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Chicago's Metra rehabbing rail cars, adding amenities

As part of a $115 million project to renovate its rail cars, Metra is installing a variety of new features that leaders of the Chicago commuter-rail agency hope will improve the rider experience.

Metra plans to rehabilitate 176 rail cars built by Amerail (originally Morrison Knudson) between 1995 and 1998. All work is being completed at Metra’s 49th Street Car shop along the Rock Island Line. By rehabbing the cars in house, agency officials anticipate saving millions of dollars, Metra officials said in a prepared statement.

Some of the new amenities include doors with “sensitive edges,” which retract if they come in contact with a person or object; new LED signs in the cars; new toilets and bathrooms; new wheelchair lifts; new composite floors and seats that meet the latest safety regulations; and electrical outlets that allow riders to use to power phones, laptop and tablet computers and portable personal music players such as iPods.

Forty cars have been rehabbed so far, and 60 more are slated for completion by year’s end. The entire Amerail fleet, which includes 79 cab cars and 97 trailer cars, is scheduled to be rehabbed by the end of 2016, officials said.

The work is expected to extend the life of the cars by 12 to 15 years. With future rehabs, Metra should be able to get 50 years of service or more out of the cars, officials said.

The project will cost about $650,000 in materials and labor per car, or $115 million for the entire project. To note the savings, Metra officials contrasted that figure with the “going rate” for a new car of $2.5 million to $3 million, depending on the type of car and the number ordered.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 7/19/2012