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Red Line South Branch Reopens, but Not Without a Hiccup

By Josh McGhee | October 20, 2013 3:45pm
 The Red Line's South Branch opened Sunday for the first time in five months.
The Red Line's South Branch opened Sunday for the first time in five months.
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CHICAGO — The Red Line's South Branch reopened Sunday after five months of construction, but not all riders experienced the swift ride CTA leaders promised.

As CTA leaders talked to reporters at the 95th Street depot, a Red Line train slowly made its way south, a victim of a signal change mishap, officials said.

"I've been on this train for an hour. When I used to ride the train before construction it never took this long," said rider Tityanna Harris, who was traveling to her mother's house, getting on the Red Line at Roosevelt.

"Can't this train go any faster?" she asked the conductor through the intercom system.

Steve Mayberry, a CTA spokesman said the delays were due to a signal issue and all other feedback from riders was been positive.

"We had a bit of a signal issue between 43rd and 47th so some people came up and were surprised that through those points they couldn’t go any faster. We got that resolved. Everyone before and after that incident loved it," Mayberry said. "That’s part of being in the business of delivering public transit. We’re always going to have little issues."

The newly reconstructed track features 60,000 new rail ties and 7.8 million pounds of new rail, as well as new cars. The improvements completely eliminate the slow zones that plagued the south portion of the Red Line, Mayberry said.

"They don’t exist anymore. It’s a brand new Red Line South, faster, smoother, better, and we're happy to be open," Mayberry said. "No matter how much patch work you do there is no substitute for a brand new rail road."

The $425 million overhaul included about 10 miles of new tracks from the Chinatown/Cermak stop all the way south to 95th, with construction workers sprucing up all eight stations along the way.

The station upgrades include new electrical work, fresh paint and the installation of train-tracking screens. New wheelchair-accessible elevators have been installed at the stations at Garfield Boulevard, 63rd Street and 87th Street.

Commuters said they were sad to lose the CTA bus shuttle service that took them downtown, but the rehabbed Red Line won fans immediately.

Landry White was overjoyed with the reopening and was excited to take the Red Line to meet with the Girl Scout troop she leads Downtown.

"It's what I need most because the girls, they wait on me and I don’t like them waiting outside," White said. "I love it. I’m glad it's back because this is my transportation up north and back home."