Rail

Report suggests Cleveland should replace entire rail fleet by 2028

Posted on April 17, 2019

The rationale for replacing both heavy and light rail vehicles is the structural loss from corrosion, lack of readily available spare parts, and the cost of rehabilitation that far exceeds replacement costs
The rationale for replacing both heavy and light rail vehicles is the structural loss from corrosion, lack of readily available spare parts, and the cost of rehabilitation that far exceeds replacement costs
Michael Barera

The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority’s (RTA) heavy rail fleet should be replaced within five years, the light rail fleet within 10 years, and the entire fleet’s lifespan is well beyond any benefits of continued system upgrades.

That was the recommendation of LTK Engineering’s preliminary rail car replacement study findings, which LTK presented to the RTA Board of Trustees at a committee meeting.

While both fleets have had some level of mid-life rehabilitation, each fleet is exceeding the acceptable 30-year useful life for railcars in their respective categories, LTK officials said.

RTA contracted with LTK in June of 2018 with a scope of work to determine the estimated remaining life of each fleet and evaluate the benefits of a major rehabilitation of the fleet vs. replacing the railcars.

“RTA’s rail system is safe, but we are well past the point of incurring the ever-increasing costs of continually upgrading the fleet and repairing the railcars. Those costs far exceed that of purchasing a new fleet,” said RTA Interim CEO and GM Floun’say Caver. “Our customers will appreciate the reliability, not to mention the style, of riding in new railcars. This rail system is way over-due in serving our region with state-of-the-art technology and a 21st century rail fleet.”

The rationale for replacing both Heavy Rail Vehicles (HRVs), which are used on the Red Line, and Light Rail Vehicles (LRVs) which are used on the Blue, Green, and Waterfront Lines, is the structural loss from corrosion, lack of readily available spare parts, and the cost of rehabilitation that far exceeds replacement costs, the LTK study says.

LTK recommends the procurement of two different fleets (HRV and LRV) rather than a single, common car to serve both high and low platforms. A single, common car fleet would require significant infrastructure work at rail stations and increase engineering design costs, as well as eliminate the ability to phase into service, vehicle purchase, and delivery.

LTK recommends that procurement for HRVs begins in 2020, with delivery in 2023, with a recommended fleet size of 34 railcars. Cost is estimated at $3 million per vehicle, or $102 million.      

The reduction in the number of railcars from its current 40 active to 34 is possible because of greater reliability and fewer maintenance requirements. The number of LRV railcars can be reduced to 24, from its current 34 active to 24, for the same reasons, LTK says.

LTK also recommends that the procurement of LRVs should start in 2025, with delivery in 2028. Estimated cost is $4 million per vehicle, or $96 million.

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