"Wow. Wow, this is huge," Patrice Barnes, CTA Red Line passenger, said.
The closures include all nine train stations on the Dan Ryan branch of the CTA's Red Line. The closures are part of the $425 million track replacement project on the more than 40-year-old Dan Ryan branch.
"It's going to be horrible. I got to get to work. Public transportation is already scarce as it is, so it's going to be a big setback, got to find another route," Steve Brown, CTA Red Line user, said.
Project will end 'slow zones' on Dan Ryan branch
During the closures, the CTA will offer free shuttle service to the Green Line rail stations, additional bus routes and some discounted bus rides, according to a release from the CTA.
The original plan to do the work on the weekends would take four years. Officials say the five month shutdown will allow for the 10-mile project to be completed more quickly.
The CTA's Red Line was unveiled in 1969. Since then, only basic repairs have been made at South Side stations. The CTA says 40-percent of the tracks are considered "slow zones," which means trains can go only 15 mph through areas where they should be going 55 mph.
"This is the worst track in CTA system, with the most slow zones, the slowest trains. It's unacceptable," CTA President Forest Claypool said.
Crews will replace everything in the track bed from a spot just north of the Cermak-Chinatown station to the 95th Street station, according to the CTA. Some stations will also be remodeled, and stations at Garfield, 63rd and 87th will get elevators, making the full South Side Red Line accessible.
The CTA says the project will lead to faster travel times and better reliability- once the stations are reopened. More than 50,000 passengers take the Dan Ryan branch.
"Riders will shave 20 minutes off their commute from 95th Street to Roosevelt Road," Chicago Transit Board Chairman Terry Peterson, said.
Riders concerned about commute
Berthaniel Norman is one of the 50,000 passengers who take the CTA Red Line on the city's South Side on an average weekday.
"I'm already coming at least two hours before I can get to work now. They shut this down, what do I have to take, four hours to get to my destination where I got to go? How serious is that? What are we going to do?" Norman said. "What are we going to do? How are we going to get to our destination, to our jobs?"
"When they did work on the North Side they didn't shut it down for five months, did they? They found a different way. Well they can do that on the South Side, too," Henry Moore, CTA passenger, said.
Alderman: Closures are 'slight inconvenience'
"This is by far the best option. Nobody wants to be inconvenienced, but would you rather be inconvenienced four to five months or four to five years? Let's rip it up and get it done," Ald. Anthony Beale, chairman of the Chicago City Council Transportation Committee, said.
"It will be a rapid bus to get them from Point A to Point B in a timely manner. It's going to be a slight inconvenience, but not much," Ald. Beale said.
The 5-month Red Line shutdown plan is a surprise to the Chicago White Sox. U.S. Cellular Field has its own stop -- Sox-35th -- which will be closed.
"More than 15-percent of our fans use the Red Line from the north every game. We don't have a plan, but look forward to working with the city and CTA to develop a plan," a team spokesperson told ABC7.
U.S. Representative Bobby Rush said there better be more than faster travel times following the project.
"Jobs, economic development, transit-oriented development, business, professional services contracts," Congressman Rush said.
The CTA says the project will create hundreds of jobs.
CTA to hold public meeting, collecting feedback
CTA officials say they will hold public meetings about the project-- and invites passengers to email concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org or send mail to Red Line South Project, CTA, 567 W. Lake Street, Chicago, IL 60661.
Dan Ryan Red Line Alternatives offered by CTA:
- Free, station-to-station express bus shuttle service travelling between Garfield on the Green Line and 95th/Dan Ryan. Red Line stops at 95th/Dan Ryan, 87th, 79th and 69th will have their own shuttle bus service, continually running directly to Garfield on the Green Line (and back). Additionally, an express shuttle bus will continue to serve riders travelling between stations from 63rd to 95th Streets, making stops at each station.
- Red Line trains will travel on the Green Line tracks, south of Roosevelt, to Ashland/63rd. Red Line trains from Ashland/63rd will operate on the Green Line tracks thru 35th-Bronzeville-IIT and then continue north to Howard via the subway.
- Green Line service will operate between Harlem/Lake and Cottage Grove, with service via downtown. (Some Green Line trains will operate between Harlem/Lake and the Loop, only, which will help reduce the likelihood of delays due to traffic on the parts where Green and Red will share track.)
- Entry at Garfield (Green Line, also with Red Line service) will be free for shuttle bus riders.
- 50 cent discounted bus rides on many South Side bus routes will also be offered.
- In addition, multiple bus routes (both north-south and east-west routes) will provide additional options.