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St. Louis Metro opens new $4.3-million paint facility

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St. Louis regional transit leaders joined with state and local elected officials October 26 to celebrate the grand opening of Metro's new paint facility that will be used to repaint the MetroLink Light Rail Vehicles. Located in East St. Louis, Ill., the new $4.3-million facility enables Metro to prepare and paint the LRVs in an environmentally-controlled area that is healthier for employees and better for the environment. Many of the 87 Light Rail Vehicles in the Metro System have been in service since the 1990s, clocking an average of 500 miles per day as they carry passengers back and forth along the 46-mile alignment. Not surprisingly, the heavily utilized trains require fresh paint to maintain their structural integrity, extend the life of each vehicle and keep them looking their best. While Metro has been manually repainting the LRVs at its maintenance facility in St. Louis, the new paint booth will improve the process through increased technology, and minimize the environmental impact of maintaining the trains. Event attendees had the opportunity to tour the new operation and see the features that enhance the process. The new facility is a 9,600-square-foot pre-cast panel structure containing two distinct work areas, one of which is the totally enclosed paint booth. This design enables Metro employees to clean and prepare the trains for painting on one side of the facility, while other trains are simultaneously being painted on the other. The prep area includes a dust collection system that is one of the "green" features of the operation. Six separate work areas in the prep bay, where employees use various air tools, are tied into a central vacuum system that will collect all the dust and other particles and transport them to dust collection bags in a separate room.  The paint booth itself is equipped with two automated "lifts" that give the individuals applying the spray paint easy access to all parts of the train. Each lift can accommodate up to two painters, further streamlining the process. The trains are painted with low VOC (volatile organic compounds) paint, and an extensive exhaust system helps to further minimize the environmental impact of the process, while also reducing the risk of dust or other particles marring the paint job. Outside air flows in through the ceiling, where filters remove particles from the air before it enters the paint booth. Exhaust fans then return the air to the environment, pulling it through filters in the paint booth pits. The filters are designed to remove paint and other particles so that the exhaust air meets environmental standards. In addition, 400 energy efficient fluorescent lights illuminate the paint booth, enabling Metro employees to apply the paint with precision, and allowing for careful inspection of the completed paint job before the trains are put back into circulation. "This facility will allow Metro to effectively and efficiently restore the body of the Light Rail Vehicles, extend the service life of each train and create a consistent image for Metro's customers," notes Ray Friem, Metro's Chief Operating Officer of Transit Services. Bob Baer, Metro's President and CEO added, "We really appreciate the support for this project from St. Clair County Transit District and the elected officials from St. Clair County." Plocher Construction Company of Highland, Ill., was the general contractor for the project, which was awarded in September 2008 and included civil site work, utility work and track work, in addition to the building and paint booth construction. Actual construction was completed six months ahead of schedule and approximately 10 percent under the estimated budget of $4,783,821. Funding for the project came from federal formula funds with a local contribution of $246,000 from the St. Clair County Transit District. St. Louis County, Mo., also contributed funds to the facility. The Light Rail Vehicles that will be repainted at the new facility operate all along the entire alignment in St. Louis City and St. Louis County in Missouri and in St. Clair County, Ill.

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