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RTA Gets $15m In Federal Funds To Help With Red Line Railcar Replacement

The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority is touting a $15 million federal grant that will help replace railcars, but the total tab for the project will be much higher.

RTA on Wednesday said the federal funds will go toward replacing 34 aging railcars on its heavy rail Red Line. It’s the service’s most popular line, running from Hopkins airport on the West Side to the Louis Stokes-Windermere Station on the East Side, and averaging more than 20,000 riders daily.

“As Ohio's leader and only provider of rail for public transportation, our system has proven to be one of our region’s greatest assets for mobility enhancement for Greater Cleveland residents. Now, with this federal grant investment, we are one step closer to eliminating the risk of losing this resource — a resource that offers mobility options to residents as they journey to school, work, health care and a host of other essential destinations each day,” said RTA CEO and General Manager India Birdsong in a press release.

A study last year estimated RTA would need to spend a total of $717 million over the next 30 years to replace the entire fleet, including maintenance and work on the light rail Blue and Green lines.

“This grant will go a long way toward the goal of the approximately $300 million needed for the entire rail car replacement program,” Birdsong said. “That includes the cost to replace both heavy and light rail cars, and for design and program management, maintenance facility modifications, station and platform modifications, rail equipment and contingencies in support of the new rail cars.”

RTA has a total of 74 passenger cars, but not all of them are available for daily operations due to the high amount of maintenance required to keep them running, according to RTA. A 2019 study estimated only five years of use left for the heavy rail cars and 10 years for the light rail cars.

RTA has identified nearly $133 million in available funding so far, according to a press release, with about one-third of that money coming from its own reserves.

Other funding sources for the first phase include $24 million from the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA) and $4.5 million from the Ohio Department of Transportation.

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