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MTA receives over $213 million in grant funding to upgrade light rail system, replace cars

MTA receives over $213 million in grant funding to upgrade light rail system, replace cars
MTA receives over $213 million in grant funding to upgrade light rail system, replace cars 02:51

BALTIMORE -- The Maryland Transit Administration has been awarded over $213 million in federal funding to boost its light rail system.

The funding will support the MTA's effort to replace its fleet of 52 light rail vehicles with new, updated railcars.  

"Reliable transit in the Baltimore region is essential to connecting Marylanders with life's opportunities and spurring economic growth," Maryland Gov. Wes Moore said.  "Thanks to Team Maryland's continued support and advocacy, this funding from President Biden's Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will help ensure MTA's light rail fleet is safe and operational for decades to come." 

The State of Maryland is also providing $90 million in matching funds and allocating $127.6 million in federal formula funds to the project to complement the federal grant, the MTA said. 

The MTA said the proposed railcar replacements will have low floors, allowing for easier boarding, and improving the reliability of the light rail system by reducing the number of vehicles that are regularly out for service repairs.  

"For my job, I have to use public transportation," rider Bonita Buie said. "They need to be updated. They really need updating."

Other project benefits include enhanced safety and comfort, lower maintenance costs, improved accessibility to individuals using wheelchairs or mobility devices, and improved wait times for riders.  

The MTA said the upgrades will benefit more than 13,000 daily light rail riders.

Kate Sylvester, MTA's Chief Program Delivery Officer, says the current rail cars date back to 1992 and are reaching the end of their useful lives.

"The vehicles we have, many of them are 30 years old, and just the mechanical issues we have with them make it difficult to get them out in service every day," Sylvester said.

Last December, MTA officials abruptly shut down light rail service for two weeks. 

An explosion and fire last October on a rail car led to the discovery of some trains having punctured electrical conduits and issues with inter-car connector cables.

Light Rail Fire blurred by MDOT MTA Maryland on YouTube

Federal lawmakers have been pushing for additional funding to revamp the light rail system to make it safe and reliable for commuters. 

"We are seeing people come back to transit but we know frequency, reliability and safety are the things people are looking for and we know, with these vehicles, we are able to offer that reliable service," Sylvester said. 

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