Metra to Suspend Some Lines if Freight Rail Workers Strike

Metra equipment at the Illinois Railway Museum. (Photo by Todd DeFeo/The DeFeo Groupe)

(The Center Square) – Metra will suspend service on some suburban commuter rail lines beginning Thursday night if freight rail workers go on strike.

If the strike happens, thousands of Chicago-area commuters who rely on Metra to get to their jobs would have to find alternative forms of transportation.

Metra said Wednesday that services would be halted Thursday evening on its Union Pacific North, Union Pacific Northwest, Union Pacific West and BNSF lines.

“If the work stoppage occurs, there will be no service Friday on the BNSF, Union Pacific North, Union Pacific Northwest and Union Pacific West lines,” Metra said in a statement posted online. “Both BNSF Railway and Union Pacific Railroad, which own and operate the lines, have communicated that they will begin curtailing service after the evening rush hour on Thursday, Sept. 15 in preparation for the potential work stoppage.”

There would be no immediate impact on the Milwaukee District North and West, Metra Electric, Rock Island and Southwest Service lines. Impact on the North Central Service and Heritage Corridor lines are still to be determined.

Freight rail worker unions from 12 railroads across the U.S. threatened to strike if a new contract deal is not struck by 12:01 a.m. Friday. The 12 unions account for 115,000 workers. A strike could shut down more than 7,000 trains a day nationally.

A Presidential Emergency Board established in the summer by President Joe Biden – a pro-union Democrat – recommends 24% raises over five years, $5,000 in bonus pay, and an additional paid day a year. It would be retroactive to 2020, run to 2024, and immediately increase wages by 14% covering the first three years, The Center Square reported earlier today.

A strike also could result in up to $2 billion of economic losses a day and lead to massive disruptions in the still lingering supply chain backlog.

Metra, whose workers are not involved in the freight rail worker dispute, would be impacted because it uses tracks that are either owned or maintained by freight railroads.

“Negotiations between the unions and freight railroads are ongoing, and we are hopeful that a settlement will be reached before the strike deadline,” Metra said. “We will provide additional updates as soon as more information becomes available.”

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