By Jon Hilkevitch
The CTA Loop elevated track-replacement project will resume this weekend after a sluggish start last month that was followed immediately by an unanticipated two-weekend break to reassess the complicated repairs.
For riders, it means train service will be rerouted or shut down from about 9 p.m. Friday to 4 a.m. Monday. During the reroutes, trains will operate on one set of tracks. In addition, street closings will be in effect from Madison to Van Buren streets to make room for cranes hoisting materials up to the elevated structure, officials said.
The $39 million project, which is scheduled for completion over 16 weekends through November, will face another start and stop after the roughly 50 hours of work planned for this weekend on a section of “L” along Wells Street, the CTA said.
The track work will take another break May 18-20 to allow CTA trains to operate normally around the Loop during the NATO summit at McCormick Place. It’s one of eight extraordinarily busy weekends over which the CTA decided beforehand to suspend the project because music festivals and other events downtown. About 500 trains serve the Loop “L” on weekends.
The renewal work, affecting about 11,500 feet of track, includes the stretch along Wells and Van Buren streets; a small portion above Wabash Avenue; the Hubbard Curve, just north of the Merchandise Mart station; and the junctions at Lake Street and Wells and Wabash and Van Buren.
Rails, ties and track components, effectively everything above the steel supporting structure and below the station platforms, will be replaced.
The CTA’s general contractor on the state-funded project, Ragnar Benson Construction, replaced almost 300 feet of track during the first weekend of the project, which began April 20, according to the CTA. Ragnar and the CTA had expected the project would continue for the next three weekends, officials said.
In addition, transit officials had previously said the contractor expected to replace about 1,000 feet of track over the first weekend. Each weekend, the goal could vary depending on the complexity level of specific work, such as replacing straight sections of track or rebuilding track junctions and switching equipment.