Red Line reconstruction slated to finish on time, on budget in October

August 28, 2013 (CHICAGO)

Katherine DeFrance will be quite happy when the Red Line is up and running again. The reconstruction project has meant a bus and train combination that has extended her daily travel time.

"I usually leave about 6, 6:30. Now I have to get up at 5:30 to try to get downtown by 8. Long day, yes," said Katherine DeFrance, Red Line rider.

The end of a longer day for Katherine and thousands of other Red Line riders is in sight. The 20-mile, $400 million rebuild is on time and on budget.

"We had roughly 200,000 tons of ballast that had to go out and 200,000 tons that had to come in," said Chris Bushell, chief information officer for the CTA.

It is a project of huge proportion and much of it has been done at night. Contractors dug up the entire right of way down to the clay beneath it. They've installed 100 miles of cable, all the electrical and communication lines, and on top of that has come new ballast. It's granite, stronger and more angular than the old limestone that was here before. Most significantly, it will drain far better.

"So we think this granite is going to give us a better product, a longer, better service life and we hope it will give our customers a better ride as well because it's going to stay in position," said Bushell.

After years of slow zones and rotted ties, the Red Line will return to 55 miles an hour on the track.

The project is on time, on schedule for opening on October 19," said Bushell.

"If it comes in the way they say it will, that will be perfect," said DeFrance.

Whenever there's a big construction project, there's always a falloff in ridership as riders find alternate means of transportation. But in this case, the trick for the CTA is winning back those riders. It's a much easier sell when you have trains that run faster and smoother than they used to.

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