Just recently, it was announced that the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) Board has approved a request to replace around half of its rail cars. That endeavor is one that will cost about $1.3 billion and that will mark the largest-ever purchase of rail cars in CTA history.
846 cars will be built for the project. The building process is scheduled to take place on the Southeast Side and will be completed by Sifan America, a well-known company which is currently working on cars for the Boston Transit Authority.
Sifan America, along with other companies, had to bid to land the project. In fact, the company beat out the company-Bombardier Transportation- that built the city’s last set of new rail cars in the 1980s. Needless to say, with cars from the 80s still in place, these cars were definitely in need of a little revamping!
The new cars, which are called The 7000 Series cars, are going to feature a new seating arrangement, in large part because of complaints that the old aisle-facing seats led to blocked views and stepped-on toes. The new cars will be aisle-facing in the front with a mix of forward and rear-facing seats throughout the rest of the car.
These new cars will also boast up to 38 seats each, will have LED lighting, and will be designed to accommodate easier loading and unloading. And, not only will this massive project mean better seats for patrons, it will also mean new jobs for all who are contracted to work on the project.
In fact, the project is going to create an estimated 169 jobs. Employees will be made up mainly of sheet metal workers, electrical workers, and other union-represented laborers. These jobs can last for quite a while too since the project is expected to take at least ten years to complete.
Though it will obviously be quite some time before these new cars are in use, many are excited about the project. That includes the city’s mayor, who called the project “historic” and said he expects the new facility where the cars will be built to be used for other similar projects in the future, which, in turn, would bring in even more jobs to the city. And that- the deal’s ability to create new, local employment- is what he and others are most excited about.
Not surprisingly, the Chicago Transit Authority is also thrilled about this new undertaking. It estimates that, once in place, the new cars will save the city about $7 million per year in maintenance costs. The project will also put Chicago on the map, so to speak, as having one of the country’s youngest and most modern rail fleets.
This project is one that, though not widely talked about, has been in the works since early 2013. In fact, in February of that year is when the bids started coming in for the project, and Sifan America won by a landslide with its competitive pricing.
Now that the ball is rolling on this exciting new project, Chicagoans just have to sit back and wait for the day when they can enjoy these awesome new rail cars!