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Team Has a Model Approach to Chicago Loop Job

A 20-foot-long model, above, replicates a stretch of the Chicago rapid transit system in the city’s Financial District (top photo) where RailWorks is providing multiple upgrades. .

When they sized up the complexities of their pending work on the Chicago Loop, RailWorks Track Services determined the smart approach was to build a site model. The 20-foot-long model replicates a stretch of the rapid transit system in the city’s Financial District bounded by Wells (on the west) and Van Buren (on the south) streets, where RailWorks is providing multiple upgrades.

Vice President and Regional Manager Bill Dorris built the model with help from Quality Assurance/Quality Control Manager Steve Hayden. Bill says it gives key personnel, who often will be working on elevated track, a simulated view of their work area. “It allows them the chance to see how the entire process will work during a scheduled outage,” Bill says. “We can explain the movements on the structure and the sequence of the work, along with the load-in and load-out operations for material handling.”

Working 30 feet above ground adds an extra layer of safety awareness and precaution that the model helps facilitate. “The model allowed us to see that we could minimize the size of areas required to be open on the structure at any given time,” Bill explains. “By minimizing work areas’ sizes, we are able to reduce the manpower and minimize the number of people exposed to the open areas.”

Ragnar Benson and Meade Inc. join RailWorks on this high-profile job. The contract for the Chicago Transit Authority Loop Renewal Project, valued at $39 million, calls for replacement of all track, turnouts and grand union switches for track items, replacement of all signals and communication as well as third rail on the entire structure along Wells Street and Van Buren Street.  Workers are replacing more than 2-miles of tangent track, a double cross-over, 1,000 track feet of full-restrained curve track and the Grand Union at Tower 18.

Crews are completing the work over 16 weekends between April 13, 2012, and Thanksgiving 2012.  They are utilizing 52-hour outages on weekends opposite festivals, professional sporting events and other heavy-transit weekends.

Bill emphasizes the significance of simulating work that features elevated track and tight work windows.  “The planning and this training are paramount and critical for such a project,” he says.  “By rehearsing the work sequences using this model, the team can identify hazards in a realistic way and proactively address them. We have spent the time and energy to have all available resources in place to put together and utilize the best possible plan for this project’s success.”