TO OUR METRA/BNSF RAILWAY CUSTOMERS:
At approximately 4:30 p.m. yesterday afternoon, service on the BNSF was halted after bags of stearic acid were discovered along the tracks. The bags of the white, powdery chemical normally used in candle and soap production had fallen from a freight train earlier in the day. It was not until we received a call from the Downers Grove Fire Department that anyone knew of the problem.
Although stearic acid is an extremely stable chemical, when released into the air, it can cause eye, skin or respiratory irritation. For that reason, the local fire departments and hazardous material teams felt that it was best that we not operate through the areas until the product was removed from the railbed.
We attempted to secure busses to carry customers around the initial site at Downers Grove, but there were only a limited number available. We knew that it would be a long and tedious process to transfer customers from train to bus to a train waiting beyond Downers Grove, but we felt that it was the only option. While we continued our attempts to secure additional busses, we were notified that the product had been found at various points between Cicero and Aurora. At that point, we had no choice but to wait for the entire line to be cleared. Unfortunately, this took several hours to accomplish. Train service finally resumed just after 8:15 p.m.
The problems continued this morning because the crews, who must observe federally mandated rest periods, were unable to return to work to operate their normal inbound trains. BNSF managers worked through the night to modify the schedule this morning in an attempt to provide as much service as possible.
Metra and BNSF personnel have remarked on the patience and understanding shown by all of you. We know that each of you probably had some plans last evening which were ultimately delayed or cancelled because of the service disruption. While our goal is to get everyone home on time, all the time, our most important responsibility is to get you there safely. Thank you for your calm and reasonable demeanor during what was, in all likelihood, your longest and most trying commute home.
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