March 31--The O'Hare Blue Line station smelled of cut wood and fresh paint as CTA workers tore back caution tape at the entrance Sunday afternoon, ushering airport personnel and travelers back into the station almost a week after a train derailed there.
Gone was the escalator that had been the final resting place of the derailed train, which plowed through a barrier early last Monday morning, injuring at least 30 people and causing more than $6 million in damage.
A wooden stairway stood in the escalator's place, leaving just one working escalator at the station. And a white wooden barrier surrounded the end of the center track where the train had derailed.
"It looks pretty good," said airport worker Harold Clayton. "All in all, I think they did a pretty good job."
No delays were reported on the line this morning.
Repairing and reopening the station required, first, chopping the lead car of the derailed train into pieces in order to pull it off the escalator, a process that was completed by Thursday. CTA spent the next few days performing work on the tracks, platforms and staircases, and inspecting the structural integrity of the station.
Travelers who landed in O'Hare on Sunday morning and early afternoon were sent off to shuttle buses while CTA workers put finishing touches on the station repair. After work crews hauled their equipment out of the station, just before 2 p.m., CTA workers dressed in yellow vests began directing passengers into the station.
Out-of-towners, oblivious to the station's weeklong closure, lugged suitcases down the staircase in visible frustration while airport workers analyzed the repairs.
"It looks nice, better than it looked before," remarked one woman as she hurried onto a train.
For those whose daily commutes were disrupted last week by the station closure, having train service back at the airport was welcome. Still, the accident left them unnerved.
"People are still a little nervous and a little apprehensive," Clayton said.
The crash has raised concerns about worker fatigue and safety as investigators say the train operator admitted to dozing off before the crash. The train operator had a "very chaotic" work schedule, Robert Kelly, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 308, said Friday.
One area where CTA riders appeared satisfied Sunday was with the agency's swift action in establishing a shuttle service to ferry passengers between the airport and the Rosemont Blue Line station while the O'Hare station was closed.
"The CTA, they were right on it," said Phyllis Moore, a security worker at the airport. "The bus service was excellent at getting people back and forth. No chaos."
The reopening of the station was also a welcome surprise for travelers who had arrived last week to find the station closed. Morgan Tocker, who lives in Australia, landed in Chicago on Thursday and rode the shuttle bus to the Rosemont station. He said he was excited Sunday when he learned that he wouldn't have to endure a bus transfer on his journey back to the airport. The train accident sounded like a fluke, he said, and he had no concerns about riding the train into the station.
"I felt fine about it," he said. "I had no hesitation."
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