Chicago area’s Metra received approval from its board of directors to move forward with requests for proposals (RFPs) for the design and production of new railcars and locomotives.
The railcar RFP will provide for at least 25 new railcars, with more railcars above that amount possible depending on the responses to the RFP, the amount of funding available and if the agency can use financing alternatives. The locomotive RFP will provide for a base order of 10 locomotives plus as many more as possible. Metra’s fleet has an average age of 28 years, seven years older than the peer average.
The agency has approximately $200 million for rolling stock purchases over the next five years. However, some of that money could be needed for Positive Train Control or other capital needs.
Metra’s 2014 modernization plan called for the purchase of 367 railcars and 52 locomotives. The plan counted on Metra receiving $1.3 billion, primarily from a new state bond program, but the agency did not receive the anticipated funding. Metra 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,” stated Metra’s Executive Director and CEO Don Orseno. “Clearly, that has not happened. Until the state passes a new program, we have decided to do what we can with the resources we have available to us.”
“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,” said Board Chairman Norman Carlson. “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 expects to award the contract for new railcars in the first quarter of 2018 and to award the contract for new locomotives later in 2018. Delivery of the first locomotive is expected in 2020.
The board also authorized 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 (VRE) 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.