Amtrak is eyeing new rail cars for long-distance trains through Chicago

Amtrak is planning to replace its fleet of train cars used on 14 overnight routes. The purchase, which could be valued in the billions of dollars, would upgrade cars

that in some cases have been in use for 40 years, according to the passenger rail service. It could also be one step toward improving on-time performance, though other efforts are

also needed, Amtrak board Chair Anthony Coscia said. The new rail cars, which would run on routes like the California Zephyr between Chicago and San Francisco and the

Cardinal between New York and Chicago, are the latest plans for investment in a system that Coscia said has for years been underfunded. Efforts are already underway to modernize

some shorter-distance trains in other parts of the country and roll out new locomotives, and the agency has outlined a vision for a major, decadeslong expansion of rail service,

subject to funding. “In a way it sort of is the capstone ... to our effort to modernize passenger rail,” Coscia said. Amtrak has discussed ideas for the new cars

with manufacturers, but has not yet issued formal procurement requests. An exact price tag and time frame will depend on the bidding, but new trains could be delivered within five

to 10 years, Coscia said. Funding for the purchase, which he described as a “major, major capital expenditure,” would come from the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act

signed into law in 2021, he said.