Stories like this stir my ire - not only because they make my home town of Chicago look quite foolish, but the tax dollars they have used is coming out of our collective pockets!
By the end of 2008, most of the work on the Chicago Transit Authority highly-touted Brown Line L Renovation Project will be complete. The cost to Chicago, and IL, Taxpayers - roughly, $530 Million, give or take a couple of pennies.
Here on the North Side of Chicago, our Brown Line L is not the most ridden line, but traffic is substantial. Every workday, 68,000 passengers ride the Chicago Transit Authority Brown Line L, running through the North and Northwest Side of Chicago Neighborhoods of Albany Park, Lincoln Square, Lakeview, Lincoln Park, Old Town, and River North before heading to the famous Elevated Structure encircling The Chicago Loop.
When renovation is complete, the CTA will have completely renovated the 18 stations on the Line. The new stations add larger platforms to accommodate longer trains, and more modern entry areas, many including renovation of the original, century-old station houses.
But if you look closely, you can find some design flaws and construction shortcuts that may impact rider comfort, and the long-term durability of each Brown Line stop.
There is already many signs of rusting metal trim - while the original plan called for using stainless steel on platform railings and canopy decks, cheaper galvanized steel, susceptible to rusting, was used instead, as a cost-saving move. Wood splintering is already evident on new station platforms.
At the new Southport Avenue Station, four blocks from Wrigley Field in the Lakeview Neighborhood of Chicago, rivets are corroding pre-maturely, as workers used the wrong fasteners on some of the windbreak panels.
According to Bob Wittman, Brown Line Project Manager and CTA General Manager of Construction, issues involving rust and corrosion of metal will be corrected. Other flaws, however, will not be fixed, as the agency economizes in advance of next year's budget, containing nearly $152 Million in budget cuts.
One example - the CTA saved money on painting the elevated structure by reducing the areas of metal to be painted. Deterioration will likely become evident after a few freeze-thaw cycles of the notorious Chicago winter.
Canopies protecting riders from the elements were reduced in size to the equivalent of two train car lengths, despite the fact the new, longer platforms can now accommodate eight-car trains. With more exposed platform area, CTA Maintenance Personnel will need to be more vigilant removing puddling water and built-up ice creating potential slip-and-fall hazards on the platforms.
Many riders have already complained that several of the new stations lack heated shelters to protect customers from cold wind and chilly temperatures during the winter months.
Some stations, including the Rockwell Street Station in the Ravenswood Gardens Neighborhood, have new shelters, but they are not equipped with heaters. Les Kinskern, Former President of the Greater Rockwell Organization, says the new roofing materials cannot tolerate high temperatures generated by the heating lamps.
Many of the cutbacks and cost saving moves were implemented by Former CTA President Frank Kruesi, who slashed project costs several years ago as bids for the Brown Line L overhaul came in higher than expected.
Today, CTA Officials contend the major Brown Line renovation was placed in front of other Chicago mass transit improvements to stay ahead of growing population in the neighborhoods served by the L. Detractors of the project, however, point to the fact that extra capacity is only needed during peak rush hour periods - no more than two hours or so each day.
In any event, it galls me, and those we know here in Chicago, that the Third Largest U.S. City continues such sloppy work in its expensive public projects.
Does this kind of thing just happen here - or do you have a similar story from YOUR town?
Please share - so I know I'm not alone in my angst!
See our post via BlogChicagoHomes.com from last Saturday, October 25th for a bit more detail, as well as a link to Jon Hilkevitch's "Getting Around" Blog Post in the October 20th edition of the Chicago Tribune.
DEAN & DEAN'S TEAM CHICAGO