Toot, toot! The recent completion of a bypass structure on the Chicago “L” system, marks the completion of a significant part of the overhaul on the long-beleaguered Red and Purple lines.
Breaking Up a Bottleneck
Although the construction industry continues to navigate hurdles related to health, labor, materials and the environment, significant infrastructure projects are progressing. The increased use of prefabricated segments is often part of the solution—and has the added benefit of reducing disruption in the surrounding communities, For example, in Chicago, as Construction Dive reports:
To create the bypass and new track system — while minimizing disruption in the highly populated area located a few blocks from Wrigley Field — the construction team built a gantry to straddle the tracks and lift up components. The 285-foot structure was designed specifically for this job, said Kevin Buch, project manager for the bridge structure for Walsh-Fluor…The project used about 1,555 precast concrete segments to support the Red and Purple Line tracks, according to Buch, which were prefabricated in Morris, Illinois, cutting down on a lot of on-site work. Each segment is 27½ feet wide, nine feet tall and 8 to 11 feet long, and is reinforced with steel cables so that it can hang on its own.
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Making Tracks In Chicago
Ultimately, Chicago’s Red and Purple Modernization (RPM) project calls for fixing or replacing nearly 10-miles of tracks. The recently completed rail bridge is about .3 miles long and, as Construction Dive reports, plays a key role in getting more people moving faster:
Chicago’s population grew about 2% from 2010 to 2020, increasing from 2.6 million people to 2.7 million, according to Census data. Ridership on its train system has grown, too. In the past five years, the L saw a nearly 40% increase in passengers during morning and evening rush hour, according to the CTA.
Instead of three train lines trying to navigate the same section of tracks, the new bypass allows Brown Line trains to travel above the Red and Purple lines on an elevated track. As a result, the new bridge bypass breaks up a bottleneck in this area, allows up to eight more Red Line trains per hour to run during rush hour and ramps up Red and Purple Line speeds by 60%, according to the CTA. The bypass is expected to save about 500,000 hours of travel time for riders each year, the agency said.
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