Metra wind detectors aim to keep trains on time

Metra officials hope new wind-measuring devices will help keep riders on time during inevitable spring and summer storms.

The addition comes after complaints from passengers in 2013 about stopped and delayed trains along the Union Pacific lines after severe weather had cleared.

Metra has paid to install 11 anemometers on the UP and BNSF routes, which are owned by the two freight railroads. The devices, which cost $25,000 each, measure wind speed and direction.

Neither freight operator allows passenger trains to operate in extreme high winds. Decisions on when to hold trains on the BNSF and UP railroads are made from dispatch centers in Fort Worth, Texas, and Omaha, Neb., respectively. But wind alerts that the dispatchers use cover a wide area, and that can lead to a disconnect with actual conditions in the Chicago area.

The real-time data the anemometers collect will be transmitted to the railroads' dispatching centers. Metra placed three anemometers on the BNSF lines in 2013. As a result, there were minimal delays during a severe August storm, BNSF suburban terminal manager Dave Leahy said in a release.

The UP Northwest and West lines now have three anemometers each and the UP North has two.

Metra does not need the devices because its routes “have the advantage of all our dispatchers and tower operators being able to make decisions based on forecasts and the actual conditions,” spokeswoman Meg Thomas-Reile said.

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