Updated 06/13/12 – 6:18 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — CTA officials have been working hard behind the scenes to have some answers to placate South Side Red Line riders when two public hearings take place next week on the reconstruction project, and its scheduled five month shutdown.
“Folks from Altgeld Gardens could face three-hour trips to get to their jobs downtown,” said rider Michael Payne, in comments to the CTA’s board Wednesday.
He said a bus-dependent plan is fraught with problems in the event of accidents and the inevitable rush-hour traffic tie-ups.
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CTA Chairman Terry Peterson said that has already been anticipated, and said Thursday that he has initiated talks at the highest level to minimize problems.
He said he has met with Acting Metra Chairman Larry Huggins and that CTA President Forrest Claypool and Metra CEO Alex Clifford also have spoken.
The focus is how Metra can adjust schedules on its Electric and Rock Island Districts to accommodate more riders.
The Electric District’s lines, in particular, were built for far more riders than it carries today. Payne suggested setting up CTA fare equipment at Electric District stations and letting riders use either fare card.
Huggins asked Payne for a detailed proposal.
The first hearing of the hearings will occur 6-8 p.m. Monday at the South Shore Cultural Center, 7059 S. South Shore Dr. CTA will host a second hearing at the same time Thursday in the gymnasium of Kennedy-King College, at 6343 S. Halsted St.
CTA will reroute Red Line trains to the Green Line, and close the south Red Line stations from Cermak/Chinatown to 95th, for complete track reconstruction and other upgrades. The $425 million project is the second round of heavy overhaul on the line since 2004, although CTA officials say this will be the most complete renovation since the line opened in 1969.
Peterson said his goal is to operate trains, without slow zones, at a minimum of 55 miles an hour. The shutdown will allow the work to be completed in five months instead of an estimated four years if limited to off-peak and weekend hours. CTA expects train schedules to be shortened by 10 minutes once the work is completed in the fall of 2013.
The CTA will also provide shuttle buses to Green Line rail stations as an alternative during the Red Line project. The closures affect nine stations, between the 95th Street terminal and the Roosevelt ‘L’ station. (See map below)