The five-month-long shutdown of the Red Line's southern branch starts Sunday, at which point service between the 95th Street/Dan Ryan and the Cermak/Chinatown stations will grind to a halt.
(See our handy guide to surviving the CTA Red Line south branch shutdown below.)
May 19 marks the start of the Chicago Transit Authority's effective gutting of the 40-year-old branch, where crews will replace 10.2 miles of tracks (ties, rail, third rail, ballast and drainage systems) and trick out several stations with better lighting and accessibility — or, at the very least, a new coat of paint.
The patchwork job of keeping up the line has only done so much: currently, almost half of the tracks along the southern branch — also known as the Dan Ryan branch — are designated slow zones that force conductors to drop train speeds from 55 miles per hour to a relative crawl of 15 mph.
“Remember that the Red Line South opened in September of 1969, just two months after Neil Armstrong first walked on the moon,” CTA spokesman Brian Steele said to WBEZ. “It’s seen, literally, millions of train trips in that time, and has really served the CTA well."
The agency has acknowledged the pain caused by shutting down service along a branch of the system's busiest "L" line, but CTA spokesman Steve Mayberry told CBS Chicago customers have a lot to look forward to when the project is done:
“What we’re saying is this: if you’ll give us 150 days — and we know its an inconvenience — we’ll give you 40 years of a brand new Red Line.”
The agency deemed the five-month-long service cut the better choice compared to a four year-long, weekend-shutdown-only option for the $425 million reconstruction project — the largest overhaul project in CTA history.