Chicago’s commuter railway operator Metra is set to receive a $169.3m (€159m) federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement (CMAQ) grant, which is reported to be the largest discretionary grant in its history.

According to Metra, the CMAQ grant was offered to aid purchases of battery-powered trainsets, which will introduce an emission-free fleet with a new propulsion system.

The funding aims to oversee the introduction of 16 new trainsets being placed across Metra’s Rock Island Line. The rail operator said this would directly benefit the air quality in several underprivileged neighbourhoods across South Chicago.

The funding will also contribute to significant modernisation across Metra’s ageing fleet, which includes trainsets that “are well beyond their useful life”.

Metra CEO Jim Derwinski emphasised how the addition of a battery-powered fleet would enhance Metra’s position as a leader in green technology: “We think zero-emission trainsets could be an exciting and positive addition to Metra’s fleet for a variety of reasons.

“Beyond the environmental and noise reduction benefits, they also offer savings in energy consumption as well as better efficiency, flexibility and reliability. Along with our other initiatives, they would continue to make Metra a responsible and effective leader in green energy technology.”

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Metra further emphasised how this funding can contribute to its regional rail service.

Through the introduction of lower-capacity trainsets, economic and environmental advantages can boost its goal of providing a more frequent all-day service.

This grant follows Metra’s request for proposals for battery-powered trainsets in September 2022, which the operator states are currently “reviewing proposals it received in response”.