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CTA Red Line reconstruction officially underway

May 19, 2013 8:19:02 PM PDT
The Red Line reconstruction project has begun. It changes the travel plans for tens of thousands of Chicagoans for the next five months.

"It's bumpy. It's slow. It's unreliable. There are points where you can't go more than 15mph. You can bicycle faster," said Tammy Chase, CTA spokesperson.

For anyone who rides the CTA's Red Line south branch on a regular basis, that statement says it all. For 44 years, the Red Line south has gone untouched- but will face an overhaul over the next five months.

CTA President Forrest Claypool discussed the changes at a press conference Sunday morning.

"The Red Line opened when Armstrong walked the moon. This is a unique project which will result in a complete rebuild of the railroad," Claypool said.

He warned commuters to be prepared to make adjustments.

"We ask our customers to recognize that it's the beginning of the project and to allow for extra time for the morning commute. Be conservative in the extra time you allot," Claypool said.

As of early Sunday morning, ten miles of track and nine stations from Cermak-Chinatown to 95th Street are closed.

Volunteers have been handing out pamphlets explaining the list of alternatives the CTA has put in place, including free bus shuttles from 95th to 69th which will run to the Garfield Green Line station. The shuttle buses are running express from 95th, 87th, 79th and 69th street to Garfield. The station has been expanded to act as a new hub during the construction.

"In this condensed amount of time we can rip it from the ground up. All the way to the dirt and we're going to put brand new everything," said Chase.

"It's a good thing and it's a bad thing too," said rider Elaine McCorkle.

Riders say their main concern is the time added to their daily commute.

"I already leave an hour early before I have to be at work. Now I have to leave two hours early," said Hoy Jackson, rider.

"It's probably going to take like 45 minutes more, but it's temporary," said Patricia Miller, rider.

"At first I was a little concerned, 'oh my gosh how am I going to make it to my destination?', but I actually took less time than with the Red Line when there is a regular route," CTA rider Reginald Arrington said.

Red Line rider Cynthia White grew frustrated with the situation as she tried to get to church Sunday morning.

"It's the timing on it. It's the timing with this. It's real inconvenient for someone going from the West Side trying to go to the South Side," White said.

Officials say the CTA recognizes that this will be a major disruption, but add that the bus routes are in place for the convenience of commuters.

"From Garfield green you will be able to take the train for free, all five months. It's doesn't matter who you are, where you are coming from. . . We're also doing 50 cent bus discounts for the east-west routes that are there now," said Chase.

The project, once completed, is expected to decrease Red Line travel time by 20 minutes, according to the CTA.

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