UPDATED: 10/17/2013 4:15 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — The rebuilt south branch of the CTA’s Red Line will reopen on Sunday, and transit officials on Thursday offered a preview of what’s in store for riders.
CTA president Forest Claypool said completion of the $425 million project is historic.
“Never in the past had we or any other railroad closed 10 miles of a busy rail line completely and rebuilt it in just five months,” he said.
The bumpy tracks and slow zones have been eliminated.
Gov. Pat Quinn took a ride along the new line on Thursday and praised the CTA for hiring South Side residents and companies to work on the project.
“1,500 men and women got jobs on this project and public transit means jobs,” Quinn said.
Officials said many of the jobs will remain after the trains start running in just a few days.
The entire south branch from Chinatown to 95th street was demolished and completely redone to allow trains to travel faster.
Crews replaced ties, rail, third rail, ballast and drainage systems. Some stations received new canopies, paint and improved lighting.
The CTA estimates that travel times will be reduced by up to 20 minutes now that the notorious slow zones over dilapidated track have been eliminated.
The five-month shutdown was, at one time, controversial–with riders angry that their commute would be a nightmare.
Turns out riders got used to the express shuttle buses to the Green Line.
“For me this is much faster,” one rider said.
Come Monday, the buses will be gone, and South Side commuters will enjoy the benefits of a huge investment in a part of the city that had long felt ignored and unappreciated.
“A long history of injustice, that’s a backdrop for this project,” Claypool said as he rode a train on the new line. “This project we did it right. African Americans participated in the construction.
“This project to me is single most important I’ve been involved in. This is a symbol of what Chicago can be. And what it should be.”