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Midwest Clean Diesel Initiative (MCDI) focuses on the rail sector because of the significant rail activity that occurs in Region 5. In fact, Chicago is the nation's busiest freight gateway, with one- third of the nation's freight rail converging in the city daily. (Reference 1)


Other large cities in the region besides Chicago also are significant rail hubs, as an American Association of Railroads freight network map illustratesExit EPA Disclaimer . MCDI's rail sector overlaps with the agricultural sector because 25 percent of ton-miles of transported grain in the Midwest are carried by rail.(Reference 1) Furthermore, the rail sector overlaps with MCDI's focus on ports because freight is often transferred between modes (truck, rail and waterborne) at ports.

Locomotive engines are the primary focus. Locomotives are significant contributors to air pollution in many of our nation's cities and ports. Although locomotive engines produced today must meet relatively modest emission requirements set in 1997, they continue to emit large amounts of nitrogen oxides and particulate matter (PM).

Several types of locomotives operate in Region 5. Line haul locomotives move freight long distances. Nationwide, Class I railroad companies, those that earn over $278 million annually, operate about 21,000 line haul locomotives.(Reference 2) Thirty percent of these locomotives less than 10 years old. (Reference 3) Smaller local and regional railroads also operate locomotives that travel shorter distances. Over 95 percent of these locomotives are over 20 years old.(Reference 3) Overall, these locomotives are likely more polluting than Class I locomotives because of their age. Switcher engines are another type of locomotive. In Chicago alone, there are 257 of these engines, which move rail cars between tracks in railyards. Switcher engines idle thousands of hours per year, consuming fuel and emitting pollutants. For more information about these locomotives, visit the Midwest Clean Diesel Initiative's Switcher Engine Fact Sheet (PDF, 2 pgs, 2335K About PDF).

In addition to locomotives, the rail sector also encompasses heavy-duty trucks, and maintenance and cargo-handling equipment that operate in railyards.


  1. Midwest Regional University Transportation Center. "Upper Midwest Freight Corridor Study." March 2005. Exit EPA Disclaimer
  2. Bureau of Transportation Statistics. "National Transportation Statistics 2005." Exit EPA Disclaimer
  3. American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association "Annual Data Profile of the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Industry." 2001.

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Diesel Emission Reduction Opportunities

Several technical and operational strategies exist to reduce emissions from locomotives.



MCDI's Technologies Webpage provides strategies for reducing emissions from heavy-duty trucks and maintenance and cargo-handling equipment that operates in railyards.

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Chicago Area Locomotive and Railyard Meeting - July 13, 2010

Meeting Goals:

Meeting Materials:

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Additional Resources

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