A Red Line train moves north to the 95th Street stop in 2010. (Jose M. Osorio / June 4, 2012)
By Jon Hilkevitch
11:48 a.m. CDT, June 4, 2012
The entire south branch of the CTA Red Line will close for five months starting in spring 2013, with the transit agency offering free shuttle bus service to Green Line rail stations, so a $425 million track replacement project can be completed more quickly, officials said Monday.
The decision to close the Red Line from the Cermak-Chinatown station to the 95th Street terminal was made to condense the reconstruction from four years of weekend work to five months total, said CTA spokeswoman Molly Sullivan.
She acknowledged it will cause inconvenience to riders, but that the benefits of the project will come on line sooner.
“Dragging out the project would be delaying faster service by more than three years,’’ Sullivan said, adding that slow zones are in effect on 40 percent of the Dan Ryan branch of the Red Line.
Completing the work in five months by shutting down the entire south branch, instead of four years of operating the line on weekdays only, will also save $75 million, Sullivan said.
The savings will also allow for some station upgrades, including elevators at three stations, she said.
The CTA is making the announcement now to get the word out and begin “extensive community outreach,’’ Sullivan said.
“We decided to make this announcement as early as we could to engage the community about the impacts of the project and (let people know about) the opportunity for jobs,’’ Sullivan said. “We will be seeking feedback from the community and planning town hall-style meetings.’’
The track system work will improve customer service by reducing the amount of slow zones, while also cutting operating costs for the transit agency, transit officials have said. Slow zones are currently needed to permit trains to travel safely on deteriorated sections of track.
The south branch of the Red Line has the highest slow zone percentage on the entire CTA rail system.
New steel rails, ties and ballast will be installed and drainage improvements made between the State Street subway portal, which is north of the Cermak-Chinatown station, and the 95th Street terminal, according to the CTA’s plan.
The project follows a 2006 project that upgraded signals, a portion of the power system and included some work on tracks and stations.
More than 50,000 riders board trains on the south branch of the Red Line on an average weekday, CTA statistics show.