Metra celebrates completion of Rock Island shops expansion

Written by David C. Lester, Managing Editor
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Metra celebrates completion of Rock Island shops expansion.
File photo: Metra

Government and Metra officials gathered yesterday to celebrate the expansion of its 47th/49th Street facilities, which serve as the mechanical shops where passenger cars and locomotives are rehabilitated for restoration to service. This facility is known as the Rock Island shops. The project had a price tag of $32.5 million.

The project started in May 2018, and the changes included expansion and renovation. The facility sports a new building of 38,000 square feet, containing workshop and welding training areas for the railroad’s apprentice programs in the Mechanical Department. There is new, modern classroom space, too. Additionally, the shops’ railcar wheel truck rebuild area, storage area and loading dock were upgraded. Metra says that the upgrades will allow the railroad to increase output of its car rehabilitation program from the current 35 per year to 60 per year, which is about a 40 percent increase.

Locomotives used on Metra’s Rock Island Line are maintained in the 47th Street Diesel Shop, where Metra’s MP36 locomotive rehabilitation work is done. This facility also received upgrades. The materials storage area was replaced by a new 17,500-square-foot facility, and the loading dock area was reconfigured to add an enclosed crane.

“Modernizing these facilities will allow us to increase the output of both our in-house railcar and locomotive rehab programs and make significant strides in achieving a state of good repair,” said Metra CEO/Executive Director Jim Derwinski. “Equally important, this facility will allow us to train and maintain a highly skilled workforce and keep good-paying jobs in Chicagoland.”

“As Chairman of the House Transportation Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials, I have long been a leader in securing federal funding to strengthen our transportation infrastructure in the Chicago region, especially for local transit agencies like Metra,” said Congressman Daniel W. Lipinski.  “It’s important that we make investments in our infrastructure that create good-paying, middle-class jobs, and enhance the commuter experience for local residents. The opening of the Rock Island facility expansion marks an exciting milestone. Metra’s commitment to investing in training and repair facilities helps keep our transportation workforce competitive while modernizing the railcars and locomotives that keep our Chicagoland transportation network strong.”

“This new facility on Chicago’s South Side will create opportunities for good middle-class jobs and help Metra achieve its goals of a diverse and skilled workforce,” said Metra Board Chairman Norman Carlson. “Metra has demonstrated that it is a good steward of public funding, saving $125 million by bringing its rehabilitation programs in-house. Now, we have a facility that will allow us to stretch our capital dollars even farther and keep the benefits of these investments in our community all while training our people from entry-level onward and creating Metra’s future leaders.”

“In a time when unemployment is at an all-time high, the completion of the Rock Island renovation is more than ideal,” said State Sen. Mattie Hunter. “I am very excited for all the new training opportunities this new space will provide. More so, the renovations will allow for riders to have a smoother commute. It was an upgrade long overdue.”

“Metra deserves kudos for completing this regionally important facility,” said Kirk Dillard, Board Chairman of the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA). “Metra will achieve significant savings by rehabbing its own cars, in addition to employing Chicagoans. Riders in all six counties served by Metra will benefit from this increased capacity for rehabbing railcars and locomotives, which are at the very core of Metra’s mission.”

The contract for this work was completely funded by federal funds earmarked for Metra capital projects. F.H. Paschen, S.N. Nielsen & Associates, L.L.C. did the construction. The contract called for the construction firm to award Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) firms 25 percent of the subcontracting work.

From a Metra news release.

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