After five months of construction and passenger reroutes, the Chicago Transit Authority's Red Line South Branch reopened Sunday on schedule, and riders had mixed emotions about the changes.
“I love it, I love it,” said rider Landry White. “I’m so glad because this is my transportation up north and back home.
“I haven’t noticed a different to be honest” said rider Amy Dellagiarino.
Nine stations and 10 miles of crumbling track south of Roosevelt Road were shut down since May, making way for one of the largest construction projects in the transit agency's history. The $425 million project completely rebuilt the railroad tracks and upgraded eight of the stations.
“The reconstruction of the Red Line South is an historic investment in both the Red Line—the backbone of the CTA rail system—as well as the many communities it serves on Chicago’s South Side,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “This brand-new railroad will provide faster and more comfortable commutes, and is an important step toward creating a 21st century transit experience for commuters.”
CTA officials say the new tracks will also help rider shave time off their commutes.
"What it means is a daily roundtrip commute that is up to 20 minutes faster every, single day," said CTA spokesman Steve Mayberry.
"The 20 minutes downtown to Roosevelt is what I needed most," said White.
Officials previously said the Red Line had exceeded its expected lifespan and 40 percent of the 10-mile span was considered a "slow zone."
“It was pretty quick. I was pretty surprised actually," said rider Poisea Oisdossou. “It was really good."
And city officials agreed.
“This historic project created more than 1,500 jobs and built a new Red Line that is faster, more efficient and easier to use for tens of thousands of people who will ride on it every day,” Gov. Pat Quinn said.
Quinn's office said the CTA was the first agency in the country to completely rip out and replace such a large stretch of railroad in such a tight time-frame.
Condensing the work, instead of completing it on weekends over four years, saved the city $75 million, Quinn said.
“The rebuilding of the Red Line’s South Branch was a large and ambitious undertaking," Sen. Dick Durbin said. "As the line reopens, South Siders will see the patience they’ve shown during its construction rewarded by more reliable service, modernized stations, and much quicker trips to downtown and the North Side."
The Red Line South originally opened in 1969. This project reconstructed the section "from the ground up," with all new rails, ties, ballast and signaling equipment.
“South Side riders now have a brand-new railroad, rebuilt from the ground up," CTA President Claypool said, "that will provide a much more pleasant, comfortable and reliable ride. It will provide a much quicker commute for the 80,000 riders who use the Red Line South on an average weekday."