What will riders find when the tracks are back in service? A smoother ride and fewer delays. That's what CTA is promising, once the Garfield stop and others along the South Side Red Line reopen.
On Thursday, the Red Line was once again rolling through the South Side.
The ride was just for the media but starting on Sunday, these train cars will be full of riders.
"I'm excited. Can't wait for them to actually open up," said Shawanakee Jackson, CTA rider.
A crowd of elected officials crammed into the Garfield stop to announce the five-month, $425 million renovation project had been completed on time and on budget.
"We brought the CTA and the Red Line South into the 21st century," said Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
"There's no stopping us now. Chicago is on the move," said U.S. Rep. Danny Davis (D-Chicago, Western Suburbs).
The makeover began last May, shutting down a 10-mile stretch of stops from Cermak to 95th. CTA tried to fill the gaps with shuttle buses and by running Red Line trains on a portion of the Green Line.
"It's been really kind of hard. The buses are always jam-packed and late. So I'm kind of glad the Red Line will be up and running," said Jackson.
"Nothing beats the train. The train gets you there, comes on time. I don't like the buses," said Stephen Harris, CTA rider.
In addition to track work, stations received new lighting, paint, and information boards.
Losing the Cermak stop was inconvenient to many Chinatown residents, but fears that it would lead to empty restaurants and stores proved unfounded.
"I think that Chinatown is always going to be a big draw, no matter if there's a transportation issue," said Sharyne Tu, Chicago Chinatown Chamber of Commerce.
On Thursday, the train ride was quick and smooth, in contrast to the old Red Line, which was plagued by slow zones.
"This community has not embraced the CTA as it's doing today in quite a long time," said U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Chicago, South Suburbs).
By doing the work seven days a week over five months instead of just on weekends over the course of four years, CTA says it saved 75-million dollars. That money was reinvested in station improvements, including an elevator here at the Garfield stop.