ON MAY 10 the Board of Chicago Transit Authority approved the purchase of 406 metro cars from Bombardier Transit Corp in a deal valued at $577m. They will be CTA's first cars to have AC propulsion and regenerative braking.

The contract covers a base order of 206 vehicles plus an option for another 200, funded by the federal government, Illinois and the sale of bonds. It includes two further options for 216 and 84 cars should extra financing be available. An initial 10 cars are to be delivered in 2009 for testing on the Blue and Pink lines. Production vehicles will follow from 2010, replacing the 2200-series Budd cars dating from 1969-70 and the 2400-series Boeing-Vertol vehicles delivered in 1976-78.

A revised interior design includes longitudinal seating with wider gangways giving more space for standing passengers, CCTV cameras and electronic information displays. The cars will be equipped with automatic levelling equipment to meet requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act, ensuring level boarding with the station platforms.

H CTA has shortlisted three alternatives for its proposed Circle Line, a US$1bn orbital route which would provide interchange with all other CTA routes except the Yellow Line and to all Metra commuter services. The first phase would link the Orange Line's Ashland station to the Cermak branch of the Blue Line using 2·4 km of new viaduct. Circle Line services would continue north over the Pink Line's Paulina Connector to enter a 5·5 km tunnel, interchanging with the O'Hare branch of the Blue Line at Division and terminating at a rebuilt interchange with the Red and Brown lines at Clybourn. Expected to take at least six years to build, the Circle Line would have 22 stations. CTA President Frank Kruesi called it the 'single most important' transit project for Chicago. n