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Wells Street bridge to temporarily close to bus and rail service

The Wells Street Bridge which will be closing all pedestrian vehicle traffic until December 13 2012. Monday November 5 2012.

The Wells Street Bridge, which will be closing to all pedestrian and vehicle traffic until December 13, 2012. Monday, November 5, 2012. I Brian Jackson~Sun-Times

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Updated: March 13, 2013 6:22AM

Starting in March, for two 10-day periods, as many as 77,000 Brown and Purple CTA rail passengers a day will join bus and car riders inconvenienced by the Wells Street Bridge reconstruction.

CTA officials Monday announced their alternative plans for the shutdowns, which will be from 10 p.m. Friday, Mar 1, to the morning rush hour Monday, Mar. 11, and again from 10 p.m. Friday, April 26, to the morning rush hour Monday, May 6.

Plus, weekend riders on the Brown, Green, Pink and Orange lines traveling into the Loop also will face disruption during that time, officials said.

That’s because, over four weekends, the CTA will be rebuilding tracks above the intersection of Lake and Wells, known as Tower 18, as well as replacing tracks in the curves at Hubbard and Kinzie, just north of the Merchandise Mart.

Tower 18 is the CTA’s busiest junction, handling some 500 trains on an average weekend as the CTA’s main elevated route into the Loop. Overlapping that work with the Wells Street Bridge work should save taxpayers $500,000, officials said.

During the two 10-day periods, the 90-year-old bridge over the Chicago River will be replaced, one half at a time, with parts carried to the work site on barges.

The bottom portion of the historic double-decker bridge had been shutdown to pedestrian and motor traffic since Nov. 5. During the upcoming work windows, the top half that carries elevated trains will be impacted.

To get rail riders over the hump, the CTA will offer free shuttle buses servicing the same Loop stops now on the Brown and Purple lines; increase the frequency of some bus routes and run some Brown line trains on Red line tracks.

CTA officials cautioned riders to brace themselves for longer rush-hour commutes and more crowded trains during those periods.

Said CTA President Forrest Claypool: “Plan ahead, allow extra commuting time and, insome instances, temporarily consider alternative service.’’

Reconstruction will add 50 years to the life of the Wells Street Bridge, Chicago Department of Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein said Monday.

“It’s a little bit of pain . . . but it will be well worth it,’’ Klein said at a wind-blown news conference near the bridge with Claypool.

The work represents the first time the city has replaced a double-decker bridge that serves both cars and trains, Klein said.

“It’s really an incredible feat of engineering,’’ Klein said.

On any given weekday, CTA train passengers make 77,000 one-way trips over the Wells Street Bridge, officials said.

During weekday rush-hour periods (6 - 10 a.m. and 2 - 7 p.m.) of the two, 10-day windows:

— Purple line trains will not run south of Howard but riders can switch to Red Line trains at Howard.

— Two of every three Brown Line trains south of Fullerton will travel on Red Line tracks but only as far as Roosevelt.

— One of every three southbound Brown Line trains into the Loop will terminate at the Merchandise Mart. To catch a free shuttle bus that will loop the Loop in a counter-clockwise route, Brown line travelers should exit at the Chicago/Franklin station and pickup the free shuttle.

Over the four weekends impacted:

—The Brown Line will operate between Kimball and Chicago only.

— Heading into the Loop, the Orange Line will only travel half of its normal loop, hitting all stops from the Library to Washington/Wells. Outbound Orange Line trains to Midway will board on the Brown Line side only, between Washington/Wells and Library.

— Inbound Green Line trains will operate as far as Adams/Wabash. From there, customers who need to travel further into the Loop can take take a special free shuttle train. Green Line trains from Harlem/Lake will terminate at Clinton, where a free bus shuttle will deliver riders to the Loop.

— Pink Line trains will terminate at Clinton, where a free bus shuttle into the Loop will be offered.

For more details on CTA alternative routes, visit

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