Slow zone repair work coming soon for north and south ends of CTA's Red Line

On the Dan Ryan branch of the CTA Red Line, 30 percent of the track requires slow zones for safe operations, according to the March slow zone map. There are more than 101,000 linear track feet of slows zones on the Dan Ryan branch, accounting for 22 percent of all slow zones systemwide. The map shows only two lengths of track between stations are free of slow zones: from 47th to 55th, and from 69th to 79th.

So what is the CTA’s plan for repairing this horrible condition?

“In 2013, all slow zones along this 10-mile stretch of track will be addressed as part of the Dan Ryan Track Renewal project, which will rebuild the tracks from just north of the Cermak/Chinatown station to the 95th/Dan Ryan station,” said a CTA spokesperson. “As part of this same project, work also will include station improvements (lighting upgrades, painting, canopy repairs, bike racks, etc.) at the nine stations along the branch.”

Regular maintenance work to maintain track conditions will continue throughout 2012.

I’ve heard rumors that the CTA will totally shut down portions of the Dan Ryan branch, but they are unsubstantiated. When asked about these rumors, a CTA spokesperson emailed me: “CTA is still determining the construction phasing of the Dan Ryan project; no plans are finalized.  More project info should be available in the next several weeks.”

North end of the Red Line

And then there are the slow zones on the north end of the Red Line.  Virtually the entire length of track from Wilson to Howard is in some slow zone either on the northbound or southbound tracks. I asked the CTA what its plans are for the north end slow zones. Here is the reply I got:

While work associated with the Red North Station Interim Improvements project is performed, CTA crews will coordinate with the contractor and take advantage of the temporary track closures to address many of the slow zones along the North Red Line tracks.

Although work at the seven selected stations is expected to be complete by the end of the year, CTA track work may continue into early-2013. Importantly, this work is not likely to eliminate all slow zones along this portion of the branch.

In general, we expect these interim improvements to be followed by the implementation of the Red, Purple Modernization project, which will provide this portion of the Red/Purple lines with new infrastructure (tracks, viaducts, stations, etc.) that will have a significantly longer useful life. However, this work could be many years away based on availability of funds and the completion of the planning and approval process.

So, there is some hope, but patience also is required.


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  • Kevin, next time you have a chance please ask about the slow zones on the brown line from Armitage to the Mart. There are also a ton of slow zones but it seems like they've been doing some work lately. Particularly around the church curve south of Division.

  • I'd also like to know what is going on with the Brown Line. Between the new slow zones and the permanent ones on the many curves its 15 mph for the most part from downtown to Armitage.

    It will probably be 15 years or so before the North Red line is slow zone free. They wouldn't be doing the upcoming interim work if they knew the complete rebuild was only 5-10 years away with stations set to be completely demolished. Even then with the CTA's poor record with large rebuild projects, it will only probably last a year or so before the slow zones start to reappear. I still can't believe there are issues with the Pink Line structure which is causing slow zones even after a complete rebuild not that many years ago. Clearly the CTA has issues with the quality of materials used for the structure and the tracks and/or their maintenance is far from adequate. This level of shoddy work in the private sector would most like result in lawsuits.

  • The O'Hare branch on the Blue line has had a few slow zones since the rebuild a couple of years ago and the Pink and Green lines have slow zones also even though they were totally rebuilt within the last 10 to 15 years. Why do the tracks deteriorate so quickly? What kind of warranty, if any, does the CTA get when tracks are rebuilt---as soon as the check clears the warranty is over?

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