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Red Line construction project gets started

Hours into a Red Line construction project that promises to snarl commutes for months, the southbound train steered away from the Dan Ryan Expressway on Sunday morning and instead traveled down the Green Line tracks.

As the operator reminded riders about the new route through the South Side, passengers compared notes -- and aired frustrations -- about the five-month effort to rebuild Red Line tracks south of Roosevelt.

Red Line trains stopped servicing their regular stations south of Roosevelt early Sunday as crews began rebuilding aging tracks. When construction ends, Chicago Transit Authority officials say riders will enjoy a faster, smoother commute to downtown. In the meantime, though, passengers are trying to navigate a network of shuttle buses and redrawn transit maps.

At the Garfield Green Line Station on Sunday morning, passengers were often outnumbered by CTA officials on hand to offer directions. Ralph Greenwood, who lives near the closed 95th Street station, had been riding the trains to familiarize himself with the alternate routes.

"The CTA was highly helpful," he said. "I was blessed."

Others weren't as enthusiastic. Demicio Campbell, on his way home after a night shift on the North Side, boarded a shuttle bus at the Garfield Green Line stop. Campbell called the shutdown "bogus" and said he suspected the heavily black South Side ridership influenced the decision to close so much of the line for so long.

CTA spokesman Brian Steele said that's far from the case. The shutdown, he said, was unavoidable as the agency completely reconstructs tracks and refurbishes stations.

The agency had been working for more than a year to prepare for the closure. They've instituted shuttle buses between stations, handed out brochures with tips on finding the best alternate route and held community meetings.

Still, Sunday was something of a trial run. The real test starts Monday when workweek commuters head north by the thousands.

mitsmith@tribune.com
Twitter: @MitchKSmith

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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