Wells Street Bridge reopens for Monday morning commute

Wells Street Bridge reopens for Monday morning commute

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

The Wells Street Bridge reopened Monday at 4 a.m. Purple and Brown line riders survived the nine-day reconstruction period that forced thousands of commuters to find alternate routes to and from work.

On Sunday night, the reconstruction was clear, quiet and ready to reopen. The repaired 500,000-lb southern half of the bridge could be seen in gray and the older part of the bridge remained red.

Both decks of the 90-year-old Wells Street Bridge closed for reconstruction for more than a week, affecting more than 38,000 riders each way.

Chicago Transit Authority riders said they were just ready for their commute to return back to normal.

"I'm definitely ready for the trains to be back open again," Sydney Potts said. "It would be so much more convenient. It was definitely an important part that was taken away."

"It's been a little inconvenient I guess just to walk across different streets but it really hasn't been too much out of my way," Adam Karupa said. "[It's] impressive I guess, with how quickly they were able to do it."

Replacement of the north half of the 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.

A CTA spokesperson told FOX 32 News they will analyze how things went during the first shut down, before determining if they will make any changes for next month's closure.

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."

The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.

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