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RTA To Discuss Electrification Of Metra Lines

CHICAGO (WBBM/CBS) -- The Regional Transportation Authority has called transit officials from across the country to a one-day seminar in March on electrification of commuter rail lines.

As WBBM Newsradio 780's Bob Roberts reports, officials believe electrification could be a solution to onboard air pollution.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780's Bob Roberts reports


With all the discussion about diesel soot and other air pollution at downtown Metra terminals and aboard commuter trains, RTA executive director Joe Costello says the idea of electrification has come up.

"No one's putting a proposal forward, but it has cropped up with fumes in the news, and it's come up at public hearings over the years," Costello said.

Costello says electrification of the 10 Metra lines that don't have overhead wires would not be cheap, but indicated that observers may be surprised at the price tag.

But Metra spokeswoman Judy Pardonnet says electrification would not be a bargain, starting with the 100 electricians Metra keeps on its payroll just to keep Electric District operations on schedule.

Metra is now in the process of testing the air in downtown stations.

Independent consultants also recently tested the system's diesel-operated rail cars, and found that they do not release dangerous levels of harmful soot.

That finding came after testing last year by the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Respiratory Health Association found that trains pulling out of Union Station and the Ogilvie Transportation Center can have air trapped inside passenger cars that contains levels of diesel soot up to 72 times higher than on neighboring streets.

Metra now operates electric trains on the aptly-named Metra Electric line, which runs on the old Illinois Central tracks from the Millennium Station downtown through the city's South Side, and finally to south suburban University Park and Blue Island.

The South Shore Line, which runs to Northwest Indiana and is not operated by with Metra, is also electrified.

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