It's a typical Sisyphean task - seemingly futile and hopeless. The CTA makes some good headway on repairing rail slow zones in one area, only to see rails deteriorate in another area and get added to the slow zone map.
In August of last year, the CTA announced a $15 million project to add more track and viaduct work to the Red Line North station project to address slow zones and other repairs. While some progress was made in eliminating slow zones on the Howard line tracks, new slow zones cropped up since then on the Purple Line Express tracks. In fact, in sheer numbers, the linear feet of slow zones from Wilson to Howard increased by 223 feet - from 26,400 linear feet in April 2012 to 26,623 in April 2013.
Here's the April 2012 map:
And here's the April 2013 map:
CTA spokesperson Brian Steele said that all the slow-zone remediation work that was part of the Red North project has been completed. It was effective at eliminating most slow zones near the project stations. "However, an unresolved slow zone between Granville and Loyola will require far more complex work since a crossover is involved," Steele said. "Replacement of that crossover is part of the longer-term vision for Red Purple Modernization."
We noticed that this year a new slow zone was added between Argyle and Bryn Mawr. Steele said 850 feet are due to a cracked rail and will be removed sometime next week. The remaining 2,000 feet were recently implemented and are due to a worn crossover at Berwyn. There is no time frame yet as to when repair work will be performed.
And the CTA's Steele nodded to the Sisyphean nature of slow zone work with his final comment:
"As you know, slow zone occurrences are dynamic – given the age of and the heavy use of these tracks, new slow zones are going to occur, especially following longer periods of extreme hot or cold weather. We continue to remediate the ones we can and are confident that our longer-term program will resolve all slow zone issues."