Monday, May 22, 2006

Chicago's Circle II

On May 11, we began telling our blog readers about the Circle Line being planned for Chicago. Please scroll down or click on the link at left to read that blog.

The second link in the circle is more problematic. As originally proposed, it would have to be an elevated link from Woods Curve (we have been told it should be Wood Curve) to Ashland-Archer on the Midway (Orange) Line. The Douglas Branch and the Orange Line are at their closest approach along Ashland. The link, however, would probably be aligned along or west of Paulina, as a proposed station would be located at Blue Island and Paulina.

To look at an aerial photograph of this area is to see what a massive project this would be. (As the good aerial photo sites don't let us do a direct link to the map, we suggest going to Windows Live Local and keying "1600 West Archer Ave, Chicago, IL" into the "where" line. That will get you to the Archer-Ashland station on the Orange Line and you will be able to grab the map and move north along Paulina to find Woods Curve.) Going straight south from Woods Curve would mean taking out residential structures for four blocks, and then there are existing industrial buildings. Going east, then south over the Paulina right-of-way makes more sense, as this would take out fewer residential structures, if any, and Paulina becomes an industrial backroad south of Blue Island.

But then comes the river/canal crossing. (The "river" that continues southwest at this point is really the canal that was built to reverse the flow of the Chicago River into the Illinois River system. The actual South Branch of the Chicago River turns due south before it gets to Ashland and dries up before it gets to Pershing Road where marshy land was filled in years ago in building the stock yards.) Unless the new line turns east along the north shore of the river and piggybacks on the existing Ashland road bridge, a new rail-only bridge would have to be built.

There are some fairly substantial industrial buildings on the Paulina alignment south of the river, so we surmise that the line would have to jog west and skirt their west perimeters, and then a wide turn due east to meet the Orange line west of the existing Ashland-Archer station.

The meeting of the new line and the existing Orange Line itself would be something of a feat, as there are steam rail lines in use at the same grade north of the Orange Line. The choices appear to be crossing at grade (not desirable, as one of the heavy rail lines is commuter Heritage Corridor) or a flyover wherein the new line gets its own station above the existing one. This could become quite a complex, with both a heavy rail and rapid transit station on one level above Ashland and another rapid transit station a level above that all connected with stairs, escalators and elevators for transfers: Circle to/from Orange Line, Circle to/from Heritage Corridor, and Orange Line to/from Heritage Corridor.

Remember that the Stevenson Expressway (Interstate 55) crosses Ashland between the stations and Archer on a very high bridge that takes it over all rail lines and the old South Branch of the river. All of this gets very futuristic with multiple levels of rail and road traffic all over the place if you start to visualize it.

This whole thing only makes sense as a Circle Line if they add something here, so in Chicago's Cirle III, we will tell you what that is.

©2006 - C. A. Turek - mistertrains@gmail.com
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