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Senator Durbin To Amtrak: Don’t Let Old Post Office Developer Keep Blowing Hot Air

Durbin calls on Amtrak to fight local property owner’s efforts to turn off exhaust fans critical to maintaining air quality at nearby Union Station

WASHINGTON, D.C.–(ENEWSPF)–May 1, 2014.  U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today called on Joe Boardman, President and CEO of Amtrak, to fight any efforts to roll back maintenance and operations of the ventilation systems at the Old Post Office, which provide significant air quality benefits to the thousands of commuters and workers who use Union Station every day. Durbin wrote Boardman in response to papers filed in federal court earlier this week by Bill Davies, Chairman of International Property Developers and owner of the property, seeking to overturn a court order requiring him to operate the ventilation systems above Union Station.

“The owner of the Old Post Office property above Union Station has recently filed a motion in Cook County Circuit Court to overturn a court order requiring him to operate the ventilation systems above Union Station,” Durbin wrote. “Given the serious safety and health issues involved, I strongly urge you to actively oppose any efforts to roll back operations and maintenance of this critical ventilation system. The 120,000 rail passengers and hundreds of workers who use Union Station deserve the best air quality possible and that quality is dependent on your ventilation system.”

In November 2010, Durbin asked several federal agencies to work with Amtrak and Metra to look into the results of a Chicago Tribune report that discovered high levels of diesel soot and air pollution in commuter rail cars and on train platforms at Union Station. Following the report, subsequent analysis found air quality inside the station is largely dependent on ventilation systems operated by private owners above the station, including the Old Post Office. When these exhaust systems are not properly maintained and operated, the resulting diesel exhaust accumulates and increases the amount of particulate matter in the air.

In February 2012, Amtrak filed suit claiming the Old Post Office’s lack of ventilation was affecting public health and Durbin wrote Davies urging the Old Post Office owner to improve the ventilation systems at the property. Shortly afterward, the faulty ventilation systems contributed to a serious fire at the property, which forced several firefighting units and emergency personnel to shut down parts of the West Loop to secure the area and extinguish the blaze.

In May 2013, a Cook County Circuit Court decision forced Davies to operate and maintain the fans at the Old Post Office. According to this court order the property owner is required to keep its exhaust fans running twenty four hours a day, seven days a week to prevent diesel fumes from accumulating in Union Station.

Davies filed papers earlier this week seeking to overturn that decision.

The text of Senator Durbin’s letter to Amtrak is below:

May 1, 2014

The Honorable Joe Boardman
President and CEO
Amtrak
50 Massachusetts Ave NE
Washington DC 20002

Dear Mr. Boardman:

The owner of the Old Post Office property above Union Station has recently filed a motion in Cook County Circuit Court to overturn a court order requiring him to operate the ventilation systems above Union Station. As you know, faulty ventilation fans in the Old Post Office building contributed to a serious fire on February 17, 2012. That serious fire triggered an EMS Plan 1, which forced several firefighting units and emergency personnel to shut down parts of the West Loop to secure the area and extinguish the blaze.  Given the serious safety and health issues involved, I strongly urge you to actively oppose any efforts to roll back operations and maintenance of this critical ventilation system.

The ventilation system also provides significant air quality benefits to the thousands of commuters and workers who use Union Station every day. In 2010, The Chicago Tribune exposed serious air quality issues in Chicago Union Station. Subsequent studies and analysis found air quality inside the station is largely dependent on ventilation systems operated by private owners above the station. When these exhaust systems are not properly maintained and operated, the resulting diesel exhaust accumulates and increases the amount of particulate matter in the air. Increased particulate matter can endanger lung health and cause numerous health problems with long-term exposure, including lung cancer, asthma attacks, heart attacks, strokes and premature death. The 120,000 rail passengers and hundreds of workers who use Union Station deserve the best air quality possible and that quality is dependent on your ventilation system.

Amtrak, Metra, City of Chicago and other stakeholders have completed a new Master Plan for Union Station that will greatly improve the station and allow Metra and Amtrak to serve more passengers and trains.  These efforts will only succeed if we remain vigilant in efforts to minimize particulate matter in the air inside the station. That requires you to resist any efforts by the Old Post Office owner to walk away from his responsibility to adhere to the court order that mandates him to run and maintain the ventilation system above the station. 

Thank you for your consideration of this request. As always, I stand ready to work with you to assure that all necessary measures are taken to improve air quality for passengers in Union Station.                                                          

Sincerely,

Richard J. Durbin,
United States Senator

Source: durbin.senate.gov

 

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