Reporting Bob Roberts
(CBS) — The CTA has set May 19 as the date it will shut down the south branch of the Red Line, between Roosevelt and 95th. But it is hoping to keep riders by offering many of them free rides.
CTA President Forrest Claypool said Thursday that entry to the rapid transit system from the Garfield Green Line station will be free throughout the construction, scheduled to continue until Oct. 19.
In addition, riders will be offered free express shuttle buses linking Garfield with the Red Line stations at 95th, 87th, 79th and 69th streets. A free local Red Line bus shuttle will operate between 95th and the Garfield Green Line station, making all stops. Yet another free bus shuttle will operate between the Cermak-Chinatown and Roosevelt stations.
During construction, Red Line trains will be routed to and from the 63rd/Ashland elevated terminal. All Green Line trains will terminate and originate at the Cottage Grove station.
CTA will charge regular fares on its other lines and at all other stations, so Claypool anticipates the cost in free rides to be only $7.3 million for the duration of the project. But it will transform the sleepy Garfield Green Line station, which normally serves only 1,300 riders a day, into a busy terminal that will host 13,000 riders — a 1,000 percent increase.
Spokesman Brian Steele said that a four-bay bus terminal is being built, extra stairways are being added in both directions and fare collection equipment will be removed, at a cost of between $3 million and $4 million.
Claypool said the free rides are one way to mitigate what he concedes will be a five-month pain for riders. He said the Red Line carries a third of the riders on the Rapid Transit system on any given day.
“It is ripping out everything that exists today from 95th to 22nd and building a brand new railroad for the benefit of our customers,” he said.
Metra and CTA also will provide a joint 10-ride Metra and five-day CTA pass. Steele said that the price will vary, depending on the Metra stations used, but for Metra Zone B the price will be $52, $64.50 for Zone C and $74.50 for Zone C.
CTA has not offered a five-day pass for some time, and Steele said there are no plans to offer it separately from the Metra 10-ride ticket.
CTA officials said they expect the rebuild to last as long as 40 years, although CTA is reverting to the use of creosote-treated oak ties. The wooden ties, which hold the rails in place, are expected to last between 25 and 30 years, said CTA General Manager/Construction Bob Wittman.
Motorists will see temporary lane closures on the innermost express lane of the Ryan from approximately 8 p.m. until 6 a.m. on weekdays, and on weekends. Steele said the specific closures will depend upon the stretch of track being worked upon that night.
Claypool predicted that the work will enable CTA to shave 20 minutes off of the round trip between Roosevelt and 95th.
CTA launched an expanded project website Thursday, redlinesouth.com, and a corresponding Twitter account, @redlinesouth, that riders can follow for news and information on the project.