Metra seeks new locomotives

Officials with Chicago commuter railroad ask for proposals on new or re-manufactured units
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Metra F40PH Nos. 102 and 107 appear at Elmwood Park, Ill. Metra officials look to replace or re-manufacture much of the railroad's aging motive power fleet.
TRAINS: David Lassen
CHICAGO — Metra, Chicago’s commuter rail agency, plans to order 12 new or 15 re-manufactured locomotives in 2018, and may order dozens more if additional funding from the financially strapped state of Illinois is provided, the agency said Thursday.

The request for proposals, issued in late December, includes options for up to 30 additional new locomotives or 27 additional remanufactured locomotives, pegging the total potential purchase at 42 locomotives, the announcement said.

The agency said it is seeking proposals for both new and remanufactured locomotives because it wants to weigh the cost-benefits of both options.

Funding is a primary concern at the agency, officials at Metra have emphasized for years. Another is replacing the agency’s aging fleet of 149 locomotives, mostly F40PH’s, with an average age of 30 years.

Metra said it currently has about $125 million earmarked for locomotive purchases over the next five years. But that existing funding falls far short of Metra’s needs, according to the agency and the Regional Transportation Authority, the Chicago public body that oversees the finances of Metra, the Chicago Transit Authority, and Pace suburban bus operations.

The RTA estimates Metra needs to spend $1.2 billion a year for 10 years to achieve and maintain a state of good repair on its system, including buying new cars and engines but also replacing and upgrading its bridges, stations and other infrastructure. This year, Metra says it has one-sixth of that amount available.

“We are trying to do the best we can with available resources,” said Metra CEO and Executive Director Jim Derwinski. “Clearly, however, we need more capital dollars to continue to invest in our system and upgrade our assets.”

Metra’s board of directors has asked staff to consider financing alternatives, such as leasing, to maximize available capital.

Metra said it expects to award the contract for locomotives later in 2018, with delivery of the first locomotive in 2020.

The new or remanufactured locomotives will allow Metra to begin to replace outdated diesel locomotives with modern, cleaner-burning engines, significantly improving air quality, the agency said.

Metra issued a request for proposals for at least 25 new railcars in April 2017, and is currently evaluating responses, with a goal of approving a contract later this year, the agency said.

The scheduled 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 Line was in 2006.

According to the agency, the Metra system currently operates 149 locomotives with 28 being the original F40PH models produced by the Electro-Motive Division of General Motors in LaGrange, Ill.

Most of Metra’s F40PH fleet have undergone in-house rehabilitation at Metra’s 47th Street shop. Beginning in 2008, 50 of the F40PH units underwent a more extensive overhaul by Progress Rail Services at their Mayfield, Ky., facility where these locomotives were essentially rebuilt.

In 2015, a second overhaul program for the F40PH and F40PHM models started at Progress Rail’s Patterson, Ga., facility.

The first F40PH locomotives entered service in Chicago on Sept. 30, 1977.

The RTA’s Commuter Rail Division, which later became Metra, began taking delivery of the first 28 in 1977. Orders were subsequently placed four more times for a total of 115 locomotives, with the last delivered to Metra in October 1989.

Over the years, Metra acquired three additional former Amtrak F40PHs for a total of 118.
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