Commuters on Metra's BNSF Line are getting relief from wind-related delays thanks to new measuring devices installed this year and the agency plans to extend the program to all three Union Pacific Lines.
"This scientific approach allows us to better serve our customers," acting Executive Director Don Orseno said at a Friday Metra meeting.
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Decisions on when to hold trains on the BNSF and UP railroads are made from dispatch centers in Fort Worth and Omaha, respectively. But high-speed wind alerts the dispatchers use cover a wide area, Metra officials said, noting that trains can be kept waiting at locations in the Chicago area even after a storm has passed.
"It's frustrating ... we've all been there," Chief Transportation Officer Pete Zwolfer said.
Metra has already paid for the installation of three anemometers, which measure wind speed, along the BNSF Line in Aurora, Downers Grove and Cicero. The data is then transmitted to the dispatch center.
"It's been a godsend. We're able to pinpoint where the winds are and this allows us to keep the trains running," Zwolfer said.
Union Pacific is in the process of installing anemometers on the UP North, West and Northwest Lines, and they should be working by the spring storm season, officials said. The anemometers cost about $25,000 each.
It can't be too soon, Metra Director and former Arlington Heights Mayor Arlene Mulder said, adding she's heard from a number of commuters delayed by winds.