The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) kicked off the Red Line South Reconstruction Project, a $425 million rebuilding of the Red Line South rail line, which officially began around 2 a.m. Sunday and is one of the largest construction projects in CTA’s history.
The CTA has temporarily ceased service along the 10.2-mile Red Line branch between Cermak-Chinatown to 95th Street for five months to build a brand new railroad from the ground up. The reconstruction will speed up round-trips between 95th Street and downtown and provide South Side customers with a smoother ride and fewer service interruptions through better reliability and on-time performance.
The five-month shutdown will allow the work to be completed in the quickest, most cost-efficient manner. By doing the work over five months versus on weekends over four years, the CTA will save $75 million, money it is investing into rehabilitating eight of nine rail stations along the Red Line South branch. The ninth station, 95th Street Terminal, will be reconstructed in a separate, $240 million project next year.
The Red Line South project includes replacing all railroad ties, rails, third rail, drainage and communications systems, and ballast, the stone material that holds the ties in place. Station work includes lighting replacement or refurbishment; new signage, floor reglazing/repair; painting; cleaning; and new elevators at the Garfield, 63rd and 87th stations.
“The CTA will provide our customers with a brand new railroad that will reduce round-trip commutes by 20 minutes and make traveling along the Red Line South a smoother, more reliable and more comfortable experience,” said CTA President Forest Claypool. “We fully understand the impact this will have on our customers in the short-term and appreciate their patience, and are fully prepared to offer ample service alternatives to get them to where they need to go.”
Built in 1969, the south Red Line tracks are well beyond their expected lifespan. Despite ongoing repairs and maintenance, with more than 40 percent of the branch including slow zones in which trains must travel well below the designed speed limit. In some cases, trains that would normally travel up to 55 mph are instead running at 15 mph.
The project is part of Mayor Emanuel’s Building a New Chicago infrastructure renewal program. Funding for the work is part of more than $1 billion in federal, state and local funding announced in late 2011 by Gov. Pat Quinn and Mayor Emanuel for the Red and Purple lines. The Governor’s Illinois Jobs Now! capital program is providing more than $700 million of the total investment.
To help CTA customers plan alternative travel during the project, the CTA is offering multiple travel options to help passengers find alternative travel routes.