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New CTA rail car factory welcomes first employees

CTA Sun-Times file photo

Officials at a Chinese-based company hired to make new CTA rail cars touted their first batch of employees Friday at the business’ new $100 million manufacturing plant on the Far Southeast Side.

The 7000-series rail cars by CRRC Sifang America will be the first CTA vehicles assembled in Chicago since 1964, according to Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office. The CTA has ordered 846 of these new rail cars.

The plant, which eventually aims to provide about 170 manufacturing, warehouse and professional jobs, first broke ground on the 45-acre site, at 13535 S. Torrence Ave., in March 2017.

So far, CRRC Sifang America has hired 74 workers. This first group of production employees will be traveling to China next week for training.

“We are excited to have hired the initial group of union production workers who will assemble the next generation of rail cars for the Chicago Transit Authority,” CRRC Sifang America’s President Chengyong Liu said in a statement.

Emanuel, in a statement, said the creation of the plant “is not only an investment in the CTA, but a vote of confidence in Chicago’s economy and our workforce.”

“Our goal of having a world-class transportation system is one step closer with this critical investment on the far Southeast Side,” the mayor said.

CRRC Sifang America will assemble the first 400 railcars for $632 million – about $1.58 million per car – which will replace the oldest in the city’s fleet. The new rail cars will provide quieter rides, additional security cameras and automatic passenger counting to improve service planning.

“This new facility reinforces our ongoing commitment toward ensuring our transit customers have a reliable and comfortable experience on our vehicles,” CTA President Dorval Carter Jr., said in a statement.

Manny Ramos is a corps member in Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster Sun-Times coverage of issues affecting Chicago’s South and West sides.