RTA Searching for Money to Replace Aging Rail Cars

RTA rail car awaiting repairs.
RTA rail car awaiting repairs. (Brian Bull / ideastream)
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by Nick Castele

The Regional Transit Authority's rail cars are now in their 30s. That's old for a train, and the RTA plans to replace the cars by 2025 comes with a big price tag. 

General Manager Joe Calabrese says raising the money to do so will be a challenge. 

“We’re looking at probably around 65 to 70 cars at $4 million apiece, so $280 million is the ultimate goal,” Calabrese said. “And we’re putting away a little money every year to get there, but we can’t get there alone. It’s going to take a more major investment.”

As Calabrese put it, he doesn’t know where the money will come from, but he knows whom to ask for it. He said RTA will need assistance from the federal government as well as from the state of Ohio, which doesn’t put much money toward transit compared with other states.

But that question mark on funding unsettles some rail advocates. Ken Prendergast is the executive director of All Aboard Ohio. He called attention to RTA’s aging trains in a blog post last month headlined, “Cleveland rail shutdown unavoidable.”

Prendergast wants to see the agency address the problem with more urgency. He said the upcoming winter has a way of revealing what needs to be fixed.

“And we’re concerned based on the experience of the last two winters,” he said. “Winter has exposed the rail fleet as being a need. And that need is only going to grow more acute as time goes on.”

For the record, RTA’s Joe Calabrese disagrees with the idea that a shutdown is inevitable. And both he and Prendergast say the agency is doing the best it can to maintain the cars and keep them running.

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