The D.C. Metro’s current crop of late-model rail cars are still sidelined because of last fall’s derailment. But plans for the next fleet of rail cars are already underway, and they will be manufactured in Maryland.
Hitachi Rail said it will build a $70 million “state-of-the-art” factory in Washington County, Maryland, to build the 8000-series cars.
Hitachi’s first order at the plant will be to build at least 256 new 8000-series cars with the option of up to 800 this decade. The contract of up to $2.2 billion was announced in March 2021.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan welcomed the news, saying the project is expected to create up to 460 new full-time jobs and help sustain 1,300 jobs in the region.
“Hitachi Rail is an incredible global company, and their decision to select Hagerstown as the site of a major U.S. expansion is tremendous news for Washington County and the entire state of Maryland,” Hogan said in a news release. “With this new facility, Hitachi Rail will create hundreds of critical manufacturing jobs in our state with the capability to serve the wider North American market. We are excited to work together on this transformative project and look forward to the company’s continued success in Maryland.”
Hitachi said the new all-electric cars would come with digital maps, onboard Wi-Fi, heated floors and more space between seats and wider aisles.
Safety measures include beefing up the cars with planned HD security cameras, “smart doors” that can detect obstructions, improved ventilation and improved regenerative braking. They’ll be able seat around 65 people per car.
Metro’s latest cars — the 7000 series, which are manufactured by Kawasaki Rail — were pulled from service last fall after a derailment in October revealed wheel defects. They still have not returned to service and have sidelined about 60% of Metro’s rail fleet.
During a recent meeting, Metro General Manager and CEO Paul Wiedefeld told the agency’s board of directors that the agency has identified “probable root causes” of the wheelset issues.
The 8000-series will replace the older 2000- and 3000-series cars that have been in service since the 1980s and are at the end of their 40-year life cycle.
“It’s important that this investment in rail cars will enable us to replace our legacy equipment while accruing economic benefits to the region through jobs, use of local suppliers, and work for small and minority-owned businesses,” Wiedefeld said.
The 307,000-square-foot factory — a bit bigger than five football fields — will be built in the Hopewell Valley industrial park near Hagerstown, Maryland. It will include a test track.
The Japanese-based conglomerate said the location would be 90 minutes away from the newest car’s delivery point, Metro’s Greenbelt Rail Yard.
The company said the location also has an excellent connection to the Northeastern United States.
“With help from our state’s tech-savvy workforce and convenient access to I-70 and I-81, Hitachi Rail will be situated in an ideal location to grow its business in North America,” said Maryland Commerce Secretary Mike Gill in a statement.
WTOP’s Jack Moore contributed to this report.