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Metra planning $2.6 billion of improvements over five years

If the funding comes through as anticipated, Metra hopes to have 45% of its nonelectric railcars replaced within seven years.

Metra ridership is slowly increasing after a major decline due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Metra plans to spend nearly $2.6 billion on improvements, including new railcars, over five years.
Sun-Times file photo

A comfy resting spot, an on-time train and somewhere to keep warm in winter?

For Metra riders with low expectations it might sound too good to be true, but agency leaders on Tuesday promised nearly $2.6 billion in improvements, including new railcars, over five years.

“It’s unprecedented funding for us,” planning director Lynnette Ciavarella said.

The uplift comes courtesy of an influx of money from a $45 billion state capital plan that will leverage additional federal dollars

Replacing Metra’s vintage fleet will mean more reliable service and accommodating more passengers on cars, Executive Director Jim Derwinski said. He also was optimistic about adding trains.

“To be clear, we’re concentrating on the current footprint” and not expanding to new destinations, Derwinski said.

“That doesn’t mean we’re not looking at crossovers on some of our lines that might help put more trains [on routes.] It doesn’t mean we’re not looking at potential condensing of rail yards ... so we can put more trains out there.”

Metra will have $480.5 million for capital projects in 2020.

Metra riders won’t see any fare increases next year.