Hoping the second time is the charm, Metra plans to begin a major bridge reconstruction project on the Union Pacific (UP) North Line in the next two weeks that is projected to last until 2019 and, Metra claims will have no noticeable impact on rush-hour commuter schedules.
“The rush-hour commuting schedule will not be impacted by construction plans,” stated Metra spokesman, Michael Gillis. “However, there could be some midday, night and weekend delays due to the project.”
This is Metra’s second attempt at construction on the UP North Line. Last winter, Metra was unsuccessful with their initial construction plans primarily due to single track use for all inbound and outbound trains through the construction zone. Passengers outraged with the delays, ultimately forced Metra to cease their initial construction plans and return to a two-track operation last October.
According to Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd), Metra experienced significant disruption to their service last year, which resulted in a 10% decline in ridership when trying to utilize a single track plan. After revisiting and tweaking their initial plan, this time around Metra has abandoned the single track idea and decided to proceed with two operational tracks on the line and will not change the current UP North schedule due to construction.
The 22 bridges scheduled to be replaced are more than 100 years old. According to a press release, Metra states that their replacement will be done in two phases consisting of 11 bridges each. The first phase, which will take until 2015, will cover bridges over Balmoral, Foster, Winnemac, Lawrence, Leland, Wilson, Sunnyside, Montrose, Berteau, Irving Park and Grace.
“Construction on three bridges, over the streets of Sunnyside, Berteau, and Grace, will begin in 2011,” stated Mr. Gillis. “The work on those three bridges will require the streets below to close and therefore there will be detours.”
Metra prepares to begin working on the Sunnyside bridge in the next two weeks. Staggering the construction of each bridge in two week intervals, after beginning construction on the bridge over Sunnyside, work on the Berteau bridge is expected to begin, followed by the Grace bridge.
“This project is expected to take 8 years to complete and current estimates put the total cost of this project at $240 million,” stated Mr. Gillis. This new estimate is up $67 million from last summer.
In a press release, Metra states that these new bridges will offer increased safety and are expected to last for more than 100 years. In addition to replacing 22 bridges, the work also includes retaining wall construction along the western edge of the elevated tracks. The other 11 bridges, which are located between Addison and Webster Streets, will be done in the second phase, and is expected to be finished in 2019.
Additionally, Metra states that construction of the new Ravenswood station will be completed during the first phase, starting next spring. The new station, to be rebuilt in its original location, south of Lawrence Ave., will offer longer, covered platforms, warming shelters, improved lighting, landscaping, a ticket office, vendor space, ramps and stairs. In addition, it will be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. UP North trains have been using a temporary platform on the inbound side of Ravenswood since last fall. Trains will continue to use that platform until the first phase of the bridge project is done in 2015. A temporary platform also will also be built on the outbound side, north of Lawrence. Trains will use that temporary platform until the outbound side of the new station is completed in about two years.
For updates and alerts related to this construction project, Mr. Gillis suggests riders use the “My Metra” feature at Metra’s website, www.metrarail.com.