RTA receives $15 million in federal funding to replace its aging rail fleet

Sep 16, 2020

CLEVELAND, OH – The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA) is the recipient of a $15 million BUILD grant to help replace its aging rail fleet. The funds will go towards the cost of replacing the 34 rail cars needed to operate the Red Line

“We are elated to hear of the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) announcement for the $15 million BUILD grant. This is an extraordinary opportunity, and we look forward to utilizing the award funds to advance our rail car replacement program as we dramatically modernize our aging rail fleet and bring our infrastructure into a state of good repair,” said RTA CEO and General Manager, India Birdsong.

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,” Birdsong said.

“We are grateful for the Northeast Ohio Congressional Delegation for its efforts and ongoing support for the rail car replacement program. We appreciate the commitment at the national level to implement the transportation initiatives that continue to move both our agency and the residents of Greater Cleveland forward,” Birdsong said.

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson said, “RTA is an important resource for both Cleveland residents and visitors alike, connecting our neighborhoods as well as major financial, cultural, medical and educational destinations. The $15 million BUILD grant will help replace aging infrastructure and provide better service for all.”

Birdsong said, “This grant will go a long way toward the goal of the approximately $300 million needed for the entire rail car replacement program. 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 cars that make up both its heavy rail (Red Line) and light rail (Blue and Green Lines) fleets. Not all cars are available for daily operations due to the high amount of maintenance required to keep the vehicles running. The new replacement fleet will total 50 new cars.

The BUILD grant will be added to dollars previously received from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), and state and local dollars from the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) and the Northeast Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA). “This grant helps us take a significant step forward in securing all the funding needed to replace our entire fleet,” Birdsong said.

Additionally, RTA has allocated and committed over $44 million for rail cars through its own rolling stock reserve fund, which will be used to match state and federal grants. RTA is committing more dollars to that fund over the next five years. Here is a summary of what RTA has on hand along with future commitments:

• RTA Rolling Stock Reserve Fund - $44.1 million
• FTA Formula Grants - $45.0 million
• USDOT - $15.0 million (the BUILD grant)
• ODOT - $ 4.5 million
• NOACA - $24.0 million
Total - $132.6 million in commitments to be available to RTA

“Thanks to the BUILD grant, we now have more than $80 million on hand, so we can proceed with a base contract to order the new Red Line rail cars with contract options to buy more cars as additional funding is secured.” Birdsong said.

RTA’s Red Line sees the most ridership daily, serving some 20,000 riders per day, so it will be replaced first. The Blue and Green Lines (light rail) carry 5,000 per day, Birdsong said.

In January 2020, RTA awarded a contract to LTK Consulting Services to prepare the technical specifications for the new rail cars and to provide program management services for the rail car replacement program. RTA is on schedule to advertise for requests for proposals from rail car builders before the end of the year. RTA anticipates awarding a rail car contract in the second quarter of 2021, with delivery of the first shipment of new rail cars in late 2024.

Media Contact:
Linda Krecic