A money-saving move by the state might end up costing Chicago drivers more time on the road, as the state Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday announced the closure of the two vehicle emissions testing centers within the city limits.
The closures, which take effect Nov. 1, come as a new vendor takes over the contract for checking the tailpipe output of some 2 million cars and trucks, a deal that includes shuttering test sites at 6959 W. Forest Preserve Drive and 1850 W. Webster Ave.
The state EPA does not dictate where contractors locate emissions centers, spokeswoman Kim Biggs said Wednesday. The federal Clean Air Act requires testing sites be no more than 12 miles from testing areas.
“The average driver in Chicago will only have to drive about four miles farther,” Biggs said, noting some drivers might wind up with shorter drives.
It did not appear clear how Chicago residents might wind up with a shorter trip to a testing center, at least in terms of time spent on the road. In addition to closing the only two city sites, the state also will close centers in Elk Grove Village and Tinley Park. Six new “inspection and repair sites” will open at privately owned oil change or repair shops, but none will be in the Chicago.
Biggs said that an analysis showed that some drivers who have been going to the Chicago centers lived closer to testing facilities in Skokie and Bedford Park, though reaching those sites might require getting on the Kennedy or Stevenson expressways.
The new contract will save the state $11 million a year or about $100 million over the 10-year contract. The new deal also extends the Saturday hours at testing facilities, and includes technology upgrades that will allow car owners to request extensions and exemptions online. Some testing facilities will add testing positions to accommodate more vehicles.
Drivers in the Chicago and East St. Louis areas have been required to undergo emissions tests since the 1990s, as have other metropolitan areas across the country where air quality falls below federal standards. Passenger vehicles and some heavy duty trucks are tested every two years.
The testing locations in the Chicago area as of Nov. 1:
Bedford Park: 5231 W. 70th Place
Crystal Lake: 195 Liberty Road
Joliet: 3501 Mall Loop Drive
Lincolnshire: 580 Bond Street
Markham: 3824 W. 159th Place
Naperville: 435 Weston Ridge Drive
Schaumburg: 1675 Mitchell Boulevard
Waukegan: 2161 Northwestern Avenue
Addison: 425 S. Lombard Road
Skokie: 3555 Jarvis Avenue
The state has not yet released the addresses of six Chicago-area inspection and repair facilities. They will be in Homer Glen, Johnsburg, Oswego, Park Forest, Peotone and South Elgin.