Countdown to shutdown for South Side Red Line
Feb 22, 2013 (Chicago Tribune - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Attention riders of the Red Line on Chicago's South Side: CTA officials issued a reminder Thursday that there are just 86 days left of normal service before you will need to make alternate plans for five months.
On May 19, the CTA plans to cut service to the nine southernmost stations of the Red Line to begin a $425 million reconstruction project. The project, announced last June, is the largest reconstruction project in CTA history.
On Thursday, CTA Chairman Terry Peterson and CTA President Forrest Claypool unveiled the specifics of alternative-route options for South Side commuters. Among the variety of options, riders will be able to hop on Red Line trains at the Green Line at Garfield free of charge.
Starting in May, the Green Line tracks between Ashland/63rd and Roosevelt Road will carry Red Line trains, Claypool said. There will also be free shuttle buses from closed Red Line stations at 69th, 79th , 87th and 95th streets to the Garfield Green Line station, Claypool said.
Officials estimate the foot traffic at the Garfield Green Line station will go from its current 1,300 commuters a day to nearly 13,000 a day starting May 19.
Peterson and Claypool, as well as officials from the Chicago Police Department, Pace and Metra, met Thursday morning at the Garfield Green Line station to discuss the alternate transit options and additional community outreach efforts to take place during construction.
Bus rides south of 63rd Street will be discounted by 50 cents, and extended and supplemental bus service will run along certain bus routes, officials said Thursday. Expanded service is planned for north-south routes that include Halsted Street, Ashland Avenue, King Drive, State Street and Cottage Grove Avenue, among others.
The project is to completely rebuild the tracks and improve stations along the 10-mile stretch of the Red Line. When completed this fall, officials estimate the construction project will shave 20 minutes off a round-trip ride between the 95th Street and Roosevelt stations.
Chatham neighborhood resident Dorothee Butts, 60, said she sees how reconstruction of the Red Line will improve service in the long run, but said she doesn't understand why CTA couldn't have worked on the project station-by-station instead of completely cutting service. Butts said she's afraid the expanded bus service routes are going to be overcrowded and chaotic.
"I just see mass confusion occurring," said Butts, who takes the Red Line regularly to her job at Kennedy King College. "I just don't think it's worth the headache it's going to cause."
Butts said she attended a community meeting held by CTA lastsummer and said she doesn't think the construction project or updates have been properly communicated to South Side residents.
"The Red Line is the bloodline that feeds into the South Side," Butts said. "It's not just the commuters who will be affected, but also the schools, hospitals and shopping centers. It's going to widely affect our area."
Karen Youngblood, senior project manager at the Black United Fund of Illinois, said she thinks CTA has done its part to communicate effectively with South Side residents about the upcoming temporary service cuts.
"I can't give (CTA) a bad report. They have been communicating," said Youngblood, whose office is in the South Shore neighborhood. "A part of our community isn't Internet-savvy, but the Internet is the information highway. We're all walking around with cellphones. There are many ways to receive information."
Youngblood said South Side residents can sign up for email alerts from CTA about community meetings or service changes if they don't regularly read or watch the news.
"If that's the way information is being disseminated, people need to get on board," Youngblood said. "People are frustrated about the information because they're not checking all of the sources out there. The digital divide is real."
On Thursday, the CTA launched an expanded website about the project, redlinesouth.com, and a corresponding Twitter account, @redlinesouth, that riders can follow for news and information on the project, Claypool said.
Additional resources planned for the service cuts include Chicago police officers normally assigned to patrol duty on the Red Line's south end to be redeployed to the bus staging areas as well as to the Garfield Green Line station, officials said Thursday.
Baseball fans who normally took the Red Line to the 35th Street/Sox station adjacent to U.S. Cellular Field can now take the Green Line to 35th Street/Bronzeville or take a Metra train, Claypool said.
Mike Connelly, vice president of planning for CTA, said the Green Line will continue to run to Cottage Grove during the construction period. Green Line riders who need to travel to 63rd Street/Ashland can transfer to a Red Line train.
Claypool said the Red Line is the "backbone of the CTA" and serves one-third of all CTA rail customers.
"It will be a smoother, more comfortable ride without the bumps and shakes that they're accustomed to today," he said.
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