CTA breaks ground on new rail car factory

Thursday, March 16, 2017
CTA breaks ground on new rail car factory
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The CTA broke ground Thursday on a rail car facility on the city's Southeast Side, creating more than 300 new jobs.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The CTA broke ground Thursday on a rail car facility on the city's Southeast Side, creating more than 300 new jobs.

It's located on South Torrence Avenue near East 136th Street.

Chicago is back on track to once again manufacture rail cars for the Chicago Transit Authority.

The project is the result of a joint venture with Chinese-based CRRC Sifang after its American subsidiary won the $1.3 billion contract to build the new 7000-Series rail cars over the next 10 years.

The company will invest $100 million to build a nearly 400,000-square-foot manufacturing facility on 45 acres of land on Chicago's Southeast Side in Hegewisch neighborhood.

The factory will employ around 170 workers and create almost another 130 construction jobs.

CRRC has also committed to spend millions for training programs and community hiring.

The CTA will order over 800 cars, which will be paid for by both federal funds and local money from a previous bond issue. The first 400 will replace the agency's oldest, which are more than 30 years old.

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.

"The CTA will have one of the newest rail fleets amongst any major transit agency in the United States," says CTA Chair Terry Peterson.

"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.