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Metra holds virtual meeting on $262.3M project to replace UP North bridges Thursday

3:56 PM CDT on September 8, 2021

The UPN line’s School Street bridge, with a Slow Streets treatment under it in September 2020. Photo: John Greenfield

Tomorrow Metra hosts a virtual public meeting on its upcoming $262.3 million project to rebuild eleven 120-year-old Union Pacific North line bridges in Lakeview and Lincoln Park. The initiative also includes replacing retaining walls as necessary on the route, which runs between the Ogilvie Center and Kenosha, Wisconsin.

The Metra UP North Rebuild: Fullerton to Addison Project is now in the design and planning stage, with construction slated to start in 2023, wrapping up in 2027. An environmental review process is being conducted in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act, which also includes a noise and vibration analysis.

Locations of the bridges to be replaced.
Locations of the bridges to be replaced.
Locations of the bridges to be replaced.

“These bridges have surpassed their functional lifespan and can no longer be economically repaired and maintained,” said Metra CEO Jim Derwinski in a statement. “The Metra UP North Rebuild Project will modernize the existing infrastructure, reduce maintenance needs and operating costs, and improve the customer experience with increased reliability and resiliency. This is a major project that will benefit Metra riders for decades.”

The virtual community meeting takes place on Thursday, September 9, from 6-7 p.m. Register for the Zoom event here.

Metra says the bridge project will reduce the railroad's carbon footprint by improving energy efficiency, lowering oil and diesel fuel use, and improving air quality, because it will result in fewer service delays and a greater ability to maintain consistent locomotive speeds.

Photos of the 11 bridge. Image: Metra
Photos of the 11 bridge. Image: Metra
Photos of the 11 bridge. Image: Metra

Other aspects of the project include relocating the tracks west within the existing railroad right-of-way to align with the tracks north and south of the project area; rebuilding viaducts with more lighting and wheelchair-accessible routing; lowering Roscoe and Cornelia streets to maintain current clearance under the UP North Line and the CTA Brown Line; refurbishing and painting the existing Lincoln/Addison bridge (which isn't being replaced); and some utility work along the corridor.

An interesting factoid about this portion of the Ravenswood corridor is that when those bridges were originally built, this portion of the UPN line had three tracks. It was reduced to two tracks in the early 1980s, but the bridges still have space for a third track.

Timeline for the project.
Timeline for the project.
Timeline for the project.

According to Metra, the UPN Rebuild is expected to be built in two phases to avoid major rail service disruptions and reduce impacts on other travel modes, although there will be some street and sidewalk closures.

The $262.3 million project cost has been included in Metra’s Capital Program for the past three years. $161.2 million is currently allocated, including $6 million from 2019 Federal Transit Authority 5337 State of Good Repair Funds, and $156.1 million from Rebuild Illinois bond funds. Metra is still identifying the rest of the funding.

The $166 million first phase of the project replaced 11 bridges from Balmoral Avenue to Grace Street, and also included the reconstruction of the Ravenswood station, which should be finished in 2022.

More info on the UPN Rebuild is available here.

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