LAST MONTH the US Federal Transit Administration awarded grants totalling more than $50m to Chicago commuter rail operator Metra under a November 2001 agreement to provide 60% funding for three projects costing $558m.

The awards include $24m for double-tracking of the North Central line between Antioch and Franklin Park, which will allow passenger operations to be increased from 10 weekday peak-hour trips to an all-day service of 22 trains. Another $22m will go towards improvements on the 62·7 km Southwest line. This is being extended by 17·7 km from Orland Park to Manhattan, together with track upgrading, resignalling, some double-tracking and two new stations.

The final $4·6m will help fund work on the 58 km UP West line, which is being extended 12·9 km from Geneva to Elburn serving two new stations, and being expanded with a third main track to improve operating flexibility.