CTA gets $200M in federal funds for ‘next generation of railcars’

The money will help replace the agency’s oldest carriages, some of which were manufactured more than 40 years ago, CTA said.

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A southbound Red Line train pulls into the Monroe Street station in the Loop.

A southbound Red Line train pulls into the Monroe Street station in the Loop.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Chicago is set to receive $200 million in federal grants to upgrade its railcar fleet.

The Department of Transportation and Federal Transit Administration announced the $703.1 million in grants Friday, with Chicago landing the largest of the six allotments.

The project is designed to help cities replace aging train fleets, though it won’t cover the entire cost — the CTA will have to throw in at least $200 million for the project.

A spokesperson for the CTA said the funds would be used to “begin designing and planning for the future procurement of our next-generation of railcars” to replace the agency’s oldest carriages. The federal announcement stated the money would go toward buying “up to 300 new electric propulsion passenger railcars.”

The spokesperson also said it was “too early” to speak about specifics of how the money would be used.

Some of the CTA’s nearly 1,500 railcars were purchased between 1981 and 2015, though some were manufactured more than 40 years ago.

Regular operations, Chicago’s weather and use of salt in the winter “do a number” on the city’s railcars, but with maintenance, train cars have an average lifespan of about 31 years, a CTA representative said.

“Like many older transit systems, the CTA must regularly invest in modernizing its fleet to replace aging vehicles that are beyond their useful life,” said CTA President Dorval R. Carter Jr. in a statement Friday. “[The] CTA now has funding needed to begin planning and designing for the future procurement of our next-generation of railcars, which will allow us to provide our riders with safer and more reliable rail services, as well as improved technologies to make public transit a more convenient and accessible travel option.”

Chicago will receive nearly 30% of the total money being set aside, while another $196 million is being given to the Bi-State Development Agency in St. Louis, though the use of the funds will likely affect parts of southern Illinois connected to the transit system.

Other areas receiving grants were Sacramento, California; Miami; Cleveland; and Utah’s transit system.

The investment in Chicago’s transit system comes just months after the CTA was given a $29 million federal grant to buy electric buses and modernize a Humboldt Park station for use with the electric buses. President Joe Biden’s budget also proposed $350 million in federal money to help the city expand the Red Line, though it’s expected to go through heavy revisions before being passed.

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