Walsh Construction/II In One Contractors Inc. – CTA Wilson Station Reconstruction Project

If there’s a large infrastructure or building project underway in Chicago, there’s a very good chance that Walsh Construction or II In One Contractors Inc. are involved. The two firms individually have worked on projects including underground stormwater tunnels, new and reconstructed bridges and roads, as well as new runways and other improvements at both of the city’s major airports. They are joining forces to replace a nearly 100-year-old public transit station.

A Walsh/II In One joint venture last fall began work on the reconstruction of the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA)’s Wilson Street Red Line station in the city’s Uptown neighborhood. The $203 million project involves completely rebuilding and modernizing the station, which was built in 1923. The project is one of the largest projects involving a Chicago elevated train – or “L” – station in the transit agency’s history, the CTA says.

The new station, which is targeted for completion in November 2017, will be fully accessible to people with disabilities pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The current station is not accessible. When completed, the station will include two elevators, two escalators, wheelchair access at the fare gates and Braille signs. In addition, two of the station’s three new entrances and exits will be accessible, according to the CTA. Other improvements will include brighter lighting and more than 100 security cameras installed. 

Construction Phases

Initial site work and preconstruction work on the project performed last fall included relocating utilities and demolishing unused freight structures and buildings owned by the CTA adjacent to the station.

The project consists of five construction phases, four of which are centered on the reconstruction of one of the four elevated train tracks serving the station. The other three tracks will remain in service while each track is being worked on, says Sven Bosold, a project manager for Walsh Construction.

The Walsh/II In One joint venture shut down and demolished one of the tracks in March. Foundation work including the drilling of support shafts for the new track is ongoing. “We are 50 percent complete with regard to the steel superstructure for the track, and have started working on the foundation for the new building,” Bosold says.

The construction of temporary entrances, temporary rail support structures and a new platform is also included in the project’s first phase, which is expected to last through spring 2016. 

When completed, the new tracks and platform structures will allow for easy and convenient transfers between the Red Line and the CTA’s Purple Line Express, which takes commuters to Chicago’s central Loop business district during rush hours. 

All four tracks will be replaced by fall 2017. This will be followed by the project’s final stage, which consists of the opening of the new stationhouse and new permanent auxiliary entrances, a track realignment and the removal of the temporary entrances and exits. 

In addition to building new track and platform structures, Walsh/II In One is restoring and repairing the stone and granite façade of the existing station building, known as the Gerber Building. The joint venture is also placing a new roof on the building, which is earmarked for future redevelopment following the completion of the new station building. 

“The restoration of the 1923 stationhouse facade would make it a viable space for future retail or business development, thus creating an anchor for revitalization and economic development in the Uptown neighborhood,” the CTA says.

Proper Planning

The proximity of construction crews to live, electrified rail tracks and the need to continue operations on the Red Line during construction are the biggest challenges the joint venture is facing on the project.

“The tough part is working adjacent to live CTA traffic,” Bosold explains. “Our team can’t get too close to live tracks with our operation, and there’s always the concern that our work can interfere with existing traffic, not just on the CTA but the main road arteries that we are crossing.”

Crews are coordinating construction schedules around times of high rail and road traffic, and are detouring traffic around the site as construction proceeds. “We’re dealing with pedestrian traffic, road traffic and CTA traffic at the same time, so we have to be sure we’re coordinating our work – especially our heavy lift and train-related work – with several different agencies,” he adds. 

Track-related work is limited to the non-peak travel daytime period of 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. or later in the evening. “We have a strict planning procedure to evaluate how long activities will take us to be completed,” Bosold says. 

Self-Sufficient

The Walsh/II In One joint venture is self-performing the majority of the work on the project, including foundation, superstructure and steel erection. Most of the building restoration-related work including masonry, plumbing, electrical installation and roofing is being subcontracted.

The Wilson station project is one of two “L”-line projects the joint venture is performing in the city. The team last year began work on foundation and retaining walls related to the reconstruction of the 95th Street/Dan Ryan Expressway station on the Red Line, which also serves as its southern terminal.  

Both station projects are part of the city’s ongoing $7 billion infrastructure replacement program, dubbed “Building a New Chicago.” The program also includes developing new roads, parks and bus rapid transit routes, according to the city. 

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