Nightmare on Lake Street: 40 years after the worst CTA crash in history

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On February 4, 1977, two CTA elevated trains collided in Chicago’s Loop during rush hour on a Friday night, sending car after car onto the street below at Lake and Wabash. To this day, it’s the worst CTA crash in history.

And, as WGN’s transportation reporter Sarah Jindra reports, Chicagoans who saw and worked the crash site, carry those images to this day.

The National Transportation Safety Board ruled the cause of the crash human error. But, trains that once shared tracks in the loop and could operate in both directions, are now separated. Despite the carnage, the wreckage was cleared and trains running -on time- by 6:30 the next morning.

On the 40th anniversary, the CTA issued this statement:                                                 "Safety is the Chicago Transit Authority's number one priority, as evidenced by the fact that we have one of the strongest safety records of any major transit agency in the nation. In the four decades since this unfortunate incident occurred, a number of improvements have been made to our infrastructure, operations and employee training. We remain committed to further strengthening an already strong, long-standing safety structure and culture at CTA."

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Producer Pam Grimes and photojournalists Reed Nolan, Mike D'Angelo, and Eric Melcher contributed to this report.

WGN-TV would like to thank the Chicago Tribune for sharing their historic photographs.

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