Durbin Meets with Metra CEO to Discuss Impact of Drastic Federal Spending Cuts

[CHICAGO] –U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today met with newly appointed Metra CEO Alex Clifford to discuss Metra’s ongoing review of diesel locomotive emissions and federal spending cuts proposed by the House Republicans which would eliminate the $341,000 in federal funding Metra is using to reduce CO2 emissions by installing automatic shut-down and start-up systems in its fleet. In November, Durbin asked several federal agencies to work with Metra looking into the results of a Chicago Tribune report that discovered the high level of diesel soot and air pollution in commuter rail cars.


“Today’s meeting continued the conversation regarding air quality and passenger safety in our public transportation systems here in Chicago. Across the country, underinvestment in passenger rail systems has resulted in more public transportation systems running older and less efficient equipment. It is important that as we cut spending to reduce our deficits, we make smart, responsible decisions, and spare funding to innovative and job-creating infrastructure projects. Investing in mass transit is not wasteful spending, it is an investment in the health of our environment and our economy,” said Durbin.


During the meeting, Durbin and Clifford discussed the impact a rescission of funding would have on Metra’s plans to upgrade its aging fleet. Earlier this year, the FTA awarded the Illinois Department of Transportation a $341,000 grant funded by a program created in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to install automatic shut-down and start-up systems in 27 locomotives in the Metra fleet. The funding was made available through the Department of Transportation’s Transportation Investments for Greenhouse Gas and Energy Reduction (TIGGER) II, which was developed to encourage transit projects that promote the usage and development of energy efficient technologies.


Metra, which intends to use the funding to retrofit locomotives operating in their train yards, estimates that by shutting down instead of idling the locomotives, the automatic systems could save an estimated 800,000 gallons of diesel fuel and reduce CO2 emissions by an estimated 80,000 tons per year. Durbin has asked the FTA to investigate whether these systems can be helpful in reducing the diesel soot in engines operating in Ogilvie Station, Union Station, and the Lasalle Street Station.


Diesel exhaust contains many air pollutants, and has been linked to health problems such as cancer, heart attacks, respiratory diseases, diabetes and brain damage. Last year’s Tribune report found levels of diesel soot in Ogilvie and Union Stations up to 72 times higher than on the streets outside.