The Metra Board of Directors has approved a $64.5 million addition to the agency's 2016 capital program which now totals $251 million in projected spending.
Increases in federal dollars made available to the agency, as well as the award of a new federal grant, other new capital contributions and the transfer of funds from the 2015 operating budget are responsible for the positive changes to Metra’s capital budget.
Metra will receive a $11.3-million increase in federal funds due to the recently passed Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act. Metra also recently won a $14-million federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant to replace the Fox River Bridge on the Milwaukee West Line. The remainder of funds for the $34-million bridge project will be supplied through a reallocation of $14 million in existing Regional Transportation Authority bond funds and a $6-million contribution from Canadian Pacific. The amended 2016 capital program approved by the Metra Board includes these changes.
“The Fox River Bridge Project will improve Metra’s reliability and operational flexibility, reduce maintenance costs and help ensure the continued efficient operation of the Chicago region’s rail network,” said Metra Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer Don Orseno. “We anticipate completing final design of the bridge this year, with construction starting in 2017 and continuing through late 2018.”
The revision to the 2016 capital program also included an additional $12 million leftover from the 2015 operating budget to continue the purchase of new or rehabilitate existing railcars and locomotives as part of Metra’s $2.4 billion modernization program. The 10-year modernization program includes the purchase of 367 new railcars, 455 rehabilitated railcars, 52 new locomotives and 85 rebuilt locomotives, investments in Positive Train Control and improvements to the 49th Street Yard to increase the number of cars that can be rehabilitated there annually.
In 2015, Metra completed the rehabilitation of 32 railcars. In 2016, the agency plans to rehabilitate 40 railcars and begin upgrading eight locomotives in-house, with 10 more to be rehabilitated by a contracted vendor. Metra anticipates the first new railcars will start arriving in 2018 and new locomotives after 2020.
The capital program amendment also provides $5.5 million to rehabilitate the Calumet Station on the Metra Electric Line, parts of which have deteriorated beyond their useful life. That work was scheduled to be funded with state bond funds that have been put on hold, but the work can no longer be postponed and the capital amendment reallocates federal dollars to the project. The Calumet Station project will include construction of a new elevator and equipment room and the replacement of stairs at both ends of the station. In addition, platforms will be replaced to meet the accessibility requirements of the Americans with Disability Act.
Metra will also receive an additional $100,000 as payment from the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District for an extra round-trip train on Metra’s railroad tracks, which will be used to fund a new traction power substation project in 2016.
The capital amendment approved also sets aside $8 million from the 2015 operating budget to fund future Metra financing costs.