Railroad bridge repairs postponed until spring

By Meghan Keyes

For Metra Union-Pacific North Line passengers, longer travel times and fewer trains were the rule after Metra began a construction project requiring it to function on a single track, causing delays and requiring the numbers of trains to be reduced.

However, on Sept. 30 the whole project was postponed until spring 2011.

Originally, Metra said to anticipate minor adjustments. When the adjusted timetable took effect on Aug. 22, commuters encountered bigger problems.

Another new set of times was to begin on Sept. 26 but was delayed due to the public’s reaction.

“In general, the complaints have been about change in scheduled service to their stops and related issues of delayed trains and crowded trains,” said Michael Gillis, spokesman for Metra. “We’re still looking at what we can do to fix the schedule, and we are hopeful we can come up with something.”

The work on the $185 million bridge and retaining wall construction project began in August and is expected to be completed in 2018. The North Line runs from downtown through Ravenswood, Rogers Park and Evanston to Kenosha, Wis.

Prior to the Aug. 22 schedule changes, Metra held forums for the public in northern towns along the line, and Alderman Gene Schulter (47th Ward) held forums in Ravenswood.

“I will continue to work with Metra to ensure that not only the best service is provided to all of the UP North Line riders, but also that the project meets the needs and interests of the residents of the Ravenswood community,” Schulter said in a statement from his office.

Dan Sanchez, a student at Robert Morris University, takes the train Monday through Thursday.

“It sucks; I have to be down here longer, and I have to get up an hour earlier,” he said. “And the trains are more crowded.”

According to Gillis, some of the riders within the city of Chicago might have been able to use Chicago Transit Authority or another Metra line, but other riders do not have options.

“We’re listening to every e-mail and phone call we’re getting to see what we can do to address their concerns,” Gillis said.

The bridges will be repaired as necessary, according to Metra.