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Metra boosts 2020 capex plan to include new locomotives, rail cars


Metra yesterday unveiled a proposed $827.4 million operating budget and a $480.5 million capital budget for 2020.

The Chicago commuter railroad's capital spending plan — significantly bolstered by Illinois' new state capital program — includes major investments in locomotives and rail cars, stations, bridges and yards.

Over the next five years, the state capital program is expected to deliver nearly $1.45 billion to Metra, railroad officials said in a press release.

When combined with $961.8 million in expected federal formula funding, $146 million from the Regional Transit Authority, $26 million in fare revenue and $4 million from other sources, Metra will have nearly $2.6 billion to invest in its system over the next five years – an unprecedented amount, Metra officials said.

The budget proposes about $331.1 million of the capital funds will be allocated to the following areas:
• New rail cars and locomotives, at a cost of $138.8 million. Metra currently has a request for proposals pending for as many as 400 new cars, and has asked manufacturers to propose new designs that maximize capacity and add passenger amenities. Metra also is buying some new remanufactured locomotives and has set aside some money to buy a prototype alternative fuel locomotive.
• Locomotive and car rehabilitation, $95.3 million. Metra will continue its innovative and cost-efficient locomotive and car rehab programs. It also will fund new programs to overhaul 21 recently purchased Amtrak locomotives and upgrade 54 locomotives with more reliable AC traction motors.
• Stations and parking, $51.2 million. Metra is undertaking major efforts to upgrade its stations, with an emphasis on improving Americans with Disability Act accessibility and ensuring that every station has a warming shelter.
• Yard rehabilitation, $23.2 million. Major projects are funded to expand the Western Avenue Yard that services trains on the Milwaukee District lines, the North Central Service and Heritage Corridor, and the California Avenue Yard that services trains on the Union Pacific lines. A lack of yard space is a factor limiting Metra’s ability to add service.
• Bridges, $22.6 million. Metra has nearly 500 bridges that are more than a century old. Funding will be used to design and construct the replacement of several bridges, including the next phase of the UP North bridge project involving the design for the replacement of bridges over 11 streets between Fullerton and Addison in Chicago.

Metra announced last month that it would not raise fares next year after identifying $6 million in operating efficiencies. Additionally, the railroad expects to save $7 million by not filling employee vacancies and another $5 million by reducing overtime and other expenses.

The $18 million in reductions will help offset an expected $23 million increase in operating expenses in 2020, including about 7 million in new operating expenses associated with positive train control implementation and about $16 million in labor and other operating expenses.

Metra will hold eight public hearings throughout the Chicago area on the proposed 2020 budget.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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