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CTA plans major bus, rail maintenance overhaul

At left Steven Macheri CTA general manager constructiBill Polacek CTA manager constructitalk about renovations CTA Granville statiFriday July 13 2012.

At left, Steven Macheri, CTA general manager on construction, and Bill Polacek, CTA manager of construction, talk about renovations at the CTA Granville station, Friday, July 13, 2012. | Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times

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Updated: August 19, 2012 6:17AM

The CTA will spend $205 million to overhaul its bus and rail maintenance facilities ­— including one bus garage that’s 109 years old — under an upgrade unveiled Tuesday that’s expected to create more than 500 jobs.

Six weeks after announcing plans to purchase 425 new buses and rebuild 1,030 others, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and CTA President Forrest Claypool announced the overhaul of the antiquated CTA facilities used to repair and maintain buses and rail cars.

The CTA has seven bus garages. One — the 77th Street garage — was built in 1903 and still has the street car-era remnants to prove it: rails embedded in the floor.

Two other CTA bus garages also are more than 55 years old. Four of those facilities are anywhere from 20 to 30 years old. The facilities impair the CTA’s ability to get buses placed out of service back on the street quickly, officials said.

Bankrolled by a mix of federal funding and CTA sales tax bonds, the repair overhaul is expected to begin in early 2013 and continue through 2015.

More than half the $205 million pricetag — $130 million — will be used to upgrade the seven bus garages and the repair equipment inside them. The rest of the money will be used to overhaul rail shops.

“Conditions at some of these facilities are so poor that we have to use extra staff to make up for the inadequate equipment that can neither support more modern vehicles nor accommodate the space needed for the increasing number of 60-foot buses we’re adding to the fleet,” Claypool said. “Rehabilitation of these facilities and equipment will create a safer and more efficient work environment for our employees, which will help speed up vehicle repairs and lower the cost of making the repairs. For our customers, this will mean vehicles are returned to the streets more quickly and allow for more reliable service.”

Emanuel called the CTA the “backbone of the city” and said rebuilding its infrastructure is “key to Chicago’s continued growth.”

He added, “Not only will this initiative ensure commuters have safe and reliable service for years to come, it spurs the creation of hundreds of jobs.”

The project includes everything from repair and replacement of bus fueling and servicing facilities, inspection pits, bus hoists and wash racks to expansion of the South Shops used for heavy maintenance to accommodate a growing number of articulated buses.

Bus garages are also in line for a new surveillance camera network and other security enhancements.

“No more patchwork repairs — we’re once again fixing the right things the right way,” Claypool said. “The deteriorated and non-functioning bus facility support systems have an immediate and direct impact on our ability to properly and efficiently prepare vehicles for daily service in a timely fashion.”

Six weeks ago, the CTA announced plans for a $500 million overhaul of its bus fleet that Claypool said would guarantee riders a “modern clean, efficient vehicle with a smooth, comfortable ride,” no matter where they get on a bus.

The fleet upgrade is expected to reduce CTA maintenance costs by $15 million by 2016.

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