Metra officials announced in a news release today that complaints from riders have led the agency to postpone the project to rebuild 22 bridges on Union Pacific North Line that runs through Evanston until next spring.

The line will return to its original schedule with two-track operation starting Sunday.

Metra officials announced in a news release today that complaints from riders have led the agency to postpone the project to rebuild 22 bridges on Union Pacific North Line that runs through Evanston until next spring.

The line will return to its original schedule with two-track operation starting Sunday.

The new, or old, schedule is available online.

Metra changed the UP North schedule on Aug. 22 to accommodate a plan to use a single track for inbound and outbound trains in the construction zone.

The one-track solution was billed as being tens of millions of dollars cheaper than doing the bridge work while still running trains on two tracks.

Even with the one-track operation, replacing 22 bridges on the north side of Chicago was expected to cost $185 million.

Officials said riders made it clear that the new schedule was not meeting their needs, and efforts to tweak the schedule just moved the adverse impact to different points on the line.

Metra says it now will explore engineering options that would maintain a two-track operation when construction resumes in the spring.

“We appreciate our riders’ feedback and we have listened to their comments,” Metra Chairman Carole Doris said in a statement. “We firmly believe that the quality of service and ease of travel to our passengers is paramount, and thus we are going back to the schedule that best fits the needs of our passengers. We know our attempt to operate on a single track has been difficult, and we apologize to our riders for the problems.”

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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4 Comments

  1. Well, looks like I’m a Metra rider once more…

    Not that CTA’s Purple Express was bad by any means, but I must admit I’ve missed Metra these last few weeks.

  2. Yuppie NIMBY whiners

    I am disgusted that Metra succumbed to the griping of well-to-do commuters and as a result, potentially endangering its ridership, neighboring communities, and first responders who will be threatened by the mass-casualty incident that occurs when the bridges collapse.

    Shame on all of you.  Suck it up and deal with the minor inconvenience of an added 30 minutes to your commute.

    1. Quite right, within reason…

      … but for 8 years, so that truckers that don’t know their own vehicle dimensions won’t get stuck under North/Belmont/whatever bridges anymore?

      I can’t speak for everyone who has been unhappy with Metra about the recent changes, as everyone’s circumstances are different (my commute time was actually the same or shorter, just less predictable and comfortable), but an 8-year schedule and raising the grade to permit higher (truck-friendly!) bridges isn’t something I personally can support.  

      My understanding of where the dollars are coming from and the real level of engineering sophistication this entails may be flawed, but a plan that calls for paying for truck access convenience out of transit funds, on an 8 year schedule, and, as a bonus, eliminating (or at least massively complicating) the possibility of ever restoring the disused 3rd line on the rail right-of-way to service seems like a bad idea.  To be clear, the bridges are decrepit, and must be replaced soon, but I welcome this pause, and hope it prompts a bit of a rethink, not just on scheduling convenience, but on the project plan as a whole.  Hopefully, the bridges can be safely replaced in a more sane way.  

      (If not, I guess I could always buy a car – then I wouldn’t have to waste time worrying about what’s going on with public transit!)

  3. Not a whiner

    Unless you were there, I don’t think you have a right to call anyone else a whiner…. I am not a Yuppie or well to do; I do live in Evanston.  Despite the difficulty in finding a seat or at times, even a ‘comfortable’ place to stand and the unpredictable schedule–seriously the trains were all-but-never on time–I did not even register a complaint, though I consider doing so.  But I was very disturbed on behalf of the riders who board at the UP North line’s largest station–RAVENSWOOD.  If any fellow riders spoke to me about the inconveniences, etc., I always mentioned the fact that METRA had better consider that no one should have to STAND PACKED LIKE SARDINES on every rush-hour train for the next eight years!  And these were the circumstances Ravenswood riders found themselves in every day during the recent ‘new’ schedule…  Not to mention the lost revenues–conductors frequently could not walk through the cars to collect tickets… and with daily crowding like that, anyone willing to put up with it for eight years and boarding at Ravenswood would easily figure out that there was no longer any need to even BUY A TICKET!  Besides, the project has not been cancelled, only delayed until they can figure out how to keep up income from the ridership and spend the money to fix the old bridges.  Spending $185M on railroad bridges for trains that no one is riding is not money well spent.

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