The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration celebrated the arrival of the first new state-of-the-art rail car prototypes for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s (WMATA) Metrorail system. The four new cars will belong to a fleet of more than 500 new rail cars, all made in the United States, which are designed to provide a safer, more comfortable ride for millions of passengers and expand the Metrorail system’s capacity overall. FTA provided more than $100 million toward the purchase.
“Safety is always our highest priority, and WMATA’s new fleet of rail cars are specifically designed to help keep hundreds of thousands of daily riders as safe as possible as they travel to work, school, a doctor’s appointment, and other destinations,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “It is critical that we continue to support a safe, efficient rail transit network that enables the region to continue growing while reducing congestion, improving air quality, and providing reliable access to jobs.”
The new 7000-series rail cars will be deployed throughout Metrorail’s entire fleet, including on the new Silver Line as it expands to serve Dulles International Airport. These rail cars will replace all 300 of the Metrorail 1000-series cars that have been in service for 40 years—fulfilling a key safety recommendation from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) following the fatal Metrorail accident at Fort Totten Station in June 2009, which involved some of these cars. The WMATA accident, following other incidents in Chicago, Boston, and elsewhere, spurred the Obama Administration to seek and ultimately secure new federal safety oversight authority.
“The time has come to retire the oldest rail cars in the Metrorail fleet and replace them with a new generation of far more crashworthy vehicles,” said FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff. “Modernizing the Metrorail system is essential to making it both safer and more reliable – and that’s especially important as WMATA continues to expand through projects like the Silver Line.”
Administrator Rogoff participated in a tour of the four new 7000-series rail cars at Metrorail’s Greenbelt Station along with Maryland Senators Barbara Mikulski and Benjamin Cardin; U.S. Representatives Steny Hoyer, Donna Edwards, and Eleanor Holmes Norton; NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman; and other officials.
The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates that WMATA faces an estimated $4.2 billion backlog in capital investments needed to bring its entire system, including rail and transit buses, into a state of good repair. WMATA has embarked on an ambitious six-year, $5 billion capital improvement program to modernize its entire system.
FTA has provided $44.8 million in funding specifically to help fund the replacement of the 1000-series rail cars. In addition, FTA has committed $58.3 million for 64 new rail cars through the Capital Investment Grant Program (New Starts), as part of a $900 million construction grant agreement with the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority for Phase 1 of the Metrorail Silver Line extension project.
The new cars must still undergo operational testing on local tracks and the initial batch is expected to begin serving riders in late 2014.