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Metra yesterday approved a $12.6 million contract to upgrade its more than 25-year-old back office financial systems. As part of the system overhaul, the railroad selected public accounting firm Crowe Horwath LLP to help install and configure Microsoft Dynamics AX financial software. The firm's team of technical and functional consultants will utilize best practices to redesign Metra's business processes and assist the railroad in its transition to a new integrated application, according to a Metra press release.The new system will assist Metra in grant management, project accounting, purchasing, general ledger and several other financial functions. "This may be one of the single most important management steps that this board has taken since it was reconstituted a year and a half ago," said Metra Chair Martin Oberman. "If we want to operate as effectively and as efficiently as possible we must bring our operations and financial reporting systems up to par."The project is expected to be completed over three years, Metra officials said.