The board of directors for Metra, the Chicago area commuter rail service, has approved a $797.2 million 2018 operating budget and a $196.8 million 2018 capital budget. The operating budget includes fare increases and service trims in order to close a $45 million funding gap, and the capital budget is only one-sixth of Metra’s estimated annual need.
Board members noted that the shortfalls in funding for both operating and capital needs point to local, state and federal subsidies for public transportation not keeping up with rising costs and the aging system’s needs.
“The current situation is unsustainable, and threatens the future viability of the important service Metra provides,” said Norman Carlson, Metra’s chairman. “With the proper amount of sustained public investment, we can create a system with a long and bright future. It is clearly in the interest of the citizens of northeast Illinois for Metra to do so.”
The operating budget includes $23 million for labor and fringe benefits, $2 million for the cost of spare parts and other materials to maintain Metra’s aging fleet, $3 million in other materials and services, and $2 million for the cost of operating the new Positive Train Control (PTC) safety system.
Half of the capital funds will be spent on major capital projects, including $20.5 million on locomotive rehabilitation, $18.5 million on railcar rehabilitation, $30 million on installing PTC, and $9 million on bridge replacement. Metra has also set aside $23.7 million for the purchase of new railcars. The rest of the capital budget will be spent on routine needs.
The 2018 operating and capital budgets can be viewed on Metra’s website.