FTA Issues $631M in Grants for Rail Car Purchases

The Federal Transit Administration recently issued $631 million in grants through its Rail Vehicle Replacement or RVR program to transit agencies in Chicago, Philadelphia, and Baltimore replace old rail cars with 300 new American-made units.

[Above photo by FTA]

The agency said roughly one-third of subway and commuter rail vehicles in the United States are more than 25 years old, with those older railcars contributing to delays, increased maintenance costs, and customer dissatisfaction.

Older railcars also lack amenities, such as digital signage and audio tools that improve the riding experience and access, and may also lack direct access for people with disabilities, FTA noted.

The agency added that at least 70 percent of the railcars purchased with federal funding, including through the RVR program, must be made in the U.S. with final assembly done in the U.S. as well.

The selected projects for RVR program grants are:  

  • Chicago, IL: The Commuter Rail Division of the Regional Transportation Authority or METRA will receive $100 million to buy 50 modern, multi-level railcars that will feature new passenger safety, accessibility, and rider comfort amenities to replace older railcars that have been in service for more than 40 years.
  • Baltimore, MD: The Maryland Transit Administration – a division of the Maryland Department of Transportation – will receive approximately $214 million to buy 52 new light rail vehicles to replace older vehicles that have been in service for more than 25 years. 
  • Philadelphia, PA: The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority or SEPTA will receive approximately $317 million to buy up to 200 new rail cars to replace older rail cars that have been in service for nearly 25 years, operating along the Market Frankford Line, the most heavily used line in SEPTA’s system.

“Newer, better railcars will mean a safer, more reliable, more accessible transportation future for the people of these communities,” said outgoing FTA Administrator Nuria Fernandez in a statement

“These cars also represent hundreds of jobs in American factories, building the next generation of American transit,” she added. “We are proud to select these projects to improve passenger rail service for riders across the nation.”

This is the second RVR program package funded by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act or IIJA, which has now invested approximately $1.3 billion to replace rail vehicles nationwide. In May 2023, FTA allocated approximately $703 million to six projects through the program. Overall, the IIJA allocates a total of $1.5 billion in new funding for railcar replacement through fiscal year 2026, the agency noted.

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