Yesterday, I met with Metra, Judlau Contracting, Inc, and UP to discuss the upcoming Phase II bridge work on the UP North Line and Metra’s plans for the specific demolition and restoration to be done on the Winnemac Avenue, Foster Avenue and Balmoral Avenue Bridges in the 40th Ward. We also met with several representatives of the neighborhood associations that will be affected by this work to address the community concerns with certain street and sidewalk closures, and any effects to the surrounding gardens.
As you may recall, in May 2017 the Metra Board of Directors approved three contracts totaling $48.2 million to replace or repair several bridges along the Union Pacific North Line, including the Winnemac Avenue, Foster Avenue and Balmoral Avenue Bridges. The Metra Board approved a $17.2 million contract with Judlau Contracting, Inc. to replace the bridges that carry the inbound UP North Line tracks over 11 streets from Grace Street to Balmoral Avenue. Because the bridges are more than 100 years old, they can no longer be economically repaired or maintained. These projects are part of Metra’s 2017-18 construction program and represent a major investment in the infrastructure along the UP North Line. Metra was originally relying on two 2009 bond programs – Illinois Jump Start and Jobs Now – that were expected to provide $1.1 billion for Metra’s capital needs. However, Metra to date has received about $700 million with the remainder put on hold in recent years resulting in many deferred Metra projects. Given the shortfall of reaching the $1.1 billion necessary to annually repair and maintain its systems, Metra reevaluated several projects awaiting state bond funding and identified a shorter list of prioritized projects that are shovel-ready and address Metra’s infrastructure needs. One of the projects that is receiving state bond funds is the replacement of bridges on the UP North Line.
Attached is an aerial map provided by Metra indicating where the work will take place for three bridges in the 40th Ward. The staging areas boxed in red indicate the areas that will be affected by this work. The Phase II work will be on the east side of the tracks and will be similar to the work done in Phase I on the west side a few years ago. As many of you likely recall the Phase I project on the west side of the tracks, Metra and Judlau do not anticipate the same level of aggravation, disturbance or length of time to complete this phase mainly because the scale of work to be done is smaller. Currently, there are three tracks, which will be reduced to two tracks by removing the eastern track. Once this work is started there will be temporary traffic closures of streets and sidewalks which Judlau projects will last 10 days per closure to give them enough time to properly demo the structures. Prior to these closures, Judlau will post notices to the community.
I know that the residents along the embankments of these bridge locations are very concerned about the landscaping improvements already made in these areas, but according to Judlau, they do not plan on significant disturbances to the planted areas adjacent to the abutments in the 40th Ward. Most of the damage will be limited to the grass, smaller shrubs and any flowers in the areas slated for the ground crew work areas and equipment storage. Judlau has stated that they will coordinate with the neighborhood organizations to accommodate any restoration of these areas that is needed once the work is complete. Judlau will either have their subcontractors replace any damaged areas or provide the raw materials for the neighborhood groups to replant if they choose to. It is up to the neighborhood associations to make that determination and inform Judlau of their decision.
In terms of timelines, Metra and Judlau expect the work to begin on the Winnemac Avenue Bridge starting late March with a completion date of late August. The construction of the Foster and Balmoral bridges will start shortly thereafter and are estimated to be completed in September. These are only rough estimates at this time and may alter as the projects progress. During the duration of the project, Metra will work closely with my office to keep the public apprised of construction updates and as we receive updates on the work timeline from Metra we will notify the community.
Metra is very hopeful that this will be a relatively smooth process, but as always, please let us know if you have any questions or concerns by calling my service office at 773-769-1140 or email email@example.com.
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Ald. Pat O’Connor