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VivaLFuego May 14, 2006 3:28 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by jjk1103
......thanks for the info. I presume that DC is cheaper (somehow ?) and that is the reason the CTA hasen't switched to AC long ago.

From an operating standpoint, DC is actually more expensive, because of higher net power consumption (I think A/C has power savings of 10-20%), and more expensive/difficult to find replacement parts especially in the US.

Part of the hesitancy for the switch was a desire for uniformity; AC and DC cars of course have different maintenance characteristics and requirements, and also the magnetic fields generated by the AC motors can interfere with the power and signalling systems (part of the rationale for the $250 million project now underway to upgrade signalling and power systems along the entire blue line and in the red line state street subway). By having different parts of the fleet using vastly different subsystems, you also require the equipment and personnel to deal with both, both at the rail maintenance shops (to actually perform the work) and in the rail car engineering department (to understand it all).

SSLL May 14, 2006 5:29 PM

I like the option of sitting backwards, forwards or sideways as well. It's too bad. Will the new cars all have level boarding then, I guess? The last time I rode the El, it was a few steps up, wasn't it?

Chicago103 May 16, 2006 12:05 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Lukecuj
Metra web site:

Edison Park depot ground breaking on May 5

Chicago, May 3, 2006 - Metra Board of Directors member Larry Huggins will join Chicago Alderman Brian Doherty at 11 a.m. Friday to break ground for a new train depot at the commuter rail station in the Edison Park neighborhood.

Metra's latest depot, going up in partnership with the Union Pacific Railroad, City of Chicago and the Edison Park Chamber of Commerce, is being constructed just north of the station's existing depot. The 1,900-square-foot depot building is the centerpiece of a list of station improvements to be completed that include new platforms and additional parking.

Room inside the $1.09 million depot has been set apart as office space for the chamber of commerce, which will take over management of the depot facility.

Construction of the depot is set to begin later this month with worked expected to take about a year. The facility should open to commuters in the spring 2007.

On Chicago's far northwest side, the Edison Park station is located along Metra's Union Pacific Northwest Line. It is the agency's longest corridor, running between Harvard in McHenry County and Ogilvie Transportation Center in downtown Chicago. About 720,000 trips per month are provided on the UP-NW line. Roughly 600 passengers board the train at Edison Park everyday.

NOTE: Friday's ceremony will be held at 11 a.m. at the Edison Park station, 6700 N. Olmstead Ave, Chicago. Director Huggins and Doherty are expected to be joined by other local leaders for a ceremonial groundbreaking at the site of the new depot. There will be brief remarks and an opportunity for photos.

Its nice to have neigborhoods like Edison Park that are basically bedroom communities within city limits with a commuter train station that takes you downtown, the same applies to places like Edgebrook.

mikeelm May 16, 2006 12:56 AM

Interesting most city stops don't have a building. Jefferson and Irving Parks stations all did but when Ben Heennimen took over the C&NW as it was know then he either shut down stations or just eliminated the structures. I don't know the situation with other Metra city stops if most station buildings were eliminated by the RTA/Metra or their predicessors.

VivaLFuego May 16, 2006 3:14 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by SSLL
I like the option of sitting backwards, forwards or sideways as well. It's too bad. Will the new cars all have level boarding then, I guess? The last time I rode the El, it was a few steps up, wasn't it?

The CTA (the El) is all level-boarding, in theory, though some platforms are a tad low requiring a step up.

Commuter Rail (Metra) is all ground-level platforms, except for the Electric District line running along the south lakeshore.

Rail Claimore May 16, 2006 3:32 AM

One thing I'd like to see in the future is electrification of all commuter rail lines running to Chicago. South Shore and Metra Electric count for maybe 20% of the system at most.

VivaLFuego May 16, 2006 2:06 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Rail Claimore
One thing I'd like to see in the future is electrification of all commuter rail lines running to Chicago. South Shore and Metra Electric count for maybe 20% of the system at most.

In terms of mileage it is much much less than that, but in terms of ridership I think thats about right.

The sad thing is that many of the commuter lines were electrified, particularly all of the UP Metra Lines (formerly CNW, going west and north shore), and the Burlington Northern. Seeing as many of them were part of the much bigger interurban system, which now consists solely of the NICTD south shore, and arguably the norristown line in philly.

Chicago3rd May 16, 2006 6:04 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by SSLL
I like the option of sitting backwards, forwards or sideways as well. It's too bad. Will the new cars all have level boarding then, I guess? The last time I rode the El, it was a few steps up, wasn't it?

No...though a few of the older stations are a little higher or lower or have a decent gap between the door and the platform...the trains have been level boarding for many decades

Rail Claimore May 16, 2006 9:52 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by VivaLFuego
In terms of mileage it is much much less than that, but in terms of ridership I think thats about right.

The sad thing is that many of the commuter lines were electrified, particularly all of the UP Metra Lines (formerly CNW, going west and north shore), and the Burlington Northern. Seeing as many of them were part of the much bigger interurban system, which now consists solely of the NICTD south shore, and arguably the norristown line in philly.

That does seem to make sense now considering that the UP lines terminate at a separate terminal from the other lines that go north and west out of Chicago.

BVictor1 Jun 8, 2006 1:38 PM

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/l...l=chi-news-hed

Showcase Metra station suffering
Rebuilding of `ugly' Roosevelt Road depot is stopped in its tracks due to funding delay

By Virginia Groark
Tribune staff reporter
Published June 8, 2006


As a special treat, Yvonne Martin took her 3-year-old niece for a ride on Metra's Electric Line to the South Loop last week. But when she left the train at the line's Roosevelt Road station, the South Shore resident was surprised at what she found.

"I've been in Chicago all my life. How come everything else is modern but this?" she asked, gazing at the shabby wooden station where paint chips hang from the ceiling, a wooden bridge sags and rust dapples the hand railings.

The station, which resembles a run-down fishing shack, stands in sharp contrast to the manicured lawns and colorful gardens that sit just east of the tracks along a foot path that takes visitors to the popular Museum Campus. Metra had hoped a new depot that would better fit its environs would be built by this year, but the project stalled after the state failed to give the agency grant money it had approved in 2004.

"We agree today, and we agreed in 2003, that the station absolutely needs to be replaced," said Metra spokeswoman Judy Pardonnet, referring to the year the agency submitted its grant application.

Illinois Department of Transportation spokesman Mike Claffey said this week that the $2.8 million grant would be given to Metra in the next few months. He attributed the delay to a lack of money for major infrastructure projects.

"There's been a number of very worthy projects that have had to be delayed, and this was one of those," he said.

But Pardonnet said Metra officials have been told several times that the money would arrive "in a week," yet the agency still has not received the funds. Even if the commuter railroad gets the money in the next few months, the earliest it could start the work would be next year, she said.

"We would never be able to bid the contract and do the engineering to get the work done in time for this construction season," she said, noting that track work must be done in warm weather.

Under the plan, Metra would use the money to move the railroad tracks so the city could build a new station at the 11th Street pedestrian bridge. The $8.7 million Chicago Department of Transportation project also calls for constructing new platforms and two elevators between the bridge and the platforms, making them accessible to the handicapped, said Brian Steele, a city Transportation Department spokesman.

The city was prepared to start construction last year, but Metra asked city officials to wait because the commuter railroad had not received the state funds, Steele said.

In the meantime, Metra engineers have examined the station and connecting bridges and determined they are structurally sound, even if they're "not very pretty," Pardonnet said.

The station, which has long served commuter trains, is near the site of the former Illinois Central Station, or 12th Street Station, which was built in 1892 for the World's Columbian Exposition. That station used to handle trains that came from as far as Florida. But Amtrak moved the intercity train service to Union Station in 1972, and the 12th Street Station was demolished in 1974.

All that remains of the once-bustling railroad hub is the rickety Roosevelt Road station, which these days is one of the final stops on the Electric and South Shore Lines for inbound trains. In addition to serving the South Loop, the station has become a popular destination for Chicago Bears fans going to Soldier Field, and it's a gateway for visitors to the Museum Campus. During peak summer months, about 800 people board Electric Line and South Shore Line trains there each day, officials said.

But the station's shoddy condition has prompted complaints from people who question why it hasn't been upgraded, especially when the surrounding area has been renovated and made attractive.

"It looks like a treehouse," said Hammond resident Ramiro Meza as he waited for a South Shore train on a recent weekday morning.

South Holland resident Vern Boerman, who has a lifetime membership to the Field Museum, said it's puzzling that the station hasn't been rebuilt, especially because it's the first thing people see when they disembark from a train en route to the city's tourist sites.

"Our triple museum lakeside campus is surely one of the great tourist spots on Earth," Boerman said. "But what do foreign visitors think when they disembark at the shabbiest Metra station in the entire Chicagoland area? That Roosevelt Road station is an ugly disgrace."

----------

vgroark@tribune.com

spyguy Jun 13, 2006 3:13 PM

http://www.chicagobusiness.com/cgi-bin/news.pl?id=20937

Metra Chair Ladd to step down when term expires
June 09, 2006
By Bob Tita


Metra Chairman Jeffrey Ladd said Friday he will leave the commuter rail system he’s headed since its inception more than 20 years ago when his latest term on the Metra board expires at the end of the month.

Mr. Ladd ended months of speculation about his future at Metra in a letter to U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert where he revealed that he won’t pursue another four-year term on the board.

“I believe now is the opportune time to turn over the reins chairmanship to the next generation of leader,” he wrote. “I will not seek reappointment to the Metra board this month.”

Mr. Ladd, 65, said his growing family of grandchildren and the demands of his law practice have made it increasingly difficult to devote the time needed for Metra’s challenges. He also acknowledged that the winds of change blowing the board also were a factor in his decision to leave.

“I am also aware that there is a sentiment for change in the leadership on the Metra Board,” noted Ladd, who did not return a phone call seeking comment on this resignation.

The board adopted bylaws last month requiring that the chairman and board officers be elected to four-year terms. The move was widely seen the groundwork for board revolt against Mr. Ladd, who did not appear to have the five votes needed to win the chairmanship. Mr. Ladd had previously faced only sporadic votes on his open-ended chairmanship. The last vote occurred in 1996.

Mr. Ladd was once a major beneficiary of clout wielded by suburban Republican leaders, such as former Illinois House Speak Lee Daniels of Elmhurst and former Senate President James “Pate” Philip of Wood Dale. With those old-guard leaders now gone from the scene, Mr. Ladd’s base of support in has eroded in recent years.

Mr. Ladd, a Woodstock resident, who represents Lake, McHenry, Kane and Will counties, has been chairman since 1984.

During that time he guided the creation of one of the nation’s largest commuter rail system out of a collection of poorly funded commuter rail lines that had been owned by freight railroads. He’s engineered the expansion of a system to accommodate the Chicago area’s sprawling population by adding new routes to the northwest and southwest suburbs and extending existing lines further into the outer suburbs.

With the Chicago area’s high volume of freight train traffic, the Metra system is considered the most complex commuter rail system in country. It covers more than 500 miles with 230 stations that serve 150,000 passengers a day.

“Jeff Ladd has been a tremendous leader for Metra,” said board member Arlene Mulder, who is also mayor of Arlington Heights. “He’s represented his collar counties well.”

spyguy Jun 13, 2006 3:18 PM

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/n...ationworld-hed

CHICAGO'S MASTER PLAN
DON'T DRIVE. JUST BIKE.

City peddling new proposal for 500-mile network of paths to be finished by 2015

By Noreen S. Ahmed-Ullah and James Janega

Tribune staff reporters
Published June 11, 2006

Chicago is set to unveil new plans for becoming a bicyclist's haven. And this time, it means business.

The new Bike 2015 Plan wastes little time on breezy rides in the park. Instead, the city's Department of Transportation is bent on getting people to bike to work, to school, to stores and to mass transit stops, cobbling together a 500-mile network of designated routes.

Understanding that bicyclists' greatest enemies--aside from sloth--are car doors, right-lane passers and other street perils, planners looked around the world for new safety ideas.

From Geneva, Switzerland, they got the idea of raised bike lanes, a layer of pavement above street level and below the curb that would help dissuade motorists from veering into cycling territory. By 2010, the city hopes to experiment with raised lanes in a few locations.

In Copenhagen, Cambridge and other places, planners saw bicycle lanes colored a startling shade of teal green, thermoplastic markings they hope to duplicate at some Chicago intersections to try to warn right-turning cars to watch for bikes.

Like its predecessor in 1992, the new strategic plan lays out the city's vision to make bicycling an integral part of Chicagoans' daily lives.

It offers few details and specifies no costs, though it does point to federal grants and private funding.

The plan does not say where the new miles of bike lanes and improvements would be located.

But, with a strong track record of delivering for cyclists, the city is thinking big: a bike route within a half-mile of every resident; a 50-mile circuit of bike trails, with some off-road paths to be announced later this year; 185 miles of new bikeways altogether.

By 2015, planners hope, 5 percent of all trips shorter than 5 miles long will be made by bike.

"It's truly putting Chicago on the forefront of improving cycling across the country," said Andy Clarke, executive director of the Washington D.C.-based League of American Bicyclists, adding that unlike most cities where bike plans are shelved, they frequently are implemented in Chicago, with the backing of Mayor Richard Daley, an avid biker.

But for new bike lanes to lure new cyclists, riders say a culture change needs to take root among drivers. The biggest threat isn't animosity, they say. It's ignorance--most drivers seem not to realize cyclists are even vying for road space.

"I've been doored," said Greg Ehrendreich, 31, describing most cyclers' worst fear--a car door opening suddenly in their path. "I've been almost doored a couple of times."

"You've got to get people to think a different way," said Scott Parrish, 50, who has biked Chicago for half his life. "If the culture doesn't change when you put these bike lanes out, you could put 50 million bike lanes in and it wouldn't matter."

Of course, he said, cars are not the only deterrent: "Try to get a girl to go on a date with you on a bike."

Global inspiration

As the city and its consultant, Chicagoland Bicycle Federation, began researching the plan three years ago, the mayor encouraged them to seek inspiration across the globe.

Next year, planners hope to shut down a network of streets for biking on a Sunday morning, as pioneered in Bogota, Colombia, and Guadalajara, Mexico.

In Victoria, Canada, a bicycle commuter challenge among private companies--funded by them too--drew thousands of participants. Chicago would like to try its own in 2008.

When asked to describe the perfect urban biking, Chicago riders also looked abroad:

"Amsterdam," said Parrish, while stopped at the corner of Belmont Avenue and Clark Street on Friday.

"Shanghai," sighed Ehrendreich. "Whole streets are bikes only."

Closer to home, the city is currently working on a Mapquest of sorts for bikers, laying out online bike routes to a person's destination.

Millennium Park's popular bike station has inspired plans for a similar center with showers and lockers at the Ogilvie Transportation Center by 2010.

To encourage students, the city hopes to build bikeways for up to 70 schools by 2010.


They want to teach students at 500 schools all about bike safety.

The city even hired an intern to ride the streets, looking for bike lanes that need work and pavement that needs repair.

The key step to encouraging more cycling, experts and riders agree, is making riding safer.

As an opening bid, the city hopes to try the teal markings at 10 locations, including Elston Avenue and Division Street and Roosevelt Road and Damen Avenue, said Ben Gomberg, bicycle program coordinator for the Department of Transportation.

Current bike lane markings are not sufficient, said Joseph Schofer, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Northwestern University. Bright teal could catch the eyes of motorists who may not be paying attention, he said.

Higher ground

The city could also try raising bike lanes in two or three undetermined locations as early as 2008 to see whether that may deter speeding motorists from entering the bike lane.

But that could have drawbacks, according to Christopher Hagelin, senior research associate for the Center for Urban Transportation Research at the University of South Florida. Based on a description of the Chicago plan, he said the raised lanes might make it harder for bicyclists to merge into the center travel lane to turn left.

At some intersections in Oregon, bicycles line up ahead of cars in specially marked boxes. That gives them a head start when the light turns green, makes them more visible to motorists and maybe even gives them a little psychological edge over the four-wheelers.

That's an idea Chicago planners are still considering.

spyguy Jun 13, 2006 3:21 PM

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/l...l=chi-news-hed

State puts CTA on notice
House speaker says pension fears won't boost transit funds

By Virginia Groark, Tribune staff reporter. Tribune staff reporter Christi Parsons contributed to this report
Published June 13, 2006


The state will not give the cash-strapped Chicago Transit Authority more money to cover its pension obligations, House Speaker Michael Madigan wrote CTA officials Monday in a stern warning that could force the agency to consider fare increases and service cuts.

Madigan wrote that if the CTA fails to cover its newly required pension payments, expected to be more than $200 million annually starting in 2009, the state will take money out of the CTA's operations allocation.

"There should be no expectation that the General Assembly will step in with additional transportation moneys to help the CTA meet its pension obligations," Madigan wrote to CTA President Frank Kruesi and Chairwoman Carole Brown. "I would ask that you keep these points in mind as you manage available resources and develop future budget plans."

CTA spokeswoman Noelle Gaffney said the agency will take Madigan's remarks into account and will make sure the Regional Transportation Authority also considers his comments as it develops a plan for the area's transit agencies.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich's spokesman said the governor was unaware of the letter.

The head of a tax watchdog group said Madigan's message was a stinging notice that the CTA's budget problems could worsen in coming years.

"The CTA is going to have some very tough decisions to make," said Laurence Msall, president of the Civic Federation.

The pension payment program was tucked into the budget bill in the waning hours of the last legislative session. The bill, signed into law this month, requires the CTA to make annual contributions to its pension fund starting in 2009 with the goal of having it 90 percent funded by 2058.

With the pension only about 32 or 33 percent funded, CTA officials expect the annual payment will be more than $200 million annually, which represents about 20 percent of the agency's current $1.04 billion operating budget.

Without additional funding, the agency could be forced to make massive service cuts and increase fares drastically. The obligation also could jeopardize the CTA's ability to issue bonds for items like the 406 new rail cars the board recently agreed to buy.

Last year when the CTA was facing a $55 million budget shortfall, it threatened to eliminate 54 bus routes, kill the Purple Line Evanston Express train service, reduce late-night bus and rail service and lay off 2,000 workers. Those plans were scuttled when the General Assembly came up with more funding.

Then, both Kruesi and Brown expressed hope that the issue would prompt the General Assembly to address the need for more funding.

Madigan, who took a keen interest in the CTA's pension problems during a legislative hearing last year, said Kruesi and Brown's comments prompted his letter because he wanted to "debunk any notion" that the state would step in to help the CTA make the pension payments.

"The legislation puts the onus on the CTA, not the state, to find the moneys necessary" to get the pension plan 90 percent funded, he wrote.

spyguy Jun 13, 2006 3:34 PM

http://www.dailyherald.com/news/dupa...29&cc=d&tc=&t=

What to do about I-88 jams?

By Joseph Ryan

Daily Herald Staff Writer
Posted Tuesday, June 13, 2006
DuPage County commuters know getting from Oak Brook to Naperville to Addison can be like swimming upstream, yet many suburbanites endure the struggle on a daily basis.

Would bus-only lanes help? What about wider expressways, suburban train lines or better-placed transit hubs?

All those solutions and more are on the drawing board as transit planners look to begin the second phase of a project that aims to settle on the most effective big-ticket items.

In the $1.6 million, multi-year study, the Regional Transportation Authority is outlining general transit options for public input later this month.

“We are not going to get too many shots at fixing this,” says John DeLaurentiis, planning director for the RTA, which oversees Metra, Pace and the CTA. “We pretty much have to get it right the first time.”

There is a lot to fix.

Topping the list of ills are economy-choking traffic jams on I-88 and I-290, inconvenient bus routes and schedules that drive away riders and a rail system that doesn’t reflect the majority suburb-to-suburb work commute.

Some of the remedies to be considered have been batted around for years, including a train line down the Reagan Memorial Tollway, a fourth, carpool-type lane on I-290 and a north-south train line.

Others haven’t been even thought of yet, DeLaurentiis says.

“This corridor is a real challenge,” he said. “We are not going to be able to deal with all of it, but we will look at everything.”

The study, started in 2002, is now focusing on the concepts of what will eventually become actual proposed projects. RTA planners declined to discuss the potential for specific projects.

At public meetings later this month, the planners will ask residents to comment on general forms of transit, including box-like grid systems, point-to-point options and new transit hubs in job-rich areas like Oak Brook. No specific plans will be presented.

Meanwhile, the nitty-gritty of funding and political support will be hashed out following the October project list release.

In January, the RTA and county politicians expect to lobby state lawmakers for funding and approval.

The state is now strapped for cash, facing multi-billion dollar pension debt and a required $3.9 billion match for federal transit funding. Lawmakers could be debating sales tax hikes or a tollway lease that would flood the transit industry with millions of dollars for projects.

Still, major project proposals that have come out of similar studies, including the suburb-to-suburb Metra STAR line, remain in the drawing room without the cash to get them done.

“That is the big question,” said DuPage County Chairman Bob Schillerstrom. “You can have the greatest philosophy and the biggest list of projects, but if you don't have the money to do them they are going to sit on a shelf somewhere and gather dust.”

VivaLFuego Jun 13, 2006 8:05 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by spyguy
http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/l...l=chi-news-hed

State puts CTA on notice
House speaker says pension fears won't boost transit funds

By Virginia Groark, Tribune staff reporter. Tribune staff reporter Christi Parsons contributed to this report
Published June 13, 2006


The state will not give the cash-strapped Chicago Transit Authority more money to cover its pension obligations, House Speaker Michael Madigan wrote CTA officials Monday in a stern warning that could force the agency to consider fare increases and service cuts.

Madigan wrote that if the CTA fails to cover its newly required pension payments, expected to be more than $200 million annually starting in 2009, the state will take money out of the CTA's operations allocation.

"There should be no expectation that the General Assembly will step in with additional transportation moneys to help the CTA meet its pension obligations," Madigan wrote to CTA President Frank Kruesi and Chairwoman Carole Brown. "I would ask that you keep these points in mind as you manage available resources and develop future budget plans."

CTA spokeswoman Noelle Gaffney said the agency will take Madigan's remarks into account and will make sure the Regional Transportation Authority also considers his comments as it develops a plan for the area's transit agencies.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich's spokesman said the governor was unaware of the letter.

The head of a tax watchdog group said Madigan's message was a stinging notice that the CTA's budget problems could worsen in coming years.

"The CTA is going to have some very tough decisions to make," said Laurence Msall, president of the Civic Federation.

The pension payment program was tucked into the budget bill in the waning hours of the last legislative session. The bill, signed into law this month, requires the CTA to make annual contributions to its pension fund starting in 2009 with the goal of having it 90 percent funded by 2058.

With the pension only about 32 or 33 percent funded, CTA officials expect the annual payment will be more than $200 million annually, which represents about 20 percent of the agency's current $1.04 billion operating budget.

Without additional funding, the agency could be forced to make massive service cuts and increase fares drastically. The obligation also could jeopardize the CTA's ability to issue bonds for items like the 406 new rail cars the board recently agreed to buy.

Last year when the CTA was facing a $55 million budget shortfall, it threatened to eliminate 54 bus routes, kill the Purple Line Evanston Express train service, reduce late-night bus and rail service and lay off 2,000 workers. Those plans were scuttled when the General Assembly came up with more funding.

Then, both Kruesi and Brown expressed hope that the issue would prompt the General Assembly to address the need for more funding.

Madigan, who took a keen interest in the CTA's pension problems during a legislative hearing last year, said Kruesi and Brown's comments prompted his letter because he wanted to "debunk any notion" that the state would step in to help the CTA make the pension payments.

"The legislation puts the onus on the CTA, not the state, to find the moneys necessary" to get the pension plan 90 percent funded, he wrote.

Very classy, now it's even more obvious Madigan slipped the provision in under the dead of night in order to force draconian CTA measures and thereby kill his nemesis Kruesi's career. Way to go, asshole; put personal politics above the public good.

I hate Mike Madigan. Yes, hate, what a despicable individual.

Chicago3rd Jun 13, 2006 8:33 PM

It is time for us to get rid of all three. They are playing with our transportation. Rather than going forward with the required future of Mass Transit they keep chopping away at it and making it into a political football.
Daley, Madigan, Kruessi.....fix it our you are all out!

Where the FUCK is the audit the state ordered last year!!!!!!

Norsider Jun 16, 2006 7:40 PM

I wouldn't read too much into this, other than they're telling the CTA not to expect a bailout and budget accordingly. No one said there wouldn't be a bailout at all.

BVictor1 Jun 17, 2006 1:09 PM

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/l...l=chi-news-hed

http://www.chicagotribune.com/media/...6/23949234.jpg
Bridge to traffic sanity
New span to ease North Ave. mess

By Aamer Madhani
Tribune staff reporter
Published June 17, 2006


Chicago, which loves the charming steel drawbridges that dot the city but hates the bottlenecks they sometimes cause, will soon have a dramatic new span that will ease passage over the Chicago River at North Avenue.

Intent on alleviating one of the North Side's maddening traffic chokeholds, city officials are set to scrap one of its trademark movable bridges, once a necessity in a city with bustling river commerce.

The 99-year-old, two-lane red steel bridge over the river's North Branch will be replaced by a four-lane suspension and cable-stay bridge, the first of its kind in the city, said Cheri Heramb, the Chicago Department of Transportation's acting commissioner.

The new bridge will feature four 45-foot-tall, slender lit towers tethering the cables supporting the deck. City officials said the new bridge's design will open up spectacular views of the skyline that are somewhat obstructed by the hefty beams of the existing bridge.

"The purpose and need of the project was to open up this road to two lanes of traffic in either direction," said John Yonan, the project manager. "The skyline in the background is a very important facet that we took into this design."

Construction of a temporary bridge just south of the old one will allow North Avenue to remain open and is scheduled to start Monday. The old bridge will likely be dismantled at the end of the summer. The $21.4 million project is expected to be completed in fall of 2007.

The existing bridge is one of the famed Chicago-style trunnion bascule bridges. The leaves are suspended on axles with counterweights--bascule means seesaw in French--and the steel trusses are noted for their curved profile. Since the mid-1990s the city has replaced two similar bridges along the North Branch of the river, said Brian Steele, a Transportation Department spokesman.

The city's first trunnion bascule bridge was built in 1902 on Cortland Street, also on the North Branch. That structure, which is still operating, is an official city landmark.

Trunnion bascule bridges came to the city several years after architect William Scherzer had introduced a related type of bridge, the rolling lift bridge, over the Chicago River at Van Buren Street.

Scherzer was hoping to get a foothold in the bridge-building business in the booming industrial city at the turn of the last century, but his design was eclipsed by the trunnion bascule models.

With each bridge that was built, the design was further improved--the trusses were refined and the lifting and dropping mechanisms were hidden from plain sight.

The city's bridges have long been celebrated, including being prominently featured in United Airlines advertising and gracing the cover of a collection of essays by Chicago icon Studs Terkel, "Division Street: America."

Over the last 30 years, the city has slowly replaced several of the bascules with fixed-span bridges. There are 36 other operable bridges of their kind in the city, Steele said.

At the turn of the 20th Century, moving bridges helped balance the conflicting demands of horse and pedestrian traffic on the city's streets with busy ship traffic hauling lumber and other goods to the factories on the Chicago River.

But the bridge on North Avenue hasn't been lifted since 1972. Stan Kaderbek, who served as the city's chief bridge engineer from 1993 to 2003, said movable bridges are difficult to maintain, particularly because there hasn't been much reason to lift many of them for the last 30 years.

Still, he said it is difficult not to be nostalgic about the old bridges.

"They are as much a part of Chicago as the Water Tower," Kaderbek said. "The bridges give the city a unique feel. Chicago wouldn't be Chicago without the movable bridges."

Steele said officials tried to identify another city that would take the historic North Avenue bridge but couldn't find any takers.

"We were looking to give this to any entity that was willing to move it and put it to its intended use," Steele said. "The mechanism that lifts the bridge is outdated, so getting anyone to take it on was difficult."

With only one lane of traffic in either direction, the bridge has outlived its utility for an area with a mix of retail, industry and residences that attracts suffocating vehicular traffic. These days most of the river traffic is limited to people paddling kayaks for exercise.

"I can't emphasize how important this bridge is," Ald. Ted Matlak (32nd) said of the new bridge.

"This is a ... bridge for horses and wagons. When this bridge is expanded, not only is it going to look good, it's going to function a lot better."

Jonathan Fine, president of Preservation Chicago, acknowledged that the old bridge couldn't support the crush of traffic that floods the area. The city estimates 40,000 vehicles pass over the bridge every day.

But Fine said he had hoped the bridge could be salvaged.

"There is no question that North Avenue needs to be widened," Fine said.

"But we would have liked to see the bridge preserved somehow. This is a historical bridge that helped create the character of the city."

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amadhani@tribune.com





Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune

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BVictor1 Jun 17, 2006 1:11 PM

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BVictor1 Jun 17, 2006 3:43 PM

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Mini-Golden Gate to span river at North Avenue
June 17, 2006

MONIFA THOMAS Transportation Reporter


Chicago and San Francisco will soon have more in common than their stunning waterfronts. The 99-year-old North Avenue bridge over the Chicago River is being replaced with a suspension/cable-stay design similar to the Golden Gate Bridge, city transportation officials said Friday.

The new bridge will accommodate two lanes of traffic in each direction instead of narrowing to one lane over the river as the old bridge does.

The first two months of the $21.4 million project, which starts Monday, involve building a temporary bridge over the river to keep traffic moving while the permanent structure is being built. Work on the bridge should be complete by fall 2007.

"The city basically had two options: build a temporary bridge ... or completely shut down North Avenue for a year," Chicago Department of Transportation spokesman Brian Steele said. "There was no way the city would close down such a busy thoroughfare."

Tall masts out of picture

North Avenue isn't the first movable bridge in the city to be replaced with a fixed span bridge in recent years -- Damen Avenue and Pulaski Road got the same treatment in the 1990s. But the Golden Gate-style bridge will be one of a kind for Chicago.

"In a city with a long heritage of innovative bridge design, the new North Avenue bridge will be a notable addition," said CDOT Acting Commissioner Cheri Heramb.

The center section will be a suspension bridge, while each end will be a cable-stay bridge, CDOT says. A suspension bridge hangs from cables anchored at each end, while a cable-stay bridge supports the deck with cables from a central tower or towers.

The hybrid configuration allows for a roadway platform, or deck, that is just four feet thick.

The city was able to consider a more cost-effective fixed span bridge design for North Avenue because boats with tall masts no longer use that part of the Chicago River, Steele said. At a little over 18 feet, the new bridge will have the same clearance as the movable one it replaces.

Steele said there might be minor traffic delays associated with the construction.

Motorists wishing to avoid the area can use Cortland to the north or Division to the south.

mjthomas@suntimes.com

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North Avenue isn't the first movable bridge in the city to be replaced with a fixed span bridge in recent years -- Damen Avenue and Pulaski Road got the same treatment in the 1990s. But the Golden Gate-style bridge will be one of a kind for Chicago.

"In a city with a long heritage of innovative bridge design, the new North Avenue bridge will be a notable addition," said CDOT Acting Commissioner Cheri Heramb.

The center section will be a suspension bridge, while each end will be a cable-stay bridge, CDOT says. A suspension bridge hangs from cables anchored at each end, while a cable-stay bridge supports the deck with cables from a central tower or towers.

The hybrid configuration allows for a roadway platform, or deck, that is just four feet thick.

The city was able to consider a more cost-effective fixed span bridge design for North Avenue because boats with tall masts no longer use that part of the Chicago River, Steele said. At a little over 18 feet, the new bridge will have the same clearance as the movable one it replaces.

Steele said there might be minor traffic delays associated with the construction.

Motorists wishing to avoid the area can use Cortland to the north or Division to the south.

mjthomas@suntimes.com


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