MDOT Expects Decision ‘Shortly’ on Equipment

Although it has already missed one deadline, the Michigan Department of Transportation expects to decide soon on an equipment supplier for new passenger equipment to be used on state-funded Amtrak trains.

In saying that the decision would be made “shortly,” Tim Hoeffner, director of the MDOT’s Rail Division, told Trains magazine that “ . . . this is a very complex process with many moving parts.”

The state’s timetable calls for delivery and testing to begin in August and the equipment to enter service by Sept. 8, 2014. MDOT in March issued two requests for proposals for passenger cars capable of 110 mph operation that would replace existing Amtrak equipment now assigned to Wolverine Service between Chicago and Detroit (Pontiac)

The new equipment would be assigned to two of the three consists now used by the Wolverines One request for proposal was to provide equipment that must provide at least 310 seats per train and the other request for proposal was for maintenance at Pontiac. The proposals were due by March 31.

MDOT has stated that it wants to end reliance on Amtrak equipment and reduce how much it pays for use of that equipment.

The state is part of a consortium that is acquiring 88 bi-level passenger cars from Nippon Sharyo, but that equipment will not begin arriving until 2017

In the interim, MDOT wants to provide sufficient capacity to support additional train frequencies as well as provide additional capacity.

Michigan’s request for equipment sparked discussion that two Talgo train sets originally purchased by Wisconsin for Chicago-Milwaukee-Madison Hiawatha service expansion might wind up on the Wolverines.

That equipment has been sitting unused in Milwaukee because Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker rejected $810 of federal stimulus funds and canceled the project after he was elected in 2010.

“The RFP is set up for any and all equipment that can be made available immediately,” Hoeffner said.

MDOT owns Budd-built bi-levels purchased from Chicago’s Metra for possible commuter rail service in the state and Hoeffner said using that equipment “is not out of the question if they can be certified for 110 mph operation.” The requests for proposals assigns varying point values for such factors as speed capability, price per revenue seat, quantity, and equipment condition and characteristics.

The winning maintenance bidder will not necessarily be the same company as the equipment supplier. The maintenance contract is for providing “turn-around servicing, pre-trip inspections and brake tests, interior cleaning, toilet servicing” and other maintenance functions at Pontiac and “at its option, turn-around servicing at Chicago,” where Amtrak maintenance is currently based for all Midwest state-supported trains.

The request for proposal document is seeking 98 percent reliability with penalties assessed if this is not achieved.

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