The South branch of the Red Line closes Sunday for five months while it undergoes renovation. Chicago Transit Authority officials say nine stops, also known as the Dan Ryan branch, are in desperate need of repair. The CTA will provide a few backup solutions for the more than 80,000 people who ride each weekday. Other groups like PACE, Metra - even the White Sox franchise - are also lending a hand.
Starting Sunday, service will be shut down between 95th/Dan Ryan and Cermak-Chinatown. According to CTA spokesman Brian Steele, construction crews will rip everything up -- like ties, rails and ballasts - and rebuild the tracks and all but one of the train stations. Steele says the 95th/Dan Ryan stop is scheduled to receive a separate facelift beginning in the first half of 2014.
“Remember that the Red Line South opened in September of 1969, just two months after Neil Armstrong first walked on the moon,” Steele said. “It’s seen, literally, millions of train trips in that time, and has really served the CTA well.
Steele says the Red Line has been patched and fixed over the years, but it’s to the point where the only way to ensure effective operation of the line is to completely rebuild it.
That’s going to take some time - five months, to be exact. Steele says they looked at other options, like closing down only on the weekends, for example, but he says the five-month plan was the most efficient and cost-effective way to complete the project. Steele says once completed, the trackwork will provide faster and more reliable service.
To ease riders’ headaches, the CTA will provide a number of backup options. The CTA website has been upgraded with a trip planner that calculates rerouted directions for commuters. CTA is also offering express buses from four of the closed Red Line stations (95th/Dan Ryan, 87th, 79th and 69th) that will go directly to the Green Line Garfield station. Steele said Green Line service and local bus routes will also provide additional service during peak times.
For riders who think Metra or Pace might be the best option, the three transit agencies are offering a joint fare pass. Riders can buy the cards at stores like CVS or Walgreens. They provide five days of unlimited rides on CTA/Pace and 10 rides on the Metra. The cost of the pass depends on which Metra zone the rider travels to and from.
According to Metra spokesman Michael Gillis, the agency isn’t expecting an influx of riders during the Red Line closures, but says there will certainly be a “settling-in period” as riders figure out which new route works best.
Even the White Sox are chipping in to help potentially disgruntled commuters, as the Sox/35th stop is one of the stops getting a makeover. The team is offering fans discounts on some tickets to the May 20th, 21st and 22nd games against the Boston Red Sox.
Lauren Chooljian is WBEZ’s Morning Producer/Reporter. Follow her @laurenchooljian