Metra looking to buy used locomotives to help reduce delays

  • Metra expects to buy new locomotives previously used by Amtrak on the West Coast.

    Metra expects to buy new locomotives previously used by Amtrak on the West Coast. Daily Herald File Photo

Updated 2/21/2018 7:42 PM

Metra riders could get a push from a fleet of previously used locomotives the agency is eying to purchase this year.

Metra directors Wednesday authorized executives to negotiate buying up to 21 locomotives costing $1.3 million each that were most recently used by Amtrak in California and elsewhere on the West Coast.


The secondhand engines are a bargain that should be snatched up, Executive Director Jim Derwinski said. Metra is also seeking proposals from manufacturers for new locomotives, but those are not expected until late 2020 or so.

"The price is wonderful," Chairman Norm Carlson said. "With a relatively small investment we can reduce operating costs and emissions."

The locomotives were built by General Motors in 1998 and rehabbed in the last five years. The engines should consume 10 percent to 25 percent less diesel fuel compared to the railroad's older locomotives, some of which are 35 years old.

The Amtrak engines would not replace Metra's fleet but would supplement it and reduce delays, officials said. On typical days, 10 to 12 engines are being overhauled and up to five are being equipped with an automatic braking system.

Metra has set aside about $15 million from cumulative fare increases that could be used for the purchase, which would total about $27 million. Options also include borrowing money or using federal grants.

Board directors will decide financing later this year.

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