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Five-Month Shutdown Looming For South End Of CTA Red Line

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A CTA Red Line train pulls into the Cermak/Chinatown stop. (Credit: CBS)

A CTA Red Line train pulls into the Cermak/Chinatown stop. (Credit: CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – It’s almost the end of the line for Red Line service on the South Side ahead of a massive construction project slated to begin on Sunday.

Commuters who use the Red Line will be forced to find an alternate route to work or school for the next five months, while the tracks on the Dan Ryan branch of the Red Line are replaced to eliminate slow zones that hamper the commute on the CTA’s busiest train line.

CTA spokesman Steve Mayberry said, “What we’re saying is this: if you’ll give us 150 days — and we know its an inconvenience — we’ll give you 40 years of a brand new Red Line.”

The CTA is replacing tracks that are more than 40 years old, and 42 percent of the tracks between the Roosevelt and 95th Street stations have been designated as “slow zones,” meaning trains must slow from a top speed of 55 mph to no more than 15 mph.

“It goes so slow, and the passengers get so frustrated,” one CTA train operator said.

RELATED: CTA’s Red Line South Trip Planner
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WBBM’s Nancy Harty reports some Red Line riders said they still haven’t figured out exactly what they’ll do on Monday morning, when they have to go to work or school, but all Red Line stations south of Roosevelt will be closed.

Eddie Myers plotted a new course last month when he learned of the massive reconstruction project. He said it’s actually faster.

“I was pleasantly surprised, because I should have been doing this sooner,” he said.

Myers said taking the bus from 79th Street and Western Avenue to 103rd Street and Cottage Grove Avenue – and skipping the Red Line, with its slow zone – shaved 15 to 20 minutes off his commute.

“It’s going to work. You just have to make it work,” he said.

The Red Line will be shut down south of the Roosevelt station starting Sunday. Service south of Roosevelt will be shifted to Green Line tracks.

The CTA will be providing free express shuttle buses from the closed Red Line stations at the 95th, 87th, 79th, 69th street stations directly to the Green Line station on Garfield Boulevard.

The CTA will not charge riders who board the Green Line at Garfield throughout the Red Line project.

There will also be free shuttle buses connecting the five Red Line stations between 95th Street and 63rd Street every day from 4 a.m. to 1 a.m. A local “Owl Service” shuttle will also connect the six stations between Garfield and 95th street between 1 a.m. and 4 a.m.

Further, the CTA is doubling from 100 to 200 the number of buses operating in the areas served by the Red Line, and offering a 50 cent discount on those routes during the entirety of the project.

CTA officials have said the track replacement will eliminate the slow zones on the Red Line, and make the ride from the 95th Street station to Roosevelt 10 minutes shorter.

Other riders said, while they’re not happy with the prospect of adding 30 minutes to an hour to their commute, they acknowledged they have been made aware the change is coming.

Rhonda Tillman said she plans to give herself an extra 30 minute on Monday when her daily commute will go from two buses and the Red Line train to three buses and the Green Line.

“I take the 70/Division to the Red Line usually, but now I have to take the 53/Pulaski to the Green Line and go over to Garfield and take the express to 95th, and then I still take the 115,” she said.

Tillman said the fact the shutdown comes over the spring and summer, when the weather is warmer and the sky brighter, is the reason she’ll keep going to see clients that require her multi-modal trip.

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