The head of Metro spoke during a board meeting Thursday and released more information about a deal to build rail cars and spur job creation in the D.C. area.
“It’s very big for the region,” said Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld.
Metro recently announced a $2.2 billion contract with Hitachi Rail to build Metro’s next generation of rail cars and also to build an assembly plant somewhere in Maryland, D.C. or Northern Virginia.
The move will potentially create hundreds of local jobs, but a final location for the plant has not been determined yet.
“That will be a decision by the company and they will do their due diligence,” Wiedefeld said. “That will take a bit of time and when they reach that conclusion, they will let us know.”
The deal with Hitachi Rail calls for building as many as 800 new rail cars that will start running by 2024.
“The biggest thing that you’ll notice is the technology,” Wiedefeld said.
The new cars will have more real-time information on digital screens and will be lighter and more energy-efficient.
They would be an improvement on the recently issued 7000-series cars, and would replace the 2000- and 3000-series cars, which have been in service since the early 1980s.
Huge amount of public input
During Thursday’s meeting, Wiedefeld released new numbers related to how much feedback the agency received from its controversial budget plan that proposed widespread service cuts and layoffs.
Wiedefeld said more than 22,000 individuals and organizations provided input during the public comment period.
“That’s the most comments we’ve received on a budget in at least 10 years, and among the most diverse populations to engage with us,” he said.
There were also more than 26,000 visitors to the budget’s webpage, according to Wiedefeld.
Metro had proposed potentially closing 22 stations, ending service at 9 p.m. and increasing time between trains to help deal with a $210 million budget shortfall due to pandemic-related declines in bus and rail ridership.
Wiedefeld said that Metro was able to avoid the cuts because the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act, which was recently passed by Congress, provided $1.4 billion to D.C.-area transit agencies.