Prepare For Delays: South Branch Of Red Line Will Shut Down For Five Months In 2013

By Chuck Sudo in News on Jun 4, 2012 6:00PM

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The 95th Street Red Line station will be very quiet for the five months in 2013. (Photo Credit: Curtis Locke

If you live on the South side and rely on the Red Line for transit, today's announcement by the Chicago Transit Authority that the entire South branch of the Red Line—from Cermak/Chinatown all the way to 95th Street—will be shut down for five months next year so a complete overhaul of the line can be completed will leave you shaking your head in either frustration or apathy.

CTA spokesman Brian Steele admitted this decision will "obviously create significant impacts for commuters." (Obviously.) At this point, however, it was either continue with the weekend and evening track work that's barely managing to hold the Red Line's South branch together or shut it down, rebuild it completely, and save $75 million in the process and increase travel times between 95th Street and Chinatown by 10 minutes. The work will be funded by $1 billion in federal grants announced last November by Gov. Pat Quinn and Mayor Rahm Emanuel, part of which is also being used to renovate and rehab stations on the North branch of the Red Line

Given that 50,000 people on the South side rely on the Red Line to get them where they're going on a daily basis, that is one hell of a bullet to bite and we have to ask if a similar scenario was entertained on the North side. But the South branch of the Red Line hasn't been an afterthought for decades; this may have unfortunately become a necessity. The other option, which would have kept the branch open but reserve much of the rehab work to weekends, would have taken four years to complete. Anyone who's ever had the privilege of riding the Red Line past Chinatown can attest that a bicyclist can outpace a train at some points along the South branch. CTA said they would offer free shuttle service to South side passengers reliant on the Red Line at the 69th Street, 79th Street and 87th Street stations to get them to the Green Line.

This raises another question: why not use those shuttles on the shoulder of the Dan Ryan during morning and evening rush hours? There is so much about this plan that is unlikeable on the surface.