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In 2017, Metra plans to raise fares by an average 5.8 percent to help fund capital projects, including positive train control (PTC).The fare increase is expected to generate an additional $16.1 million in revenue, which will be used solely to fund capital improvements, Metra officials said in a press release.The Chicago-area commuter railroad has an $11.7 billion backlog of capital projects. Metra would need to spend $1.2 billion annually just to achieve and maintain a state of good repair, agency officials said.The fare hike is part of Metra's planned 2017 budget of $1.06 billion, which allocates $279.5 million for capital improvements. The remaining $781.2 million will cover Metra's operating costs.The railroad's capital budget provides $90.5 million for rolling stock, $30.5 million to install PTC and $20 million to expand the 49th Street rehab shop. Metra expects to receive $175 million from federal sources and $72.4 million from the Chicago Regional Transportation Authority for capital needs."Last year, we said that without a new state bond program, we may need to raise fares even higher than we had projected to fund our capital budget," said Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer Don Orseno. "By finding budget efficiencies and carefully prioritizing our capital needs, we are proposing a 5.8 percent increase in fare revenue for 2017 – with 100 percent of the proceeds going toward capital improvements."In September, Metra announced $5.3 million worth of cuts to its operating budget. Next month, the railroad will hold eight public hearings on the budget.
Meanwhile, Metra's board late last week elected Norman Carlson as chairman. Carlson has extensive experience in the rail industry and spent 34 years with Arthur Anderson Co., where he provided audit, income tax and financial consulting services to large and small railroads.In 1990, he was named worldwide managing partner of Andersen's transportation practice and served in that role until retiring from the firm in 2000. That year, he formed Carlson Consulting International and served as a short-term executive.Carlson was appointed to Metra's board in April 2013.
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