Red Line riders get set for 5-month construction project: ‘It’s going to be crazy’
By ROSALIND ROSSI and MAUDLYNE IHEJIRIKA Staff Reporters May 6, 2013 8:54PM
Updated: June 8, 2013 6:41AM
One set of CTA L riders waved construction hassles goodby Monday as another braced for the May 19 start of one of the largest reconstruction projects in CTA history.
Commuters fretted Monday about how they would deal with the upcoming shutdown of the Red Line — from Cermak to 95th Street.
Details of a project set to begin in less than two weeks caught other CTA riders by surprise, despite months of publicity and warnings.
“It won’t end until October? I don’t know what I’m going to do,’’ said Luevilla Hunter, 59, a floating home care worker who thinks she’ll have to take two extra buses because the 95th Street Red Line stop will be closed.
“I thought it started in the summer. It’s in May? And till October? That’s a long way to go.’’
On Monday, reroutes for Brown and Purple Express Line riders ended after two nine-day shutdowns of the Wells Street Bridge.
Though Red Line commuters said they knew about the reconstruction project, many had not yet figured out their alternative plans. And some who had were none too pleased about it.
“It’s just going to be a real inconvenience,’’ said Darien Allen, 29, of Englewood, who estimated that the shutdown of the 55th Street station will add an hour to his commute.
CTA officials are stepping up their outreach campaign this week, placing doorhanger pamphlets about the project at 45,000 households.
Huge red banners at all nine affected Red Line stops will alert passengers to call 1 (888) yourCTA with questions; to tweet queries to @redlinesouth, or to visit the trip planner at redlinesouth.com.
The website already has gotten 200,000 page views since its launch last June and that number will likely jump 50 percent or more in the next two weeks as the May 19 shutdown nears, CTA spokesman Brian Steele predicted.
“The closer the project gets, the more people start paying attention to the details of their commute,’’ Steele said.
“CTA Ambassadors’’ in bright red T-shirts have been visiting the nine affected Red Line stops since May 1, offering one-on-one help to commuters during the evening rush hour.
The extra help will be needed. Several commuters interviewed by the Chicago Sun-Times on Monday failed to grasp some of the finer details of the shutdown.
Those details include that only the four southernmost Red Line stops will offer free shuttle buses to the Green Line’s Garfield Station, and — the good news — all L rides out of the Garfield station will be free from May 19 to Oct. 19, even if passengers do not arrive there on free shuttles.
“That’s excellent,’’ said Graylin Moses, 32, whose ride home will now be partially free.
Plus, Steele said Red Line riders rerouted to the Green Line may actually see shorter commutes because the system will offer more frequent Green Line service during the reconstruction project.
CTA also is offering 50-cent discounts on buses south of 63rd and beefed-up bus service north of 63rd.
Robert Smith, 56, of Englewood, was worried that the shutdown of the 63rd Street stop would relegate him to bus-only travel to his job as a maintenance administrator at a senior building in South Shore. His commute already is 30 to 45 minutes.
“I have no idea what I’m going to do,’’ Smith said. “Do you know how slow those buses are? For that distance, it’s going to be crazy.’’
Alex Price, 27, said he’s glad he’s moving to Lincoln Park in time to avoid the chaos. He’ll still come south to visit his mother but said: “I’ll just drive. Especially now that the CTA day pass is $10.’’
Jeffrey Johnson, 20, said the shutdown of the 95th Street station is pushing him toward temporarily taking the Metra train, although he still needs to investigate the cost of their monthly passes.
“I’m not worried,” Price said. “If it’s going to cut the time off the overall commute to downtown, then I’m all for it.’’
The work should shave 10 minutes from the current 30- to 40-minute Red Line ride from 95th to downtown, as well as provide a “smoother,’’ less bumpy, commute, the CTA’s Steele said. Plus, stations from 63rd to 87th will be upgraded; three stations will get new elevators, and the 95th Street station is scheduled for a complete rebuild in 2014, after Red Line reconstruction is completed, he said.
As far as Darrin Johnson is concerned, it’s good riddance for the Red Line.
“Look how slow it goes,’’ said Johnson, 48, a regular 95th Street station user. “It might be a blessing. This thing is so terrible, it needs scrapping.’’