CTA Red Line South project complete, full line to reopen this weekend

Written by Jenifer Nunez, assistant editor
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The Red Line’s Chinatown/Cermak stop shows newly rebuilt track and upgraded station structure.

Chicago Transportation Authority's (CTA) Red Line South project is now complete and the line running from Cermak-Chinatown and 95th Street will reopen on schedule Sunday, October 20.


The CTA was the first transit agency in the country to completely rip out and replace such a large stretch of railroad in such a tightly condensed period of time and with such an extensive alternative-service plan, a strategy that provided customers with a better railroad in a shorter amount of time, while saving taxpayer money.

The 10.2-mile stretch has been closed for five months to rebuild the railroad and upgrade eight stations along the rail line, which serves dozens of communities along Chicago’s South Side. The $425 million project, which created more than 1,500 jobs, many of which will continue after the project ends, will be completed on time and within budget.

“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 Chicago 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.”

Originally opened in 1969, the Red Line South was reconstructed from the ground up, including all the rails, ties, ballast, drainage systems and signaling equipment, improvements that will shave up to 20 minutes off the round-trip commute between 95th Street and downtown, while providing a smoother, more comfortable and more reliable ride.

Condensing the work into five months saved $75 million over an alternative option to perform work on weekends only over a period of four years. The $75 million of savings was reinvested by the CTA in improvements to eight stations along the branch that received new lighting, painting, Train Tracker screens and other enhancements to improve the customer experience. The savings also paid for three new elevators at the Garfield, 63rd and 87th Street stations, making the entire Red Line South accessible to customers with disabilities.

Built in 1969, the Red Line South had served beyond its expected lifespan and needed complete replacement. Despite ongoing repairs and maintenance, around 40 percent of the branch had developed slow zones and riders suffered long commutes, uncomfortable rides and frequent delays.

The Red Line South project is part of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Building a New Chicago infrastructure renewal program and was funded primarily by a $646-million investment from Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn’s Illinois Jobs Now! program. Of the $646 million investment, $220 million has been allocated to various projects on the North Side Red Line Branch and to eliminate Purple Line slow zones from Linden to Belmont and Blue Line slow zones from Logan Square to Belmont.

Categories: ON Track Maintenance, Rapid Transit/Light Rail