Metra is cautiously optimistic that this year the state of Illinois will take action to address the chronic capital funding shortfalls that have plagued Metra and indeed the entire state. With a new governor and a lot of fresh faces in the Legislature, there is renewed hope that Springfield will recognize that the cost of not addressing our funding shortfalls would far exceed the cost of addressing them. The region’s economy and environment needs Metra, and Metra needs help.
To help make its case, Metra has identified several priorities that would require a $5 billion commitment from the state. These priorities, outlined here in no particular order, aim to improve safety and security, reduce operating costs and/or gain ridership. We want you, and our lawmakers and taxpayers, to know what we would do with an increase in funding.
- Purchase 40 new locomotives to increase efficiency, reliability and ridership and decrease pollution. Many of Metra's locomotives are beyond their useful life, and replacing them with new equipment will reduce emissions.
- Purchase 400 new cars to increase efficiency, reliability, ridership, safety and security, improve the customer experience and reduce maintenance. We are looking to buy cars with a modern, new design with added customer amenities.
- Convert 54 locomotives to AC propulsion to increase efficiency, reliability and ridership and reduce maintenance. AC traction motors are much more durable, with greater acceleration and performance.
- Rebuild at least 10 bridges a year to increase safety and reliability. More than half of Metra's 823 bridges are more than 100 years old.
- Enhance many stations with more cameras, warming shelters, etc. to increase efficiency, ridership, safety and security and reduce maintenance.
- Replace or reconfigure the A-2 interlocking, the biggest switching location and biggest chokepoint in the Metra system to increase efficiency, reliability, ridership, safety and capacity. More than half of Metra riders use a train that passes through this complex every day. A failure there could cripple the system.
- Make several enhancements to add express trains and improve service, such as more yard space, more crossovers and longer platforms. Running more express trains requires more capacity in yards, longer platforms, more crossovers and improvements to tracks to allow for greater speeds.
- Begin to electrify the Rock Island Line and explore rolling stock alternatives to increase efficiency and reliability and decrease pollution. We will be looking at new technology, such as battery/hybrid, in the conversion.
- Complete the 75th Street Corridor Improvement Project and Rock Island improvements to increase reliability and ridership on the SouthWest Service and create capacity at Chicago Union Station. The plan is to reroute the SWS to Rock Island tracks near 75th Street.
- Expand service to O’Hare to increase ridership. The goal would be create 30-minute service to O'Hare.
We know this is a big ask, but we have big needs that have gone unaddressed for too long. We hope you will join us in working with the governor and your representatives to make this happen this year.