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Metra to buy locomotives

(January 4, 2018) - 

Metra has issued a request for proposals (RFP) to begin to replace its aging fleet of engines with new or remanufactured locomotives.

The locomotive RFP, which was issued last week, calls for a base order of at least 12 new or 15 remanufactured locomotives with options for up to 30 additional new locomotives or 27 additional remanufactured locomotives, for a total of up to 42 new or remanufactured locomotives. Metra is asking for proposals for both new and remanufactured engines because it wants to weigh the costs/benefits of both options.

Metra currently has about $125 million programmed for locomotive purchases over the next five years. The Metra Board of Directors has asked staff to consider financing alternatives, such as leasing, to maximize the efficient use of available capital resources.

Metra’s 2014 modernization plan called for the purchase of 367 railcars and 52 locomotives. That 10-year plan, however, counted on Metra receiving $1.3 billion in new funding, most likely from a new state bond program. That anticipated new funding did not come through, and until and unless it does, Metra is attempting to acquire as many cars and engines as possible with existing funding.

That existing funding, unfortunately, falls far short of Metra’s needs. 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 has one-sixth of that amount available.

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

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 The new or remanufactured locomotives will allow Metra to begin to replace outdated diesel locomotives with modern, cleaner-burning engines, significantly improving air quality.

Metra issued an RFP 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 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 was in 2006.

Metra has identified modernization of rolling stock as one of its highest capital priorities due to the age of its fleet (average age of 30 years) and the fact that the condition of cars and locomotives is so essential to providing high-quality, reliable and comfortable service.

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