Updated 07/21/11 – 6:40 p.m.

CHICAGO (STMW) — Hundreds of rush hour commuters packed downtown Red Line stations, some ditching public transit in an attempt to get home as crews scrambled to repair tracks damaged by excessive heat Thursday evening.

About 5 p.m., the CTA announced said delays were “possible” during the rush hour along the Red Line due to a track defect caused by the excessive heat.

Red Line trains are operating on a single track between the Cermak-Chinatown and the Sox-35th stations to allow crews to repair the tracks, a release from the CTA said. With trains in both directions sharing the one track, they must stop to allow each other to pass, which adds to travel time.

The agency advised commuters to allow extra travel time, or if possible, to use alternate travel options. By 6 p.m. however, the CTA website was calling the delays “significant.”

Bus shuttles are running from Roosevelt to 47th Street. Shuttle service will make all Red Line stops both northbound and southbound. And repairs are expected to be completed later Thursday evening, the CTA said.

Kelley Quinn, among the hundreds of commuters trying to get out of downtown, said she waited 30 minutes at the Lake Street Red Line stop before a CTA staffer finally announced there was a problem.

Commuters were told that riders heading south would have to take a shuttle bus to Roosevelt and northbound passengers would also need to go above ground and find another mode of transportation, she said.

Quinn said there were probably 200 people waiting before CTA staff made the announcement. Some people left, while others remained on the platform, including some elderly commuters, she said.

“Some people waited because, who can afford a cab ride home? Not everyone can afford a cab,” said Quinn.

“It was brutal down there,” she said. “It was like being in a furnace — hot, hot air and then all these people with little kids. There were tourists, elderly people there. It was not good.”

Unable to hop on a northbound bus — because they were jam packed — Quinn caught a cab at Illinois and State, about a mile north of the Lake station.

“My meter in the cab is at $17.85 and I’m not even home yet,” Quinn said just after 6 p.m.. “That’s how much my $2.25 CTA fare card did for me today.”

“I’m upset now that I have to spend $25 on a cab ride because I can’t get on a bus and get home,” said Quinn, who works for Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios.

“The CTA obviously wasn’t prepared for this heat,” she said, offering a dig at Berrios’ political rival Forrest Claypool, who now runs the CTA.

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2010. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)