Responding to a Chicago Tribune story that raised questions about the level of diesel emissions on downtown platforms and onboard trains, Metra on Tuesday said it has hired an independent firm to conduct tests and is forming a task force to investigate the problem and propose new ways to improve the air quality.
Metra invited representatives of its unions, its freight railroad partners, Amtrak and federal and state regulatory agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, to a summit Tuesday to discuss the agency’s response to the newspaper story.
“We take this issue very seriously,” Acting Executive Director Bill Tupper said. “We have done testing in the past addressing the issue of locomotive emissions. However, we must now come together to reassess what work has been done regarding this issue and collectively determine meaningful and tangible solutions as we go forward. This is a multifaceted issue in which we all have an interest.”
Metra has already retained an independent firm, Carnow, Conibear & Associates, to test the quality of the air at Metra stations and onboard its locomotives and passenger cars. That testing will begin as soon as possible. Metra asked for the assistance of the EPA, OSHA and others to help develop the protocols for the tests and to interpret the results.
Metra asked the representatives present at the meeting to join a task force to investigate the issue and propose ways to improve the air quality. Among the issues the task force will look at are the ventilation systems at Chicago Union Station (which is owned by Amtrak) and Ogilvie Transportation Center, the air filtration system on the trains, whether there are alternative exhaust treatments that can be installed on the locomotives and whether there are cleaner alternative fuels available. The task force also will attempt to address Metra’s shortage of capital dollars to invest in cleaner technologies. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) already has offered to help Metra identify new funding sources.
Metra intends to move as quickly as possible to address the issue.