CHICAGO (CBS) — Commuters should notice some improvement in air quality as they board Metra and Amtrak trains at Union Station.

WBBM Newsradio’s John Cody reports U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin praised a recent federal court ruling forcing the owners of the Old Post Office above Union Station to turn back on 11 giant fans designed to remove railroad diesel fumes.

Amtrak chief of State Government Relations Ray Lang said the fans were supposed to be operating, but they’d been mothballed.

“We were seeking permission to go in and inspect them, to determine why they were not operating. We were denied that,” he said. “The developer was not of the opinion that they should be operated, so we took them to court.”

Durbin said he wants Union Station to serve as a model for Amtrak stations across the country, after the steps Amtrak and Metra took to clean locomotive diesel soot from the terminal air.

The senator said Metra also has installed air filters in commuter trains, switched to cleaner-burning fuel, and is installing ten minute idle cut-off switches on locomotives.

But it wasn’t until the federal courts stepped in that the Old Post Office reactivated its exhaust fans to scrub the air of diesel soot, which has been linked to cancer, heart attacks, asthma, and other illnesses.

“When the Amtrak reauthorization bill comes up, and I hope that’s soon, we’re going to raise this issue again across the United States at Amtrak stations,” Durbin said.

The Respiratory Health Association said cleaner air should reduce asthma attacks for regular Union Station commuters.

Watch & Listen LIVE