Metra prepares for winter

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During heavy winter storms, extra workers keep switches clear of snow, as well as clear platforms and rail yards. (WLS)

Winter is here and Metra is ready.

All the tweet alerts and platform announcements originate at Metra's GPS Center, and outside of command center is where crews have been inspecting equipment and getting ready for winter.

For the past three months crews, have been inspecting 1,100 pieces of rail, all the heating systems on 400 of their mainline switches and some 4,000 doors, as they prepare for frigid weather. The biggest problem is that causes the worst delays is ice on the switches.

"When that heavy packed snow that turns into ice falls on the switches that is the biggest vulnerability, so we have heaters there to try and eliminate snow from building up there," said Jim Derwinski, Metra incoming executive director.

Until the switches are cleared by hand, the signals will not let the trains pass, creating major delays.

When a major storm is forecasted, extra workers will be on hand to keep switches clear of snow, and to clear platforms and rail yards. If temperatures are below zero, engines will be left running overnight on locomotives so they will be ready for the morning rush. To prevent overhead wires from freezing on the Metra electric, ice trains may be run overnight.

At the GPS Center, they start making platform announcements if trains are six minutes delayed on any lines. Fifteen-minute alerts go out and after 30 minutes or plus, a blanket statement goes out.

Next year, upgrades are planned in the GPS Center for better communication with customers.

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