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CTA Set To Purchase More New ‘L’ Cars

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CTA train (CBS file)

CTA train (CBS file)

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CHICAGO (CBS) — There’s light at the end of the tunnel for those hoping to see new ‘L’ cars in everyday service on the CTA.

Financing will be in place within a month for the purchase of more than 700 new 5000-series ‘L’ cars. Chicago Transit Authority President Forrest Claypool said Thursday that the remaining bugs in the prototype cars are being worked out.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Bob Roberts reports

Once that is done, the CTA can give the green light to Bombardier Transportation to begin full-scale construction of the new fleet.

“This is the first new generation of these cars, so there are some kinks, some bugs to be worked out,” he said.

Claypool said teams of CTA and Bombardier engineers continue to work through the problems, all said to be minor.

“When they do go into service, we’re going to make sure that they’re going to stay in service,” he said.

The purchase of the new fleet will allow the CTA to retire ‘L’ cars built between 1969 and 1978.

All the new cars will be capable of 70 mph speeds while delivering a smoother ride. Each will also have electronic maps and destination signs showing the next stop.

Security cameras aboard each car will be capable of sending real-time video to the CTA Control Center and the Chicago Police Department.

But riders will also have center-facing, bowling alley seats, and fewer total seats per car.

Because the new cars are alternating current, and the old cars are direct current, old and new cars cannot be mixed in a train.

Claypool could not say if the CTA will give the go-ahead to begin construction in earnest before year’s end.

Financing has been in place for the first 406 cars in the order for several years. CTA Chief Financial Officer Karen Walker said that she expects to obtain financing by the first week of November at the rate of 5 percent on the $625 million needed to build the last 300.

Walker said the cost of the new ‘L’ cars works out to $1.4 million apiece. Renovating older ‘L’ cars for years of additional service would cost only $200,000 a car less, but would not eliminate the breakdown problems seen more commonly in older equipment.

The prototype cars began what was supposed to be a year of testing in the spring of 2009.

The new cars are being manufactured in Plattsburgh, N.Y., by Bombardier, which also makes cars for the New York, Boston and Toronto subways, among others.

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