More than 14 weeks after the ground fell away below the CTA’s Yellow Line in Skokie, creating a potential mass disaster, we have to ask: Where’s the outrage?
The public still has not been told who made the call to allow ground-shaking construction so close to the tracks — the proximate cause of the collapse — or whether the stability of the CTA embankment was properly tested beforehand, or whether the embankment had been kept up to code all these years.
Somebody is to blame. That’s the hard truth, and it matters. Accountability is essential, if only to minimize the chances of something like this happening again. We got lucky this time — an alert operator stopped the first train to come along and nobody was hurt.
A thorough and independent investigation is called for, but we haven’t heard of one coming. We see only the likelihood of lawsuits, sure to wind along for years, and even then specific blame may never be assigned. Civil suits are mostly about who pays. Not to be unkind, but heads should roll.
The Yellow Line is out of action until about October. Passengers, who took 2,900 trips every weekday on the 5.1-mile line, now must settle for much slower shuttle buses. The Village of Skokie’s downtown and its Illinois Science and Technology Park are suffering. A new Oakton Street station, paid for partly with tax increment financing funds, sits unused. The CTA is cut off from its most important maintenance facility and must either divert work elsewhere or bring rail cars in and out on trucks.
The century-old dirt embankment supporting the Yellow Line tracks gave way along McCormick Boulevard between Howard and Oakton because of a $60 million Metropolitan Water Reclamation District construction project being done by the Walsh Construction Co., and its subcontractors. Workers were excavating and driving pilings into the ground for a disinfection facility at the Terrence J. O’Brien Water Reclamation Plant.
Engineers still are assessing the cause of the collapse on the Yellow Line even as crews work double shifts to repair the track and ensure it won’t give way again. Damaged wastewater lines from the MWRD plant need to be fixed, too. Every small finding must be revealed quickly and fully.
Before another train rolls along the Yellow Line, the CTA must learn — and the public must be told — exactly why this happened.
Or why should anybody get on board?
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