Emanuel, Preckwinkle support south branch Red Line shutdown - Chicago News and Weather | FOX 32 News

Emanuel, Preckwinkle support south branch Red Line shutdown

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Mayor Emanuel defends next year's planned shutdown of the South Side branch of the CTA's Red Line.

He said closing the line for five months next spring is a better choice than drawn-out partial closures, and that he's not "underestimating the challenge" to riders.

Emanuel's office weighed the benefits of a five-month shutdown versus partial shutdowns over four years, and decided that this plan was the best.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle — a South Side resident and former city alderman — said the headaches caused by the upcoming closure of the CTA's Red Line "is well worth it."

Speaking at an unrelated news conference Tuesday, Preckwinkle said the work to improve the heavily used public transit line is long overdue.

"If we're going to have a first-class public transit system, we have to invest in it," Preckwinkle said. "That means we have to maintain it and keep it up. While it will be an inconvenience for five months for people who use the Red, it's well worth it for the long-term viability of the system."

"Periodically we're inconvenienced by the fact that we have to maintain our infrastructure," she added. "I think that's entirely appropriate and right."

Asked about whether officials would even consider an all-out closure of the Red Line on the city's more affluent North Side - where CTA station closings have already been staggered in order to maintain service while upgrading the infrastructure - Preckwinkle said she is not familiar with the exact maintenance strategy being employed going forward.

The CTA announced Monday it will completely rebuild the Red Line from Cermak Road to 95th Street. That's a 10-mile stretch of tracks originally built in 1969.

The project will replace everything on a 43-year-old stretch offering the worst slow zones on the CTA system from the tracks to third rail, rail ties, ballast and drainage systems.

CTA officials said they decided to completely shut down the Red Line's Dan Ryan leg because the alternative (doing the work on weekends) would have taken four years to complete, which they said was too long to continue operating with slow zones.

The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.

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