The Maryland Transit Administration will introduce the first of its 26 new diesel locomotives for its MARC commuter train service Wednesday at a Camden Station news conference with Gov. Martin O'Malley.
The new $100 million fleet is expected to improve the capacity and reliability of service on the MARC lines, which have been hampered in recent years by frequent equipment breakdowns.
Three of the new locomotives are in Maryland and are undergoing the final stages of testing, said MTA spokeswoman Jawauna Greene. The first is expected to begin making scheduled runs on the Penn Line - MARC's busiest - about May 18. Unless problems crop up, the other two should be in operation by June 1, she said.
That means the new equipment will be coming just in time for summer, when MARC's existing locomotives are especially prone to breaking down in the heat. Greene said that after the first three, the locomotives are expected to be delivered at the rate of one or two a month. All are expect to be in service by the summer of 2010.
According to the spokeswoman, the new diesel engines will be more fuel-efficient and have greater horsepower than the current fleet, allowing each locomotive to pull a longer train. The new units will burn low-sulfur diesel, cutting down on the system's emissions of pollutants, she said.
"It's an all-over upgrade to the current system," Greene said.
About 80 percent of the money to pay for the new fleet, manufactured by MotivePower Inc. of Boise, Idaho, comes from federal funds. Maryland's share is part of the state's long-range capital budget for transportation.
At first, most of the new locomotives will deployed on the Penn Line, which runs from Perryville to Washington on Amtrak's Northeast corridor. The Brunswick Line, which connects Washington with Western Maryland and West Virginia, may receive its first new locomotives before the end of the summer, Greene said. The Camden Line between Baltimore and Washington, which like the Brunswick uses CSX tracks, will probably get its first replacement engines by the end of the year, she said.
Greene said that while the Camden Line will not receive the new locomotives as quickly as the Penn, service should improve this summer because the MTA will begin retiring some of its least reliable equipment almost immediately.
She said MARC plans to donate a current locomotive to the B&O Railroad Museum.