Early morning noise from Grayland Metra project; not clear when Milwaukee Ave. to fully reopen
by BRIAN NADIG
The Metra project to replace the bridge over Milwaukee Avenue at Kilbourn and to rebuild the Grayland station is expected last well into 2024, making it unclear when Milwaukee will fully reopen to traffic.
Milwaukee has been closed in both directions for about a year, and Metra officials have previously said that the closing will continue until the end of 2023. Prior to the summer of 2022, Milwaukee was closed in one direction for many months, but officials maintained closing the street to both northbound and southbound traffic would speed up the $36.1 million project.
At an Aug. 16 virtual town hall hosted by Alderwoman Ruth Cruz (30th), Metra officials reported that possible demolition work in 2024 could lead to more lane closures, in at least one direction at a time, but that a schedule has not been finalized.
“It’s all weather dependent,” Metra representative Kevin Nolan said. “We are working through all the options.”
“Believe me, we want to get out of Milwaukee Avenue … as soon as we can,” Nolan said. He added that in addition to facilitating the construction, Milwaukee was closed in both directions because some motorists were driving the wrong way in the one open lane.
Some residents reported that equipment noise from the drilling and other construction has started prior to 5 a.m. “Is that the way to treat neighbors?” one resident said.
City rules regarding when construction can take place does not apply to public roadway projects, according to Metra.
Concerns also were expressed about damage done to homes due to the shaking caused by the work and about the lack of proper detour signage, as some residents reported that it is not unusual seeing cars traveling the wrong way on Kilbourn.
An attorney reported that he is representing some of the area homeowners who have been negatively impacted by the construction.
One resident suggested that Metra work with the community on installing native plants and murals around the station at the end construction project.
Many residents complained about the lack of communication regarding updates on the project and explanations for the delays and changes.
Cruz, who was installed as alderperson in May, said that the town hall was scheduled due to residents’ concerns, and she recommended that they sign up for the ward newsletter, which includes updates on a variety of matters. Residents are asked to send their e-mail address to email@example.com if they would like to receive the newsletter.
Earlier this year Metra issued the following about the project:
“Milwaukee Avenue will remain closed at Kilbourn Avenue for the remainder of the year as part of Metra’s project to replace the bridge over the roadway and rebuild the Grayland Station.
“Signs for the vehicular and bicycle detours will remain in place until the end of 2023. Due to concern for public safety, a full detour will continue instead of the phased lane closures originally planned. The full closure will also allow for construction to progress more quickly so the overall impact to residents can be shortened.
“Southeast-bound vehicular traffic on Milwaukee Avenue is rerouted south on Cicero Avenue and east on Addison Street back to Milwaukee Avenue. Northwest-bound traffic is diverted west on Addison and north on Cicero to Milwaukee. Bicycle and pedestrian traffic are rerouted along Addison Street and Kilbourn Avenue, and protected bike lanes are in place on Addison during the closure.
“Metra is in the middle of a $36.1 million project to replace the 123-year-old bridge that carries the Milwaukee District North Line over Milwaukee near Kilbourn. As part of this project, Grayland Station, just south of the bridge, is being rebuilt with longer platforms, new public address equipment, visual information signs, shelters with on-demand heat on each side, new lighting and new stairs and ramps, making it fully ADA-compliant.
“The project is funded with $13.1 million from the Federal Transit Administration, $17.8 million from the Federal Railroad Administration, $2.3 million from Canadian Pacific, and $2.9 million in other Metra funding. IHC Construction Companies of Elgin is the contractor performing work, which is expected to be complete in the spring of 2024.”