CHICAGO (CBS) — Six weeks in, the CTA Red Line South reconstruction project remains on schedule and on budget.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel, CTA President Forrest Claypool, and CTA Chairman Terry Peterson hosted reporters at the shuttered 47th Street Red Line station on Tuesday.
“Everything that you see out here is being ripped out,” Claypool said. “The duct banks, the signal system, the wiring. It’s being dug down to the bones. It’s an unplowed cornfield, and a brand new railroad is being put in its place.”
Trains last traveled on the now-dismantled Red Line on May 19. Plans call for the rebuilt line to be ready Oct. 19.
“They may still think we’re insane for doing what we are doing, but but nobody thought it was possible to take the entire Red Line South and finally not kind of patchwork your way — which would take you years to do — but completely redo the stations as well as the track to make sure that the communities throughout the South Side are connected,” Claypool said.
He said the CTA has hired 400 bus drivers and 700 “ambassadors” to help riders find alternate routes, and has given 1,000 construction workers jobs.
Emanuel called it a “once in a generation project,” and said he spoke with one rider who said the express buses from closed Red Line stations are delivering him to work 25 minutes faster than the Red Line itself did before being closed.
“It does tell you how bad the train was, that a bus on the streets of the city of Chicago was moving faster than the train,” Emanuel said.
He said faster travel times will be “the norm” when the Red Line South reopens, and said riders have been “very supportive of the project.”
The CTA is offering free shuttle buses between Red Line stations south of 69th Street and the Garfield Green Line station; riders also board free at Garfield.
While the Red Line had undergone lesser renovations as recently as 2004, the complete rebuilding of the line is the first undertaken since it opened in 1969.