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13 weekends of CTA service changes begin Friday on Brown Line

The CTA this Friday begins 13 weekends of work on Brown and Purple Line Express tracks between Armitage and the Merchandise Mart — but promises it won’t occur during Taste of Chicago, Lollapalooza or other major events.

The upcoming phase of the so-called “Ravenswood Connector” project is aimed at eliminating more than two miles of slow zones on track structures originally built in the late 19th century.

During the work, weekend Brown Line trains will run on Red Line subway tracks between Fullerton and Roosevelt. They will make all Red Line stops.

For weekend service to or from the Brown Line’s Armitage, Sedgwick, Chicago and Merchandise Mart stations, a free CTA shuttle bus will carry riders from each of those stations to other affected Brown Line stations as well as to Fullerton and to Clark/Lake.

Morning to late evening bus shuttles should operate roughly every 8 to 10 minutes, said CTA spokeswoman Catherine Hosinski. Early morning shuttles should be available every 12 to 20 minutes.

In addition, during the weekend work, a shuttle train will service all Loop stations, operating in a continuous loop. It will connect Brown Line service in the subway to all Loop L stations, as well as to shuttle buses at Clark/Lake.

The 13 weekends of work will stretch from 8 p.m. on Fridays to roughly 4 a.m. on Mondays.

It should conclude by the end of this fall and “will not occur during large-scale events and summer festivals,” CTA officials said.

So far, 11 of 13 weekends of work have been scheduled, starting on April 10, April 17, May 1, May 8, May 15, May 29, July 24, Aug. 7., Aug. 21, Aug. 28, and Sep. 11.

The weekend work involves replacing or repairing deteriorated rails, ties, and various track components on tracks used by some 40,000 riders each weekday.

Purple Line Express service will not be affected as that line operates only during the weekday rush.

The entire $90 million Ravenswood Connector Renovation Project should be completed by the end of the year, according to the CTA. It should shave two minutes from the typical L ride from Armitage to the Merchandise Mart, Hosinski said. Currently, trains must slow to as little as 15 mph to ensure safe operations between some of those stations.

The first phase of the project began in September 2013 and involved repair and replacement of components of the steel L structure between Armitage and the Mart.

A CTA Brown Line train travels north from the Merchandise Mart to the Chicago Avenue station.
A CTA Brown Line train travels north from the Merchandise Mart to the Chicago Avenue station.