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Wells Street Bridge CTA trains moving again after construction wraps up

Monday, May 06, 2013
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The Wells Street Bridge over the Chicago River has been replaced. The second phase of the major construction project wrapped up early Monday.

For the past nine days, many Brown and Purple line riders have had to deal with crowded trains, shuttle buses, reroutes and delays due to the construction on the bridge.

"I was having to go to the Red Line stop and the lines were really, really, really long. I'm definitely happy they're back," said CTA rider Emily Schwoerer.

Over the weekend, crews were busy preparing the track portion of the double-decker bridge for the resumption of el train service across the Chicago River Monday morning. A heavy-lift helicopter was brought in Sunday to lift some pieces onto the top of the bridge.

Workers replaced the northern portion of the 91-year-old draw bridge. Back in March, they replaced the southern portion of the bridge.

Crews also worked on sections of tracks to the north and south of the bridge.

"It wasn't all that bad. I take one train, that was it. It was much easier to take the Purple Line since my job is right here," rider Kenneth Eubanks said.

Greg Hurley and Craig Jules are also excited that the trains are chugging along. Their once-complicated commute is simple again.

"We actually drove in and traffic was pretty bad, but it's running now," said Hurley.

"We were driving, figuring out different types of ways to get in, but now it's easier," Jules said.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel made an appearance at the bridge Monday morning along with CTA President Forrest Claypool to thank commuters for being so patient.

"I want to thank both the commuters for their patience, and I want to thank the workers, the ironworkers an electricians, who did this incredible work. People are calling impressed that a 91-old bridge was replaced in nine days," the mayor said.

"We knew there were overcrowded conditions and [it was] inconvenient, but it will be worth it because a major artery to downtown Chicago has been reopened," said Claypool.

And, in fact, the CTA and city's transportation department worked together to accomplish the task faster than expected on a job where time is money - the taxpayer's money.

"Between CDOT and the CTA we were able to complete track work as well as bridge work at the same time and shaved 8 days off the schedule and save $500,000 for the taxpayers," said Claypool.

And that's something everyone can appreciate.

"That's a pretty big structure to fix, so i'm happy it's done now," said Hurley.

"Glad it's back, it was terrible without it and it's pretty quiet today," said Jules.

The bridge is not scheduled to open to drivers until November 2013.

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