The Federal Transit Administration has awarded the Sacramento Regional Transit District $45.1 million to assist in purchasing 16 new light rail train trains that are being built by Siemens Mobility South Sacramento.
This new order is in addition to the 28 low-floor light rail vehicles of next-generation that SacRT had already ordered as part a major project for modernization.
In a press release, Patrick Kennedy, SacRT chairman and Sacramento County Supervisor, said that the funding will accelerate SacRT's modernization of its light rail fleet. It will also bring us closer to replacing our old light rail vehicles with new, modern low-floor vehicles, which will increase accessibility for all passengers. These new vehicles are built in Sacramento by Siemens. This is a major boost for the local economy.
The new trains are replacing the legacy fleet of SacRT trains. Many of these trains "are at or beyond their useful life", RT spokeswoman Jessica Gonzalez stated. It's going to be a real game changer.
Some delays are caused by minor problems, like a train door that won't open. The new trains will identify errors in real-time so that maintenance workers don't waste time troubleshooting.
The new trains, which have been delivered to SacRT, are currently being tested locally. The new fleet is set to debut on the Gold Line in the summer of next year, Gonzalez said. This line runs from Downtown Sacramento up to Folsom.
The local transit agency can buy up to 76 new vehicles under a contract. This order brings SacRT to 44 new vehicles and represents two thirds of the minimum 66 trains that the agency must operate its lines.
Gonzalez stated that SacRT now receives two trains per week from Siemens. However, they must all go through a "very rigorous testing process".
First, the vehicle's wiring, electronics and processing are all inspected. The second round of testing includes dynamic testing after-hours of vehicles in the production line to check on propulsion and braking dynamics, as well as weight dynamics. The final and third testing includes "burn-in tests," which will require the vehicles to be driven for 1,000 miles prior to entering passenger service.
As part of the modernization programme, existing high-floor station will be converted to low-floor so that passengers do not need to use ramps or stairs to reach the vehicles. Low-floor cars are easier to use for people in wheelchairs and with mobility issues.
In addition to the federal funding, the Sacramento Area Council of Governments and the State of California are providing funding for 16 additional vehicles. Gonzalez stated that the cost of 16 vehicles is approximately $100 million. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Act of 2021 includes new federal funding to build 16 trains.
A second part of the plan involves installing double-tracked new rails on the Gold Line at Folsom. This will increase the service to 15 minutes from the current 30 minutes in the summer next year. All station upgrades along that line have been completed.
Siemens Mobility has built light rail and trains at Sacramento since 1984. Since 1992, its factory is located on French Road.
Amtrak, private rail companies and light rail districts have placed new orders worth more than $5 billion for trains, coaches, and light rail in the last three years.
Siemens Mobility is the third largest manufacturer in the Sacramento County area, based on number of employees. The main factory has about 2,500 workers.