Metra seeks proposals for new railcars, locomotives

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Metra CEO Don Orseno
CHICAGO — Despite political gridlock in Illinois’ state leadership, Chicago’s Metra is pushing ahead with requests for proposals for the design and production of new railcars and locomotives to replenish its older equipment, officials announced Wednesday.

The railcar request for proposals, to be published the week of April 24, will provide for at least 25 new railcars plus as many more railcars above that amount as possible, the agency said. The exact number will depend on the responses to the request, the amount of funding available, and whether Metra can use financing alternatives, such as leasing, to maximize its funding, according to a release.

Similarly, the locomotive request for proposals, which will be published during the third quarter of 2017, will provide for a base order of 10 locomotives plus as many more as possible, Metra said.

Metra has allocated approximately $200 million for rolling stock purchases over the next five years, although some of that money could be needed for positive train control or other capital needs, the agency said.

Metra’s board of directors has asked the agency’s staff to consider financing alternatives such as leasing to maximize the efficient use of available capital resources.
The agency’s 2014 modernization plan called for the purchase of 367 railcars and 52 locomotives. That plan, however, counted on Metra receiving $1.3 billion in new funding, primarily from a new state bond program.

Because of a budget impasse between Illinois’ governor and the Illinois General Assembly, however, anticipated funding did not materialize. As a result, Metra said it is now attempting to acquire as many cars and engines as possible with existing funding.

“By now, we had hoped to benefit from a new state infrastructure program and planned to use those funds to buy new rolling stock. Clearly, that has not happened,” Metra Executive Director/CEO Don Orseno said in a statement. “Until the state passes a new program, we have decided to do what we can with the resources we have available to us.”

Metra said modernization of rolling stock is one of its highest capital priorities due to the age of its fleet. With an average age of 28 years, Metra’s fleet is seven years older than the average around the country.

“Funding for capital transportation projects has never been more uncertain. We believe this is a measured, realistic, and responsible way for us to buy new cars and locomotives with the funding resources we have on hand today,” Metra Board Chairman Norman Carlson said in a statement. “And, if the state comes through with a new infrastructure program, we will be able to accelerate our orders if that’s what the board chooses to do.”

Metra said it expects to award the contract for new railcars in the first quarter of 2018. Delivery of the first cars will be part of the negotiations and dependent upon the manufacturer’s capacity to build. The last time Metra received new railcars for lines other than the Metra Electric was in 2006.

Metra said it expects to award the contract for new locomotives later in 2018, with delivery of the first locomotive in 2020. New locomotives will allow Metra to begin to replace outdated diesel locomotives serving Chicago’s Union Station with modern, cleaner-burning engines, to improve air quality for the 120,000 passengers who travel through the station each day, the agency said.

Metra’s board also approved a settlement agreement with Sumitomo Corp. of America to deliver seven railcars to Metra in exchange for releasing the company from the option Metra recently acquired from Virginia Railway Express to purchase 21 railcars and for Nippon Sharyo’s delays in delivering Metra’s order of new cars for the Metra Electric Line.

The first of those seven railcars is expected to be delivered in mid-2019, Metra said.

In a statement, Metra said it and Sumitomo have negotiated in good faith since the option was made available in late 2016, and both parties have agreed to move forward with the settlement.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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