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Quigley’s “Mike on the Move” Tour Highlights Metra Upgrades

Sep 25, 2014
Press Release

CHICAGO — Today, U.S. Representative Mike Quigley (IL-05) took his “Mike on the Move” transportation initiative to Chicago’s Metra system to spotlight its century-old switching tower and the Amerail passenger car rehabilitation project. “Mike on the Move” highlights how the federal government can support Chicago transportation and infrastructure investments.

“America’s crumbling infrastructure is slowing economic growth, but federal investments will create jobs and improve our ability to compete in a global economy,” said Rep. Quigley. “With federal funding for the Amerail Overhaul Project, Metra will provide passengers a first-rate rail experience, but more is needed to modernize the larger system. In a city as forward-thinking and technologically advanced as Chicago, Metra’s aging switch system is an unacceptable relic of the past that desperately needs to be updated.”

Rep. Quigley first visited Metra’s A-2 switching tower near Grand and Western Avenue. The tower was installed in 1932 and the intersection remains one of Metra’s busiest. Seven of Metra’s eleven lines pass through the A-2 yard, travelling to all six counties on the Metra system. Inside of the tower, a "leverman" moves levers to activate the 31 switches in the yard while an 80-year-old electric map shows the locations of trains approaching a network of intersections. 

Rep. Quigley learns how to operate the 1930s switching system at Metra’s A-2 Tower.

Rep. Quigley learns how to operate the 1930s switching system at Metra’s A-2 Tower. 

Rep. Quigley also visited the 49th Street Amerail Overhaul Project, where 70 union workers are installing a variety of new features in 176 cars built by Amerail between 1995 and 1998. New amenities include doors with sensitive edges that open in the event of an obstruction; four new LED signs per car to assist passengers with hearing disabilities; new composite floors and seats that meet current crash-safety standards; and 19 electrical outlets spaced throughout the seating area. The $115 million program is funded by the Federal Transit Administration and will extend a car’s life by 12-15 years. 

Rep. Quigley (center) tours Metra’s 49th Street Amerail Overhaul Project.

Rep. Quigley (center) tours Metra’s 49th Street Amerail Overhaul Project.

"We really appreciate Congressman Quigley taking the time out of his busy schedule to visit us and get first-hand knowledge of some of our major capital projects and priorities," said Metra Executive Director/CEO Don Orseno. "Commuter rail is a capital intensive operation that requires a lot maintenance and upkeep. We are grateful of the Congressman's support both in Washington and at home in the region as we continue our efforts."   

As Illinois’ only member on the House Appropriations Committee, Rep. Quigley has pushed for a long-term surface transportation bill and prioritized Chicago-area infrastructure investments as a member of the Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD). He has helped secure $35 million in Core Capacity grants to benefit CTA and $61 million for projects to ease flooding in Cook County. Most recently he fought for increased funding for the TIGER grant program to benefit both highways and pedestrian projects. 

Future “Mike on the Move” events will highlight improvements to some of Chicago’s busiest streets and highways; additional sustainability efforts,  including the PACE Bus System, the Divvy bike share program and revitalization projects like the 606/Bloomingdale Trail; and the national importance of Chicago’s freight network, among others.

Metra is the commuter rail division of the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA). Metra operates 241 stations on 11 different rail lines and has been at least the fourth busiest commuter rail system in the United States by ridership throughout the 21st century.