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Metra OKs 2016 budget, partners with UP on rail safety initiatives


Metra's board on Wednesday approved a $945.5 million 2016 budget that projects a 2 percent net increase in fare revenue as a result of higher fares.

The agency is budgeting $759.8 million for operating costs and $185.7 million for capital improvements in the coming year, according to a Metra press release.

Metra officials expect the added revenue from the fare increase to generate a total of $6.5 million, which will help pay for operating costs related to the deployment of positive train control (PTC) and the capital budget as a whole.

The cost of Metra's monthly pass will increase by $2.50, its 10-ride ticket by $1.75 and its one-way fare by 25 cents. The price of a one-way reduced fare ticket will not change.

Even with the increases, the system's one-way and monthly fares remain the lowest of any peer railroads across the country, Metra officials said.

Operating expenses at Metra are expected to grow by $40.2 million in 2016, including $23.2 million in contractually obligated wage and benefit increases, $3.3 million in higher PTC operating costs and $1.4 million in new information technology software and system enhancements.

The railroad's 2016 capital budget includes $85.4 million for rail-car and locomotive work; $23.9 million for replacing or improving ties, ballet, crossings, bridges, and other track and structure work; $17.1 million for facilities and equipment; and $36.9 million for signal, electrical and communications work, most of which is related to PTC.

About 57 percent of the total, or $106.4 million, will go toward the needs identified in Metra's modernization plan, which includes rail cars, locomotives and PTC work.

"With this bare bones capital budget, we will continue our work to operate a commuter-rail system that delivers customers to their destinations safely and efficiently," said Metra Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer Don Orseno.

Meanwhile, Metra announced that Union Pacific Railroad is providing $15,000 to enhance railroad safety initiatives in seven Illinois communities.

Police departments in Cary, Crystal Lake, Elmhurst, Geneva, Lake Forest, Palatine and South Chicago Heights will receive the money to support a variety of initiatives, including youth education activities, school or community safety days, community safety blitzes, graded tossing education enforcement activities and railroad safety advocacy.

"Union Pacific is proud to support these communities for taking ownership of railroad safety by developing unique education, enforcement and outreach plans that work best to educate the citizens in their communities about issues most relevant to them," said Adrian Guerrero, UP director of public affairs.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 11/13/2015