Change Underfoot at Rockwell ‘L’ Station: Rotting Wood Platform Replaced

By Patty Wetli | Friday, December 23, 2011

Deteriorating wood planks at the Rockwell Brown Line station became increasingly dangerous to riders. Credit: Patty Wetli

CTA riders who board Brown Line trains at the Rockwell station will have noticed a rather obvious change underfoot. The entire wood plank platform is being replaced. Again.

In December 2010, an investigation by the Better Government Association revealed that the wood planking, installed at Brown Line stations during the $530 million renovation project completed in 2009, had rapidly begun deteriorating. To blame: preservatives that protect better against fire than the elements.

“While the wood was coated with a weather protection, it also needed to be treated with a flame retardant chemical. There is no wood product that provided both the required fire rating and maximum weather preservative,” the CTA responded to Center Square Journal‘s query. CTA is currently looking into a product that performs well for both weather resistance and fire treatment for future projects.”

In the meantime, CTA took a piecemeal approach to replacing rotting boards, which didn’t sit well with some commuters.  This past August, area resident Gretchen Helmreich began a campaign on EveryBlock to improve the situation at the Francisco station, noting, “Every day a new board is splintering.” Other riders reported feet punching through boards. After firing off a few well-placed emails to CTA officials and various media outlets, Helmreich’s efforts were rewarded with a new platform at Francisco.

Shiny new wood planks replacing rotting boards at Rockwell station. Credit: Patty Wetli

“There were more noticeable issues at Francisco, where wood was replaced first. Thereafter, other stations were looked at to determine if replacement planks were needed,” according to the CTA.

In November, orange construction cones popped up at Rockwell, warning riders away from potholes in the platform, which had become increasingly sponge-like. Finally, in the wee hours of December 17, crews appeared with a load of new planks.

“Crews are working during off-peak overnight hours as to not hinder the flow of trains during the day, especially during morning and evening rush periods,” CTA told Center Square Journal. “Work will be completed at the end of 2011.”

Asked about the cost of replacing planks, originally intended to last for decades, CTA replied: “Since 2009, re-treating the platforms with a weather resistant chemical and replacement of wooden planks has cost roughly $350,000 for the stations.” Note: This is the same figure quoted to the Chicago Tribune earlier this year, when the cost of replacing the Francisco platform alone was estimated at an additional $150,000 to $175,000.

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