The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) celebrated the arrival of the first new state-of-the-art railcar 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 railcars, all made in the U.S., 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.
The new 7000-series railcars will be deployed throughout Metrorail’s entire fleet, including on the new Silver Line as it expands to serve Dulles International Airport.
The railcars 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 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 railcars. In addition, FTA has committed $58.3 million for 64 new railcars 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.