- Associated Press - Friday, November 6, 2015

CHICAGO (AP) - A federal report says soot concentrations were significantly higher on the platforms at Chicago’s Union Station than on the streets outside of the commuter station, especially at 5 p.m. when rush-hour trains are packed inside.

But it’s unclear what health risks the dirty air poses to commuters, the Chicago Tribune (https://trib.in/1MCSXlF ) reported.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency tested the air quality during the summer at the station, which serves nearly 130,000 commuters each weekday, and released the report on Thursday.

The EPA says it hopes to work with commuter rail providers Amtrak and Metra to reduce particulate pollution, but EPA regional administrator Susan Hedman declined to speculate on the agency’s actions if voluntary efforts fail.

Amtrak and Metra say they’ve installed more efficient air filters on passenger cars, switched to cleaner fuel and secured federal funds to put technology on locomotives to automatically power down engines when inside downtown Chicago stations.

“Neither Amtrak nor Metra remain complacent, and continue to work together to focus on additional improvements,” the agencies said in a joint statement. “We are also committed to working with other station shareholders and stakeholders to improve the air quality.”

Additional improvements, the newspaper says, would likely require overhauling Union Station or nearby properties.

Metra says it can’t afford cleaner locomotives that are on the market. Trains built to the latest EPA standards release 90 percent less soot than Metra’s refurbished fleet.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said the EPA’s findings at Union Station are “alarming and unacceptable.” He has helped Metra and Amtrak get federal funds to reduce emissions, and said those agencies should begin constant air-quality monitoring at the station.

“The health of the thousands of commuters and visitors who stream in and out of the building everyday must be protected,” Durbin said.


Information from: Chicago Tribune, https://www.chicagotribune.com

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