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New York awards commuter railcar contract worth up to $1.8 billion

(Reuters) - New York plans to spend up to $1.83 billion to build hundreds of electric commuter railcars at a plant in Yonkers that is expected to employ as many as 1,500 people, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Wednesday.

Kawasaki Rail Car Inc., headquartered just north of New York City but part of Kawasaki Heavy Industries, was awarded the contract by the board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the largest transportation network in North America.

Up to 676 new cars will expand capacity on the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad as well as replace cars that have been in use since the 1980s.

The cars will have larger windows and automated public address announcements. But they will continue to be manufactured as two nearly identical cars coupled together and sharing a bathroom, conductor cabs and electrical systems. Each pair will seat 221 passengers.

"We have been constantly working to improve the state's infrastructure and transit systems to better serve New Yorkers," Cuomo said in a statement.

The first portion of the contract will pay for 92 cars for the LIRR, to be funded with $355.5 million from the MTA's current capital plan, which is due to be revised next year.

The remaining cars would be paid for if money is available in the next capital plan, which will run from 2015 through 2019.

(Reporting by Hilary Russ; Editing by Xavier Briand)

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