Wells Bridge work, jammed subway slow CTA commute

Construction crews work on the Wells Street Bridge in the distance. (John J. Kim, Chicago Tribune)

The morning CTA commute was slowed today largely by trains detoured into the subway because of the closing of the 91-year-old Wells Street Bridge.

As the rush hour peaked around 8:45 a.m., trains on the Red Line between Belmont and Roosevelt -- including rerouted Brown Line trains -- experienced delays because of congestion in the State Street Subway, according to the CTA.

One train was stopped for 9 minutes because of a switching problem, said CTA spokeswoman Catherine Hosinski this morning. Some commuters complained on Twitter of significant delays, some as long as 15 minutes.

The Wells Street Bridge was closed on Friday to replace a section on the north side of the river. It will open again around 4 a.m. May 6. The bridge was closed last month so a section on the south side could be replaced.

Brown Line trains are running only as far as Chicago/Franklin; Pink Line and Green Line trains operating from Harlem are running as far as Clinton; Green Line trains operating from Ashland/63rd and Cottage Grove are running as far as Adams/Wabash (commuters can transfer to a shuttle train that runs until Clark/Lake); and Orange Line trains from Midway will run only as far as Washington/Wells.

Bus service between the Clinton and Chicago stations and connecting to the Loop "L" will operate during the weekend.

During the weekday morning rush, two out of every three southbound Brown Line trains are being routed via the Red Line subway to Roosevelt. Those subway-bound Brown Line trains are marked "Roosevelt'' and stop on the inner side of the platform at Fullerton, on the Red Line track.

Brown Line trains that don't enter the subway — one out of every three southbound Brown Line trains — are terminating at the Merchandise Mart. At Fullerton, those Brown Line trains are stopping at the outer side of the platform. Operators will announce the routes along the way, Hosinski said.

"There was crowding on the (Fullerton) platform because people weren't sure" which train they were boarding during the last service changes, Hosinski said last week. "If you jump on the train (during the upcoming service change) that's on the Red Line southbound track, you know it's going on the Red Line track."

Unlike the last closing, southbound Brown Line trains are running only as far as Chicago/Franklin after 8 p.m. on weeknights, Hosinski said. That change is giving construction crews more time to work on the bridge and help simplify scheduling by eliminating the need for a late-night service schedule, she said.

This is the last closing of the Wells Street Bridge and additional work scheduled for around the area won't require significant CTA service changes, Hosinski said. Commuters can find more information at transitchicago.com/wellsbridge.

Tribune reporter Jon Hilkevitch contributed.