Skokie Swift Line closed until October after berm collapse




by SEAN KEENEHAN

The Chicago Transit Authority has announced that train service on the Skokie Swift Line will remain suspended at least until October after an embankment collapsed on May 17 underneath a stretch of the Yellow Line tracks in Skokie.

The collapse occurred west of McCormick Boulevard between the Howard Street station, 7519 N. Paulina St., and the Oakton Street station in Skokie.

The Skokie Swift has operated since 1964 between the Howard Street Purple Line and Red Line station and a terminal at 5005 W. Dempster St., with a stop at a station at 4800 Oakton St. which opened in 2012.

The CTA is providing shuttle buses that operate in both directions between the two Skokie stations and the Howard Street station approximately every 10 minutes during weekday rush hour periods and every 15 minutes during most other travel times. Although the CTA says that the shuttles are operating at the same frequency as normally scheduled Yellow Line trains, commuters are advised to allow extra travel time.

Shuttle bus hours will be extended following Chicago Cubs night games in the same way that the Yellow Line trains operated, with buses running from Howard Street until midnight. An alternate route to the shuttles from Dempster is the CTA’s 97 Skokie bus.

The CTA is offering free parking in the Dempster Street parking lots until train service is restored. The "payment holiday" was initiated by the village, Skokie director of marketing and communications Ann Tennes said. "The revenue from the parking is shared between the village and the CTA, and when the village approached the CTA to forgo the revenue, the CTA agreed," Tennes said.

According to the CTA, the collapse occurred while the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District was working on a construction project with Walsh Construction near the O’Brien Water Reclamation Plant, 3500 Howard St., Skokie. While investigators are working to determine the cause of the collapse, the water district announced that the district, the CTA, Walsh and Commonwealth Edison have agreed on a plan for making repairs.

"MWRD is constructing a disinfection treatment facility and tying into the existing outfall conduit of the O’Brien plant," water district spokeswoman Allison Fore said. "This conduit is 50 feet under ground, and the track sits another 50 feet higher than grade.

"All parties agree that it is better to complete the tie-in work before restoring the track by October. This will ensure a safe construction site and reliable service after restoration for many years to come."

"Other alternatives focused on rebuilding the train berm and restoring the track and service, and then resuming the effluent tie-in," Fore said. "These options would have the train operating while the shafts were still open. It was decided for the absolute safety of passengers that it would be better to complete the plant tie-in, fill in the shafts and then restore the train operation."

"While the Village of Skokie is very disappointed over the lengthy time table for Yellow Line service restoration, we recognize the complexity of the situation and support the commitment to public safety evidenced by the CTA and MWRD," said Skokie Mayor George Van Dusen in a statement. "I appreciate the community’s patience with this difficult, inconvenient situation."

"The length of the remediation work is a setback to our community as the Skokie Swift is an important part of the village’s economy," Van Dusen said. "I ask that the community make an extra effort to patronize businesses in downtown Skokie and in the Dempster Street corridor that rely on Yellow Line commuters to keep their businesses strong."

The Yellow Line also connects to Skokie Shops, 3701 W. Oakton St., a CTA maintenance facility that now has to transport rail cars that are coming in and out of the facility for repairs on flatbed trucks.

"CTA is determining what additional costs will be associated with the loss of use of Skokie Shops, which among other things, will necessitate trucking and associated permitting expenses for rail cars that have to be repaired at the shop, the 3200 series cars undergoing midlife overhauls and the shipping of the 5000 series to Midway to be put into service once they’ve been inspected and accepted," CTA spokeswoman Catherine Hosinski said.




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