CTA continues Brown Line modernization with new signal project

With track work due for completion later this year on the Brown and Purple line tracks between Armitage and the Loop, the CTA board last week OK'ed a $33 million contract to replace signals in the same area.

These projects combined will vastly improve the ride for the 700 trains that pass through the area each weekday.

The two Ravenswood Loop Connector projects will improve service to Brown and Purple Line Express customers on several fronts: modernizing tracks and structure that is more than 100 years old, and replacing a signal system installed in 1975 that is out of date and contributes to congestion issues that have developed from stronger-than-expected ridership growth on the Brown Line in the last decade.

Ridership on the Brown Line has grown by more than 45 percent in the last 10 years, said CTA President Dorval Carter Jr.

The $32.6 million contract is being awarded to Ragnar Benson Construction LLC. The contractor is expected to begin the design work for the signal project this fall. The project is expected to be completed by early 2018.


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  • And then they'll announce they'll do the....project on that segment, and then the ...project and then the ...project....

  • I assume that will also effect the cab signals. It's annoying as heck to constantly stop and start going northbound through the Hubbard St Curve due to the operator getting a cab signal when the there's a train 4 blocks ahead at the Chicago/Franklin station. The trains are allowed to follow closely through the loop, but once they get to Merchandise Mart, the signals spread them out blocks apart.

  • I'm curious to know more about how outdated signals contribute to congestion, and how new signals can reduce it.

  • In reply to CCWriter:

    Tower 18 needs to be automated. Several times a week my outbound Purple Line train will be forced to stop at the junction waiting for clearance, and then a short while later the tracks will be aligned, and the clear signal given when no other train has gone through the junction. Not only does this cause unnecessary wear on the train's brakes, but it slows traffic behind it. The "system" should know that the train will have clearance, and the tracks aligned prior to the arrival of the train.

    Same goes for Tower 12. Brown line is forced to stop while the turnouts are aligned, when no other trains are going through the junction.

  • In reply to SpinyNorman:

    But that gets back to my first point. They redid Tower 18 with one of the 2 Loop signal projects. They did Tower 12 with the other. So, are you saying they didn't do it right?

  • In reply to jack:

    I attribute that to the incompetence of the tower's switchmen, rather than a problem with the signal system itself.

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    It's 2015. Why the h*ll is there a person at the controls? The junctions should be computer controlled.

  • In reply to SpinyNorman:

    1. So you are saying that there will be a 2019 Loop signals project, but....
    2. CTA has repeatedly proven, including the 2 Blue Line wrecks, that one can't trust purely automated systems. WMATA, too.Otherwise, the signal systems should have stopped the trains.

  • In reply to jack:

    These are interlocking junctions, so the computer would only be aligning the tracks the same as a person, albeit quicker. If the computer fouls up, it's the same scenario we have today with a person at the controls.

    Ultimately, there's a human in the control center monitoring the system. Practically every Class I railroad has replaced manual interlocks with computer controlled equipment, and I don't recall an incident in recent history of two trains colliding at a diamond interchange. Practically every collision has been due to a human error.

  • In reply to SpinyNorman:

    There aren't any real consequences after making a serious mistake at the CTA.
    If anyone was fired after the two Blue Line incidents, I guarantee you they were hired by some other government agency so they could transfer their pension credits to that agency's pension plan.
    No one was fired for the hated seat layout on the 5000s or the 4150 bus series, they were allowed to retire with an over generous pension!

    As for Class 1 roads: Metra has had serious problems with the Lake St. interlocking for the UP trains for a couple of years.
    Metra also has extreme problems with the A2 Interlocker at Western & Kinzie that controls the UP West & Milwaukee West & North trains. It's 80+ years old, worn out, requires custom made replacement parts & is fully manually operated.

  • In reply to SpinyNorman:

    Scooter, Brittney got fired.
    Spiny, not necessarily the case. So far, the NTSB report on the Forest Park accident was that somehow all the safety equipment, including repeated red signals stopping the train, only for it to restart, failed because of water in the control cable. There were human factors, but the red cab signals should have stopped the train and kept it stopped. It should not have started, or restarted, if the deadman control was not depressed.
    NTSB attributed the WMATA wreck to stray electric currents in the signal system, not any fault on the part of the operator.
    As far as the control center, it's the same control center that has claimed to have fixed bus bunching 3 or 4 times already. It has not been reported whether the new communications system installed by Mayor Emanuel has finally done the job.

  • In reply to SpinyNorman:

    Brittney was fired because she never showed up for her hearing. If she had shown up with a lawyer, she probably would've been suspended & reduced to a station assistant.

    As for bus bunching, just ride the 4, 22, 36 or 151 that go to Clark/Devon, or 155s. Nothing but bunching & the occasional ghost bus.

  • In reply to SpinyNorman:

    Scooter, you never read the NTSB docket. She showed up at the NTSB hearing, and Kelly, the union president, didn't do such a job of defending her.
    If you are saying she should have appealed to the CT Board, that would have been a waste of time under the circumstances. Some have pointed out that since she wasn't a full time operator on the payroll spreadsheet, she was probably probationary, anyway.

  • In reply to SpinyNorman:

    The NTSB hearing had nothing to do with her employment at the CTA. It was solely about the cause of the crash & how to avoid it in the future.
    Even as a probie, the way things run there, if she had a lawyer, especially one that was connected with a politician with clout, she'd still have a CTA job, even if it was one with reduced pay, doing some sort of scut work!

  • In reply to SpinyNorman:

    I really doubt that after being called out publicly, she was going to get a lawyer to get her flagman's job back at minimum CTA compensation.

  • In reply to SpinyNorman:

    You also seem to forget that the only achievement Claypool claimed at the CTA was firing a lot of people. I don't see any record in the CTA ordinances (with regard to hearings before the CT Board) or the media that they got their jobs back.

  • Yes, automated systems are not bulletproof, but the vast majority of transportation-related accidents are due to human error, and not the automated systems. In many cases it's a human overriding an automated system that causes the accident. In other cases, the systems are allowed to rot to the point where they cease to function. You can't blame the system for that, but rather, the management that allowed the system to degrade to the point of being useless.

    As much as I hate computers, I'll take my chances with them vs. the human element.

  • In reply to SpinyNorman:

    But you just argued yourself into a black hole, because it is CTA that is charged with maintaining the CTA systems, and it has a horrible record with respect to that.

    It still gets back to my original point that whatever project is announced, it doesn't take care of the problem.

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