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Massive Red Line Project Begins In A Month

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The countdown is on: In just about a month, the CTA will begin the Red Line reconstruction project.

Everything in a 10-mile stretch will be replaced, and CTA officials say it will be well worth the inconvenience, CBS 2's Kris Gutierrez reports.

At a rail yard in southern Cook County, mounds of metal rail tracks are piled up.

Each one is 80 feet long, weighs more than 3,000 pounds and is individually labeled.

Soon, these tracks will be installed along the southern-most portion of the Red Line as the CTA rebuilds more than 10 miles of track from the Cermak/Chinatown stop all the way down to the 95th/Dan Ryan stop.

It's a $425 million project.

"The price tag alone tells you that this is a big deal," said CTA spokesman Steve Mayberry. "When you get near half a billion dollars, it's an investment in the community that's going to be with us for more than four decades."

The CTA says the current track is in need of major repair. It was built back in 1969.

Back then, a postage stamp cost just 6 cents, and Gayle Sayers was running back for the Chicago Bears.

Needless to say, a lot has changed in 44 years.

In fact, 42 percent of the track between Cermak and 95th has been designated by the CTA as a slow zone.

That's because the track is so bad, trains must operate at slower-than-normal speeds.

The goal is to cut round-trip daily commute by up to 20 minutes.

"If you were to look at that in an annual sense, we are saving people four days of their lives, just in reduced commute time," Mayberry said.

The work will take five months to complete, and the CTA is asking riders to be patient.

"If you'll give us 150 days--and we know it's an inconvenience--we'll give you 40 years of a brand new Red Line," Mayberry said.

Construction is scheduled to begin on May 19.

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