Chicago Tonight: ELPC’s Learner says Chicago shutdown of vehicle emissions testing sites “defies common sense”

Chicago Tonight

EPA to Shut Down 2 Chicago Vehicle Emissions Test Facilities
By Reuben Unrau

October 21, 2016

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency will close two vehicle emissions testing facilities in Chicago, leaving motorists without a single testing center within city limits starting Nov. 1.

The decision, announced by the agency Wednesday, comes as a result of a new testing contract that aims to cut costs.

Test sites at 1850 W. Webster Ave. in Bucktown and 6959 W. Forest Preserve Drive in Harwood Heights will shutter by the end of the month. The EPA also announced the closure of suburban facilities in Elk Grove Village and Tinley Park.

Kim Biggs, a spokeswoman for the Illinois EPA, says motorists will not have to travel more than 12 miles to reach a testing station, which is required by state statute. In a press release, the EPA says Chicago-area drivers will have to commute an additional four miles, on average, starting in November.

“Motorists may have a different drive, but this new contract will provide significant cost savings in Illinois,” Biggs said.

The contract will save Illinois taxpayers around $11 million per year and an estimated $100 million over the next 10 years, according to the Illinois EPA. The move also includes measures that are designed to increase efficiency: Testing centers will have extended hours on Saturdays and each location (with the exception of the site in Schaumburg) will be equipped with high-capacity, two-lane facilities to help accommodate the expected increase in demand. Motorists will also be able to request extensions or exemptions from the testing requirement online.

Despite the savings, opponents fear the Chicago closures will create a burden on motorists in the state’s largest city. Howard Learner, executive director of the Chicago-based Environmental Law and Policy Center, says the decision is “tone deaf and defies common sense.”

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