What's up with that?
Q What’s up with the CTA’s downtown tracks being painted maroon, like at Jackson Boulevard and Wabash Avenue?
A The color that coats the steel structure isn’t maroon, it’s “bordeaux,” and it’s part of a larger scheme to spruce up the Wabash corridor between Wacker Drive and Harrison Street. The tracks are in the hands of the Chicago Department of Transportation, not the Chicago Transit Authority: The $23 million project improvements, which began last July and will be completed next summer, also will include new street lighting, sidewalks, planters and even sconcelike accent lights on some of the vertical steel pillars. “The thinking was to develop an identity for the Wabash corridor that for decades has been home to a lot of businesses, like Jewelers Row,” says Brian Steele, spokesman for CDOT, which worked closely with the Chicago Loop Alliance. The downtown work is similar to CDOT’s streetscaping projects in other parts of the city, like Halsted Street in Boystown, Clark Street in Andersonville and 79th Street in Auburn-Gresham. But painting the train tracks—with the same color that’s covered the downtown bridges since the late ’80s—isn’t just aesthetic, Steele says. “Like with the bridge painting, the [finish] is functional. It’s long-lasting and weather-resistant, and will help prevent the deterioration of the steel structure, which is 100 years old.” If only a paint job could patch up all of the CTA’s problems.
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