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Metra yesterday kicked off a $29.4 million renovation and expansion of the mechanical shops that house its rail-car and locomotive rehab programs.Expected to take nearly two years to complete, the project calls for expanding the 49th Street coach shop, as well as upgrading the facility's loading dock, storage and rail-car wheel truck rebuild area. The railroad also is adding training facilities to the 49th Street shop, agency officials said in a press release.The project includes improvements to the 47th Street diesel shop, which is home to Metra's MP36 locomotive rehabilitation program. Work at that facility includes reconfiguring the loading dock, adding an enclosed crane, rebuilding the materials storage area and improving the rail-yard's parking, drainage and utilities."By the time these facilities are expanded and modernized, we will be able to rehab 60 rail cars a year, a 40 percent increase from what we are able to produce today,” said Metra Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director Jim Derwinski. "That is a significant step toward reaching a state of good repair, and improving our service and reliability for our customers."In March, Metra awarded a contract to F.H. Paschen, S.N. Nielsen & Associates LLC to renovate and expand the mechanical shops.