The Maryland Transit Administration is getting a federal and state funding boost to modernize its aging light rail cars.

The agency has said it urgently needs $450 million to replace its entire fleet of more than 50 rail cars dating back to the light rail system’s launch in 1992. MTA officials in early December abruptly shut down light rail service due to safety concerns in the Baltimore region following an Oct. 21 fire and explosion on a nearly empty rail car. Service has since resumed, but authorities say the rail cars have reached the end of their useful lives, or will within five years.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced an award of more than $213 million toward the project under its Federal Transit Administration’s Rail Vehicle Replacement program. The funding comes on top of $127.6 million in federal funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act as well as $90 million in matching funds from the state of Maryland. Any additional costs will be covered by state funds and future federal formula funds, said MTA spokesperson Paul Shepard.

U.S. Sens. Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin, as well as Reps. Dutch Ruppersberger, John Sarbanes and Kweisi Mfume said they worked to secure the funding by passing the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which newly established the rail vehicle replacement program.

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“Maryland’s light rail service helps keep Baltimore area residents and the local economy on the move — which is why we need to keep it in top shape,” Van Hollen said in news release. “This federal investment will provide the critical funds the MTA needs to fully replace its aging fleet with state-of-the-art rail cars and ensure that people across the City and surrounding communities can get where they need to go safely, efficiently and reliably.”

Officials are proposing to replace the aging rail cars with modern, low-floor vehicles that are designed to make boarding more accessible to all passengers. MTA officials also said the project will improve the frequency and reliability of the light rail system by reducing the number of vehicles that are regularly out of service for repairs.

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