CHICAGO (CBS) – Trains were stopped for four hours midday Wednesday when a crane erecting a new signal bridge above the BNSF Ry. tracks in Westmont toppled over, taking the bridge with it.
No one was hurt, but removing the bridge and dismantling the crane with torches took more than four hours to complete.
Until service could be restored, at about 4:20 p.m., Metra tried to run a few trains between Chicago and Hinsadale, and between Downers Grove and Aurora.
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In the past, similar situations caused dangerous overcrowding at downtown terminals, but Metra spokesman Robert Carlton said an emergency plan, a year in the making, worked. He said Metra warned riders immediately over the air, online, and as they entered Union Station. The result was a nearly-empty south side of Union Station, an area that is crowded even during the best of rush hours.
“We didn’t have any of the crowds. We did not have any backup on any of the platforms,” he said. “So, although it’s been c changing situation it’s been a relatively calm situation.”
Metra urged riders take Union Pacific West Line trains, which depart from nearby Ogilvie Transportation Center. And they did. The 4:11 p.m. departure on the UP West – a train that often leaves the station about half full — left standing room only.
Metra police officers and personnel in safety vests stood around at Union Station, for the most part, but assisted riders where they could. Carlton said the only time there was even a small backup occurred at about 3 p.m., but said many of those riders could be accommodated by taking a train to Hinsdale or points farther east.
That is in stark contrast to most weekdays, when access to the BNSF gates at Union Station can be difficult. The BNSF line is the busiest of Metra’s 11 commuter corridors, carrying an average of 64,600 riders each weekday.