CHICAGO (WLS) --The Chicago Transit Authority will spend $1.3 billion to purchase hundreds of rail cars, and while a Chinese company won the contract the new cars will be assembled in a plant in the city's Pullman neighborhood.
The plant may be built at 135th and Torrence, though the location has not yet been officially confirmed. The CTA approved the contract with China's CSR Sirfang Manufacturing Wednesday for 846 new 7000-series cars that will have big aisled, but will also mostly return to direction-of-travel seating.
"The CTA will have one of the newest rail fleets amongst any major transit agency in the United States," says CTA Chair Terry Peterson.
Final assembly will be completed near what was once the global center of such manufacturing: historic Pullman. The last new rail car rolled out of the neighborhood in 1981 after generations of operation.
"This is very exciting," says Mike Symanski, president of the Historic Pullman Foundation.
Marked a National Treasure in 2015, the Pullman neighborhood housed the Pullman Company, the center of luxury travel through the middle of the 20th century. Mayor Rahm Emanuel says the deal highlights the city's purchasing power.
"It is one thing to order new cars and the customers will get a great experience; it's another thing to order those cars and create good manufacturing jobs here in the city of Chicago and bring back rail car manufacturing to its proper home," Mayor Emanuel said.
In Pullman, where they work hard to preserve what once was, there is a new sense of possibility.
"Just like the promises of America that the president articulated when he designated Pullman a national monument, the same goes for the capacity of our society to develop the skills and technology to develop our own products," says Shymanski.
The mayor thinks that, as with police cars made by Ford on the South Side, the new plant will eventually get orders from other transit authorities around the country. The cars will be paid for with debt in the form of new municipal bonds. CTA train cars will also drop in half to an average of 13 years of age instead of 26. The new cars will debut in 2020.