Metra finds no pollution danger in cars

  • Bob Chwedyk/Daily Herald file Metra is testing the levels of diesel emmissions in passenger cars.

    Bob Chwedyk/Daily Herald file Metra is testing the levels of diesel emmissions in passenger cars.

Updated 1/14/2011 4:33 PM

The first stage of Metra pollution testing in passenger cars turned up no evidence of dangerous diesel emissions, according to Chief Mechanical Officer Rich Soukup.

"All of the levels have come in well below OSHA standards," Soukup said, in making a presentation to the Metra board Friday in Chicago.


The testing, according to air-quality standards set by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, saw pollution levels drop 50 percent from the first car behind the locomotive to the second car, and halve again in the third car, at which point they leveled off for the rest of the train. Yet even in the first passenger car, Soukup said, "None of these levels is anywhere close to the OSHA levels."

The testing did detect spikes in levels of hard-carbon soot on the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Line running out of Union Station to the western suburbs of Naperville and Aurora, and Soukup allowed, "There is no established level for that at this point."

He blamed the enclosed BNSF platforms at Union Station, where they also get emissions from Amtrak trains, and the age of BNSF trains, which he said have "the oldest cars in the fleet," for any problems.

Soukup said they were working with Amtrak, which owns Union Station, to improve conditions there, and that they were considering an upgrade for passenger-car filters.

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"So far, we haven't seen any particular areas to concentrate on other than the BN coming out of Union Station," added Bill Tupper, Metra's acting executive director.

"These statistics do reassure me somewhat," said Metra Chairman Carole Doris, "but I'm also encouraged we're still working on it."

The tests grew out of news reports citing high pollution levels on Metra platforms as trains idled awaiting passengers. The testing program will move to its second phase testing platform pollution levels starting at the Ogilvie Transportation Center downtown next week.