Four vehicle emissions testing facilities, including the last two in the city of Chicago, are being shut down by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency on Nov. 1 to reduce costs and streamline operations.
Closures of the testing stations at 1850 W. Webster Ave. and 6959 W. Forest Preserve Drive leave Chicago motorists without a city testing facility. The nearest locations will be in Skokie, Addison and Bedford Park. The other two locations being closed are in Tinley Park and Elk Grove Village.
“For the state to decide there will be no inspection in the city of Chicago, in the largest city in the state, third largest city in the country, and expect the same level of quality, it makes no common sense,” said Howard Learner, president of the Environmental Law & Policy Center, a Chicago-based environmental advocacy group.
Many Chicagoans, including city officials, were surprised by the closings.
“It’s news to me,” said Mike Claffey, spokesman for the Chicago Department of Transportation.
“This short-sighted move would place a significant burden on Chicago motor vehicle owners and force them to drive outside the city limits for required environmental tests, exacerbating the problem emissions testing is designed to protect against,” he added.
The federal Clean Air Act requires that emission testing facilities must be located within 12 miles of motorists who need to get their vehicles tested. Most 1996 and newer gasoline-powered passenger vehicles are subject to testing after they are 4 years old. The emissions check is required every other year.
“It’s a battle coming here, now I have to go the suburbs?” said Dennis Johnson, a construction worker from Chicago’s Austin neighborhood who was lined up for about 15 minutes at the Webster location on Tuesday. “These stations are far enough away now.”
“This is a very good station,” said Giordana Alia, a Flash Cab driver whose garage is only 5 minutes away. “All the time they are moving fast.”
Michael Clewlow, a locksmith with Nonstop Locksmith in Chicago, estimates a round-trip visit to the Webster location takes 25 minutes. The Skokie location will take an hour just to get there, he estimates.
“That is a very long trip to make,” Clewlow said. The company has 14 vans that need testing.
The cost-cutting closures are the result of contract renegotiations with Applus Technologies, a Chicago-based company that specializes in vehicle emissions testing.
“The new contract reflects a more efficient, more accurate and less expensive test that will result in significant cost savings to the state of Illinois,” Kim Biggs, spokeswoman for the state Environmental Protection Agency, said in a statement.
The Illinois EPA estimates savings of $11 million per year and $100 million over the life of the contract, which typically lasts about a decade. The state’s cost will drop from $6.95 per test to $2.85.
With the exception of the Schaumburg facility, which has four lanes, the remaining stations will utilize high capacity, two-lane, testing facilities to handle the increased volume.
“It should almost double throughput,” Biggs said of the capacity upgrade at the smaller facilities.