Against my better judgment, today I’m printing further details on previous work done on the Dan Ryan branch of the Red Line. After reading the comments from two readers in Tuesday’s post accusing her of “lying,” CTA spokesperson Noelle Gaffney sent the following to me.
It’s against my better judgment because I suspect Jack and Scooter will still say she’s lying, regardless of what Gaffney says. The CTA’s construction staff provided this additional information, from which I quote Gaffney:
What I told you yesterday was and remains correct. The primary purpose of this project was to upgrade the power flow but there were other pieces such as signal work and the station work that I mentioned.
The track work that a few of the posters have mentioned was not a wholesale track replacement. The scope of the project included upgrading the signal system from 95th to Roosevelt and there was signal work done at eight crossovers and one middle track. Essentially, we went from having manual control at those locations to an automated system. In order to do that work, we built bypass tracks in what had been the shoulder of the expressway and rerouted the trains onto those temporary tracks while construction on the crossover was taking place. (
. I’m not sure it is the final version, but it will help you visualize what I am describing.)
The locations were crossovers at 94th, 87th, 79th, 69th, 55th, 45th, 33rd and 23rd and one center track (63rd Middle) for a total of approximately 17,000 feet. So track was replaced in areas in and around crossovers in association with the signal work. In addition, later there was approximately 2400 feet of track work that was added to address slow zones between Cermak and 47th. This work totaled 19,400 feet or approximately 19% of the Ryan’s 102,000 feet of track.
The work that is needed on remaining stretches of the Ryan track includes removing ballast and repairing the underlying track drainage system. The ballast is original and has become less functional over time. It helps to understand the following about ballast:
- The rough edges of the stone lock together and provide resistence to the vertical and horizontal movement of the track. As the stone wears, it becomes less able to provide this resistance and the track moves more. As it moves more, it reduces the service life of both the ballast and the track above it.
- When the stone wears, the smaller stones and rubble fill the voids between the ballast and it drains less effectively. As moisture level of the system increases, the wear to ballast, track and other wayside components is increased and the service life is further reduced.
- Complementing the replacement of the ballast system, the track drainage system, effectively a system of inlets and underground piping, needs heavy maintenance. This would include not only clearing blockages but also replacing collapsed sections.
The logistics of removing and replacing ballast, track and repairing the drainage system in a limited space that is most easily accessible at night or on the weekend (Red Line operates 24/7 so we would be scheduling work during hours when there is the most time between trains. In addition, we would need Dan Ryan lane closures to get equipment to the tracks and that is most likely to be approved for night or weekend work.) is the reason for the cost.
And just FYI, regarding the comments about the signal system’s “false positives,” there are some facts about the CTA system in general that may be useful to understand:
- The system can affect train speed well beyond the typical line of sight. More directly, it can slow a train before it can be seen, even in a stretch of track exceeding 5000 feet.
- The audible signal that passengers may hear in the head car is a signal for the operator to reduce speed. This reduction is typically due to a train ahead or to a changing track conditions such as a curve. It should be noted that train speed is adjusted for safety and comfort and includes reductions for many smaller curves that may not be apparent to all customers.