All of America saw the shocking video last March, of a CTA train hurtling out of control, over the platform at O'Hare, and up an escalator, an accident blamed on a motorman who fell asleep at the controls, but months later, repairs have not been made.
A week after the accident, the O'Hare Blue Line station reopened, with wooden stairs replacing the mangled "up" escalator. The undamaged "down" escalator was rerouted in the "up" direction to help passengers who might be arriving at O'Hare with heavy luggage. But that was little solace for those who had just arrived at the airport, headed to the trains.
And that's the way things still stand, six months later. The wooden stairs are still in place. And no replacement escalator has ever been built.
"It's probably going to cause another accident or two, carrying your bag down there," said Justin Todd, an O'Hare passenger visiting from Texas. "There are escalators going up, but not down. It's kind of ridiculous!"
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Actually there's one escalator, going up.
"There is no reason why an escalator could not be fixed," said Colorado traveler Kathy Lymcom. "That's ridiculous. I mean, they put stairs in!"
Indeed, the city has performed what seemed like minor miracles in the past. When the Michigan Avenue bridge was severely damaged in a train accident in 1992, city workers managed to get the bridge repaired and reopened in less than three months. After pre-fabrication, the Wells Street bridge was removed, and a new span floated into place, in just a few days last year.
This is an escalator. And it's been six months.
"I don't understand why there can't be a down escalator," said Rachel Cox, an O'Hare visitor from Kansas. "Taking six months to repair an escalator in a busy place where all these people are? That's a little much!"
CTA spokeswoman Tammy Chase said essentially that the O'Hare project is neither an easy or rapid fix.
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"Repairing the station and rebuilding the escalator is a complex, multi-step process that requires time," Chase said. "We are committed to completing the work as quickly as possible."
Chase called replacement of the escalator a priority, but said discussions are ongoing with the CTA's insurance carrier, even as design work is under way. The project has not yet been put out to bid.
"We have the additional work of ensuring that the underlying structure, which has been covered up by our temporary staircase is stable and doesn't need additional repairs, considering a 200-ton train crashed into it," she noted in a statement. "Once the contractor is on board, we'll have a better sense of the construction timing."