CTA officials Monday held the first public hearing on the agency's plan to close the Red Line’s Dan Ryan branch for five months while it completes a $425 million renovation project.

Several residents in the audience of about 50 people at the South Shore Cultural Center said the plan would slow down travel times for riders living on the South Side and compromise public safety.

Queen Parker, 74, who lives in the Roseland neighborhood, said buses on the South Side are already slow, particularly the number 34 and 119. “You talk about doubling the bus service, you need to quadruple it,” she said.

The project would close almost 10 miles of track and nine stations from the Cermak-Chinatown stop to 95th Street beginning in May 2013. New steel rails, ties and ballast will be installed and drainage improvements made between the State Street subway portal, which is north of the Cermak-Chinatown station, and the 95th Street terminal at the end of the Red Line, according to the CTA's plan.

“We understand it's going to be an inconvenience for those five months,” CTA Chairman Terry Peterson said. The shutdown is scheduled to start in May 2013.

Dorothee Butts, 60, who works at Kennedy-King College near 63rd and Halsted streets, said the shutdown is more than an incovenience. Butts said she is particularly concerned about safety at the intersection near her job.

“Nobody gets off there because it’s a hot spot” for crime, Butts said. “You're talking about increasing bus service but I have heard nothing about safety.”

Peterson said the agency would look into how to improve public safety there.

Wallace Bradley said he, too, is concerned about public safety for people trying to get to school or work during the shutdown of the Red Line.

Bradley also asked CTA officials why they didn't talk to the community about the shutdown plan earlier.

“I think this administration needs to be considerate of the African American community,” Bradley said. “You're talking about people who ride the train everyday.”

The Dan Ryan branch, which is dominated by straightaways that would permit 55 mph top speeds if the track was in good repair, has the highest percentage of slow zones among all eight CTA rail lines. Slow zones would increase to 60 percent next year if the project were delayed, officials have said.

The shutdown will save money and allow the work to be completed more quickly than if the agency tried to renovate the line during the weekends over four years, CTA officials said at Monday’s meeting.

CTA President Forrest Claypool said the $75 million the agency would save because of the shutdown could be reinvested in the Red Line.

Karen Young, who said she works with the Black United Fund of Illinois, said she hopes the agency will fairly hire and integrate local residents into the agency's workforce.

“I am hoping the CTA will reach out to community based organizations for that,” Young said. “Because it’s coming to out neighborhood, and we would like to be part of the workforce.”

The CTA plans to provide a free shuttle bus that serves riders on Red Line stops between 63rd and 95th streets and expand service on bus routes near surrounding Green Line stations, officials said. Red Line trains will operate around the clock on Green Line tracks between Ashland/63rd and Roosevelt.

The CTA has scheduled a second meeting for 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday in the gymnasium at Kennedy-King College, 6343 S. Halsted St., Chicago.

nnix@tribune.com

Twitter: @nsnix87