Escalator of Life: O’Hare Stop Is Finally Back to Normal After Horrific Crash

The crash aftermath. Photo courtesy of the CTA.

Lazy air travelers rejoice! It took almost year and a half, but both escalators at the CTA’s O’Hare stop are finally operational after a catastrophic 2014 Blue Line crash. Although an ‘L’ train smashed into the escalator at high speed, miraculously, no one was killed. A single “up” escalator and the elevator have been operational in the interim.

The crash occurred in the early morning of March 24 of last year, when the operator, Brittany Haywood, failed to brake while approaching the end of the line. The train jumped the tracks and careened up the escalator, injuring over 30 passengers and causing about $9 million in property damage. Luckily, the escalator was empty at the time – otherwise there surely would have been fatalities.

Soon after the incident, Haywood admitted to falling asleep at the controls, and said she also nodded off the previous month while driving a train at the Blue Line’s Belmont stop. A National Transportation Safety Board investigation found that, as a fill-in employee, Haywood’s hours were irregular, but CTA officials said she had an 18 hour break before the O’Hare crash occurred.

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The new escalator. Photo: John Greenfield

In the wake of the disaster, the CTA has made an effort to make employee’s hours more regular, and has increased fatigue-awareness training, the Chicago Tribune reported. The agency also lowered the speed limit for trains coming into O’Hare from 25 mph to 15 mph, and moved “trip arms” — intended to stop runaway trains — farther away from the platform, the Tribune reported.

So why did it take so long to repair the escalator? Work didn’t begin until this March, a year after the crash because of the long lead time require to create construction plans and fabricate custom parts, CTA spokesman Brian Steele told the Trib at the time. “It’s a complex project in a challenging and tight space,” Steele said. “The work involves not only building the escalator itself but also designing the structural supports to connect the mezzanine and platform levels.”

The rehab, which also included stair repairs, concrete repairs to the center pocket, plus some new signage, was completed last week, according to CTA spokesman Jeff Tolman. It’s great to see one of the CTA’s most important stations is back to normal, which brings closure to an unforgettable chapter in local transit history.

  • Pat

    Pretty sure public transit authorities are where escalator and elevator companies dump their lemons.

  • Fred

    So anyone who takes an escalator at an airport is lazy?

  • Nah, but the “up” escalator has been working for most of the time since the crash, as has the elevator. If you’re an able-bodied person who thinks it’s a hardship to walk down a flight of stairs, or else take the elevator, that’s a little lazy.

  • Fred

    Carrying luggage?

    My contention here is the airport part. If you want to argue that an able-bodied person carrying nothing going about their day should be able take a flight of stairs, I fully agree. But we’re talking about an airport where likely every user is carrying a bag of some size.

  • If was something that’s too heavy to easily carry down the stairs, the elevator was an option. But anyway, I wasn’t saying that everyone who wants to take the escalator at an airport is lazy, just that those who are lazy should be happy about this.

  • Kelly Pierce

    Yes, those able bodied who jump on escalators at transit stations are lazy. They are the same people that drive a car to a fitness facility to walk or run on a treadmill. Two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese. Some stair climbing could be of benefit to these folks.

    I recently started work at an office by the Clinton Blue Line stop. Built in 1958, the up and down escalators at Clinton are prominently featured from this era of the promotion of modern progress. The stairs are behind the escalators near the end of the platform. I walk up and down them each day instead of taking the escalators. Since doing this, my circulation has improved and my quadriceps have become noticeably bigger. My co-workers complain about feeling cold where the added blood flow from the stair climbing keeps me warm. During a less lazy time, others seem to have taken the stairs more. The stairs at Clinton have indentations from all the stair climbing from more than 50 years of commuters. I am also up and down the transfer tunnel stairs between the Red and Blue lines. All this stair climbing keeps me fit and alert and engaged for work.

  • JKM13

    130lb women carrying 40 lb suitcases (aka lazy air travelers) rejoice!


Today’s Headlines for Tuesday, April 28

NTSB Meeting Today on Cause of 2014 Escalator Crash at O’Hare Blue Line Stop (Sun-Times) Activists Hope New CTA Chief Could Mean Return of 31st, Lincoln Bus Lines (DNA) Workers Remove Concrete Bridge West of Wilson Red Line Stop (Uptown Update) Englewood Fitness Center Owner Applauds Divvy’s Expansion to the Neighborhood (DNA) Motorcyclist Strikes Pedestrian […]

Today’s Headlines

CTA Plans to Replace O’Hare Escalator, Damaged in Train Crash, Next Year (RedEye) New Metra Ravenswood Stop Slated for Completion in November (DNA) Woman Who Was Paralyzed in River North Crash Starts Rehab (RedEye) TOD Ordinance Spurs Development on Wicker Park’s Old Furniture Row (Tribune) An Update on North Branch Trail’s Southern Extension Project (Active […]