Metra seeking $5 billion from state to modernize ‘oldest passenger fleet in the country’

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CHICAGO — Metra’s passenger cars are the oldest in the nation, and after 10 years without a capital funding bill, officials with the transit agency are hopeful this will be the year they get back up to speed.

Seven of 11 train lines run through the junction at Metra’s Western station on a daily basis. Workers there align switches so trains can make their way through, and head over Western Avenue on one of Metra’s 823 bridges. Half of those bridges are more than 100 years old, and the train cars aren’t much younger. Some trains are being re-serviced from the 1950s.

“We’re the proud owner and operator of the oldest passenger fleet in the country next to museum type railroads,” Metra CEO Jim Derwinski said.

It’s no secret that Metra riders have their own complaints.

“There’s been several times when there’s been delays for more than 20 minutes,” rider Maiya Swedberg said.

They’re just some of the issues Metra said they’re trying to address.

“At the end of the day, half of our revenue comes from fares, the other half comes from taxes. None of it goes to replace really the cars, the locomotives, the bridges, the switches, any work on the stations. That’s where we really need the support on a capital bill,” Derwinski said.

It’s been a decade since Illinois passed a capital funding bill for Metra and regional transit. Now they’re asking for $5 billion from the state, and are cautiously optimistic they’ll get those funds this year. They’ve shared details on how that money would be spent on their website.

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