they built Wells-Washington, which essentially was the same job as now building Wabash-Washington.

    As far as current conditions, I suppose that eventually eliminating Randolph will improve the sight line around the curve. Keeping State-Lake doesn't do much for the northbound sight line where the 1977 accident occurred.

  • But Madison/Wabash closed at the last train, a NB Brown line train at 1:41 am Monday, Mar. 16. So one station open, Randolph/Wabash.

  • In reply to chicagopcc1:

    I was there... the final customer, after 118 years of service.

  • When Washington/Wells was built, Madison/Wells was closed when construction began. Washington/Wells overlaps where Madison/Wells was, just as Washington/Wabash will overlap where Madison/Wabash is.

  • In reply to ajk6136:

    I should have read you before replying to SpinyNorman. My apologies.

  • Let's see if the "bus lanes" work better than last time. There were two problems with the original idea. First, transit times actually increased because you had to wait for the light at EVERY cross street, and two, the street started collapsing because every bus passed over the same exact spot in the street. The second can be fixed by having a concrete instead of asphalt lane (at least until the concrete starts breaking up - see some of the older "bus pads" at bus stops like at Milwaukee/Central NB), first might be incurable if you still plan on allowing cars to make right turns off Madison and Washington.

  • In reply to ajk6136:

    The two differences from last time are (1) they are constructing something, as opposed to just painting "safety islands" in the middle of the street, and (2) the buses should have traffic signal priority devices.

    Good construction technique over the past 30 years has been not to use asphalt on bus lanes or bus boarding areas, instead of concrete or pavers. However, this is Chicago.

    But you are correct in reminding me that my first reaction to this proposal was "they had a bus lane in the middle of Washington at least into the 1970s" before someone came up with the bad idea of counter flow lanes (also now gone).

    The right turn issue is more problematic, as people point out that the renderings indicate a right turn at Wells, indicating that turning traffic would have to cross over the bus lane to get into the right turn lane, as well as cross the bike lane at the intersection.

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