Metra North Line Plans to Replace 22 Bridges

According to a recent ABC local report, Chicago’s Metra passenger rail will be rebuilding 22 bridges along Union Pacific’s North Line.  Officials point out that these 22 bridges are all more than a hundred years old and will soon lack the structural integrity to be safe by today’s standards.  In order to avoid pouring unnecessary amounts of money into the bridges, Metra has decided it makes more fiscal sense to simply replace the bridges completely.  The initial phase of the project, which should be completed by 2015, will replace 11 bridges on the North Line from Grace to Balmoral.  The second phase of the project is planned to be finished by 2019 and includes the 11 bridges stretching from Webster to Addison.

Chicago’s Metra rail attempted to begin the bridge replacement project a year ago, but were unable to continue.  The main reason for the failed first attempt to replace the North Line bridges came from passenger complaint and unrest.  The initial project reduced Metra service to single-track operation and in turn, brought heavy delays and inconvience to busy work commuters.  Commuters were so displeased with construction delays that the program was suspended after a mere two weeks.

Metra has learned from its mistakes and has developed a construction plan that will please it’s passengers.  Instead of reducing service, Metra will install 4 miles of new, elevated track in a three track right of way.  The new track, which will be in approximately the same location as old track, will prevent the need for delays and leave rush-hour passengers unscathed by construction efforts.  The elevated track will add to the total cost of the project by an undisclosed amount, but it will surely be in the millions.   Metra feels that it is worth the extra expense to satisfy customers, but has stated that there will still be minor delays for midday, evening and weekend passengers.  The total cost of the bridge replacement project is nearly $240 million.

The efforts by Metra North Line to please their customers is commendable.  Instead of ignoring their customers and continuing with the project last year, Metra took the time to find a solution that benefited both parties.  Its impossible for a commuter rail line to completely eliminate delays out of the lives of their passengers, but at least Chicago’s Metra rail is going to prevent unnecessary ones.  The rush-hour passenger’s of Metra North Line will be very greatful for the fact that they wont be on standing room only, single-service trains and instead, will be able to enjoy normal rail service while the bridges are replaced.


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