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New Nippon Sharyo plant opens, will produce Metra's new Highliner cars


Federal, Illinois and Nippon Sharyo officials gathered yesterday to mark the opening of the company’s new U.S. headquarters and rail-car manufacturing plant in Rochelle, Ill.

The $50 million factory, which is expected to employ up to 250 people, has the capability to produce 120 passenger-rail cars annually. Its first orders include commuter-rail cars for service in Illinois, California, Virginia, Ontario and Illinois, according to a U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) press release.

By opening the plant, Nippon Sharyo is fulfilling a commitment made to U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in 2009 to establish U.S. manufacturing operations to meet the USDOT’s Buy America program, which requires projects receiving federal money to use domestically manufactured supplies.

“Investments in rail mean more jobs today and a stronger economy tomorrow,” said Federal Railroad Administration Deputy Administrator Karen Hedlund, who attended yesterday’s event in Rochelle.

Metra officials also celebrated the opening of the plan, which will be used to build the agency’s new Highliner cars to operate on the Metra Electric Line.

Metra signed a $577 million contract with Nippon Sharyo in August 2010 to build its next generation of rail cars; the commuter-rail agency will purchase 160 new cars over the next five years with funds provided through Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn’s capital program known as Illinois Jobs Now!

The shells and frames for the first 80 cars will be built in Japan and assembled in Rochelle, but the second 80 cars will be built and assembled at the Rochelle plant. Nippon Sharyo will exceed the 60 percent “Buy America” provision in its contract with Metra, Metra officials said in a prepared statement. In addition, 10 percent of the contract value will be met with Illinois vendors, they said.

The only Metra line to use electric multiple-unit cars, the Metra Electric Line operates over 32 miles from far south suburban University Park through the south suburbs and south side of Chicago to Van Buren Station and Millennium Station downtown. It has two branch lines to Blue Island and South Chicago.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 7/20/2012