The rumble of CTA L cars over the Wells Street Bridge resumed Monday morning.
Nine days of work replacing the 500,000-pound southern half of the 90-year-old bridge ended about 4 a.m. Monday, allowing commuters to continue their trip on Purple and Brown line trains without interruption.
But Chicago travelers are not in the clear yet.
Replacement of the north half of the Wells Street Bridge — listed as structurally “basically intolerable” in a 2012 National Bridge Inventory — will be shut down for a second nine-day period starting at 10 p.m. Friday, April 26.
Once again, during that time, Purple Line Express trains will be suspended, and only one of every three Brown Line trains leaving Fullerton for the Loop will end at the Merchandise Mart. Two of every three will switch to Red Line tracks and make Red Line stops through Roosevelt.
Meanwhile, the street-level portion of the double-decker bridge will continue to remain closed to foot and car traffic until November.
Over the weekend, bridge observers were greeted by a structure that looked half gray (the new section) and half red (the original section).
Sometime this summer, after the north half of the bridge is replaced, the entire structure will be painted its “historic red color,” Chicago Department of Transportation spokesman Peter Scales said.
Even Mayor Rahm Emanuel warned that commuters would be inconvenienced by the sorely needed bridge work. Although some commuters said they were barely impacted, others complained of delays, confusing CTA signs and crowded train cars during the initial days of this month’s nine-day shutdown. Dan Buchanan, 25, a Chicago web developer, gave the CTA a “D” for its first rush-hour bridge shutdown last Monday but upped the grade to an “A or B” by later in the week.
By then, on the Brown Line, “There were a lot less delays. A lot less stopping on the tracks” between stops, Buchanan said.
Josie Fritz, a 28-year-old bank manager, said being forced to switch from the Purple to the Brown Line was “annoying.” The CTA should have discounted fares for the inconvenience it caused passengers, Fritz said.
But in the end, Fritz said, “If the bridge isn’t going to fall in the river, it’s worth it.”
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