Sandwiched between two South Loop crises

First responders galore recently on State Street

02/14/2012 8:02 AM

By Bonnie McGrath

4 Comments - Add Your Comment

Emergency vehicles responding recently to a Red Line derailment in the middle of the night (WGN photo)

This was responsible for a big gas leak yesterday (CBS photo)

It all started in the wee hours last Thursday. I was packing it in at my usual late, late, late hour when I noticed red and blue lights were blazing and flashing on State Street, north of Roosevelt. The entire block in front of State Place, from 11th Street to Roosevelt was shut down to traffic and oodles of fire trucks, police cars and ambulances were two, three and four deep in the street. A fire at FFC? Someone smoking in bed in a condo? A murder-by-bombing in the Red Line station? I wanted to call 9-1-1 to find out but I figured they don't take questions--only crime reports. And 3-1-1? Would they know? Would they be there?

My curiosity was assuaged first thing in the morning when reports started to fly in about a minor Red Line derailment at Roosevelt; an ensuing small fire; and two riders hospitalized briefly when their asthma was aggravated by smoke.

Then yesterday morning, while a State Street neighbor and I were catching up via phone, State Street from Roosevelt to 16th Street was closed down after a boulder fell from the train embankment of the St. Charles Airline that runs along 15th Street--all 1600 pounds of it. It hit and damaged a gas line at State Street and created a "HazMat" situation, necessitating the evacuation of the Overflow Coffee Bar (which, by the way, has been hosting neighborhood events up a storm lately).

I have often walked under the viaduct next to where this all happened and worried that something would fall from the pre-turn of the 20th Century structure. And it finally happened.

All's well that ends well, of course. And everything is back to normal to the north of me and to the south of me. But the neighbors and I sure did get a taste of urban disaster of late--albeit stifled--at Roosevelt and State.

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By Another SL Parent from South Loop
Posted: 02/24/2012 1:57 PM

Interesting, I did not know that. The parts that I usually see from Wabash all the way into the empty lands west of Clark have not had any repairs for year, on the rail or the bridges underneath. Agree though that it will take a long time before that line is cleared..unfortunately.

By Rob Latham from Near South Side
Posted: 02/24/2012 9:13 AM

Hi SL Parent. CN is definitely maintaining the Air Line. This summer they replaced the ancient bridge over the alley between Wabash and Michigan. A year prior, they replaced the bridge over the alley between Michigan and Indiana. Some day there may no longer be any trains on the line but that's way off in the future.

By Another SL Parent from South Loop
Posted: 02/17/2012 2:13 PM

Thanks for reporting on these stories Bonnie. That boulder can hopefully signal the end of the dilapidated St. Charles line. This stretch is not being maintained since CN is working to get out of St. Charles and don\'t want to maintain it anymore. I wonder how long before a bolder lands on someone\'s head with law suites to ensue.

By Amanda from South Loop
Posted: 02/14/2012 5:15 PM

Bonnie, thanks for making sure people know what happened down here on State Street yesterday. I would add that the response time of the Fire Department & Police Department was remarkable. They were here fast. They, especially the firemen, communicated really well. Then People's Gas jumped in to make the necessary repairs. All in all, our building had our heat turned back on around 7pm. Gives me a more confidence with the G8 Summit approaching. -Amanda, Co-owner of Overflow Coffee Bar