CHICAGO (CBS) — The train in Tuesday night’s Union Station derailment was Metra’s, and the tracks were Amtrak’s. Metra’s outgoing and incoming executive directors told the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) board Wednesday that regardless of who or what is at fault, it’s a warning.
Illinois has no capital infrastructure program, and outgoing Metra CEO Don Orseno says that cannot continue.
“We need help. We definitely need help,” he said. “You can look at the numbers and see where we’re at. We’re not in a good position.”
He said the RTA was formed in the 1970’s as the Rock Island and the Milwaukee Road slid into bankruptcy. Orseno recalls breaking in as a railroader on the Rock Island, many of whose commuter trains were so dilapidated that riders could see the tracks below through the rusted-out floors.
He said disinvestment caused that collapse, adding it “can get back there.”
Not inconceivable, said Orseno’s soon-to-be promoted successor, Jim Derwinski.
Derwinski inherits a system that relies daily on 40-year-old engines, 110-year-old bridges, and bilevels averaging 30 or more years — with the oldest bilevels being 64-yeard-old — almost old enough, they noted, to qualify for Medicare.
Derwinski said Metra has $196 million available for its capital programs next year, but needs six times that just to stay even.