Archive for the ‘Other News’ Category

Buffalo Committee Favors Downtown Station Site

April 24, 2017

The committee studying sites for a new Amtrak station in Buffalo, New York, has recommended building the station downtown rather than renovating the abandoned Buffalo Central Terminal.

The exact site will be chosen by the New York Department of Transportation, although it is expected to be along Exchange Street.

The new station is expected to cost at least $35 million, of which the state is contributing $25 million.

Currently, Buffalo is served by two stations, one at Exchange Street and the other in suburban Depew.

Exchange Street serves all trains passing through Buffalo except the Chicago-New York/Boston Lake Shore Limited.

Eleven of the 17 members of the station site committee favored a downtown location while four voted against downtown. One member abstained.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz voted against the downtown recommendation because he opposed the “arbitrary timeline” given the committee to make a decision this month.

“Not all the issues were taken into account,” Poloncarz said. “The process was flawed but not rigged. And, no, this is not the death knell for the [Buffalo] Central Terminal.”

But Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown defended the timeline. “The governor clearly wants it to be a fast-track process, and I think the same kind of time constraints we had as a committee will be placed on the Department of Transportation,” said Brown, who voted for a downtown location.

A downtown location had been favored by WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff, an engineering consulting firm hired by the state.

Howard Zemsky, a Buffalo businessman and head of Empire State Development, the state’s development arm, voted for downtown.

“This is really a transportation decision first and foremost, and from that standpoint downtown is a clear winner,” he said.

Zemsky said it was not a case of either or in terms of development of the long-dormant Central Terminal.

The Amtrak representative on the committee favored a downtown location. CSX, which owns the tracks in the vicinity of Central Terminal, said it doesn’t want passenger trains at Central Terminal because that might interfere with a nearby freight yard.

Intercity bus companies also favor a downtown site because they fear that clearance issues could prevent them from serving Central Terminal.

Also working against Central Terminal was the estimated $68 million to $149 million cost of renovating the structure. A downtown location is estimated to cost between $33 million and $86 million.

The Buffalo congressman who had championed Central Terminal was disappointed at the committee’s decision.

“This is a generational opportunity lost, said Brian Higgins said. “Obviously, the Central Terminal was not going to win out in an apples-to-apples cost comparison. It’s the vision you have for the property, and what you do with the opportunity.”

Higgins said the downtown location will preclude passengers being able to board there if they are bound for Cleveland or Chicago.

He noted that Amtrak opposes having the Lake Shore Limited backing up for more than a mile to serve downtown Buffalo.

Higgins vowed to work to funnel state and federal funding toward development of Central Terminal.

State Sen. Tim Kennedy supported the Central Terminal and believes that although it lost out in the vote to become an Amtrak station there remains hope that the iconic structure will have a new life.

“There has been more attention paid to the Central Terminal than probably in the last 50 years,” Kennedy said. “I think this is going to be at the end of the day a win-win because of the renewed focus on transforming the Central Terminal into a historic building we can all be proud of once again.”

In the meantime, Canadian developer Harry Stinson said he is close to closing on a deal to acquire the 523,000-square-foot Central Terminal, which includes a 17-story tower, concourse building, baggage building and ample underground and street-level parking.

“We’re days away from the final version of the agreement,” Stinson said. “It will have to go through a process, but the agreement is essentially done. There is nothing we see as collectively insurmountable.”

Stinson said he wants to develop the tower into office space, use the concourse for entertainment, dining and special events and transform the baggage building into a hotel.

Eventually, he will develop new housing at the site, which is now considered a brownfield.

Expedited FRA Review Sought of Ann Arbor Station Site Environmental Assessment

April 24, 2017

A  Michigan congresswoman is trying to turn up the heat on the Federal Railroad Administration to act sooner rather than later on reviewing an environmental assessment for a new Amtrak station in Ann Arbor.

U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell has written to the FRA to urge it to expedite that review.

Ann Arbor faces a Sept. 30 deadline to spend a $2.8 million federal grant that it received to develop a station. The FRA had indicated earlier that it would not finish its review until summer, leaving the city little time to spend the grant money on station design work.

In her letter to the FRA, Dingell said it was important that the FRA move in an “urgent and expeditious manner so the city can move forward with improving mass transit in the state of Michigan.”

Once the FRA finishes reviewing the environmental assessment, there will be a 30-day public comment period.

Thus far the city has not revealed the site it prefers for the new station.

Dingell also pointed out in her letter that Amtrak and the State of Michigan have been working to upgrade service between Chicago and Detroit for higher speed service.

Currently, Ann Arbor is served by three Wolverine Service roundtrips although transportation officials have spoken about increasing that level of service at some future time as well as launching commuter rail service to Detroit.

FRA spokesman Marc Willis said the FRA received the environmental assessment from the city.

“We reviewed it and sent it back to them for revisions,” he said, adding there’s no time frame from the city when it will be sent back for FRA review.

City Council Member Zachary Ackerman believes the city is running out of time to build a new Amtrak station

Ackerman said that a new station seems to be less of a reality given the current climate in Washington and he won’t support a new station without significant federal funding.

Michigan Rail Passengers Advocates Pushing for Detroit-Windsor Bus Connection for Amtrak-VIA

April 24, 2017

Michigan rail passenger advocates are working with Amtrak and VIA Rail Canada to revive connecting service between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, although that might not necessarily be rail service.

In a campaign that has been dubbed “mind the gap,” the advocates are talking with both railroads about establishing a direct bus connection.

Passengers who now want to connect between Amtrak and VIA must either take a cab or ride three local transit buses.

The advocates noted that the border crossing at Detroit is the busiest between the two countries.

Until 2003, Amtrak and VIA hosted a Chicago-Toronto train known as the International that operated via Flint and Port Huron, Michigan.

A Detroit-New York train, the Niagara Rainbow, operated via Windsor between October 1974 and January 1979, ending when the states of New York and Michigan ended their funding of the train.

An article posted on the website of the National Association of Railroad Passengers said that VIA is in active discussions with bus companies to provide a “bus bridge” between the VIA station in Windsor and the Detroit Amtrak station.

The service may begin by late 2017. The Michigan advocates hope that if the bus connection proves successful that it might provide an impetus for resuming rail service between Detroit and Windsor.

2 To Get Top U.S. DOT Posts

April 24, 2017

James Ray and Michael Britt are expected to be appointed by the Trump administration to new high-level posts within the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Other DOT policy-making posts are expected to be realigned.

Ray will become a senior adviser on infrastructure and head a task force to be appointed to oversee the administration’s expected $1 trillion infrastructure plan.

He is currently a principal at KPMG. He previously worked at the Office of Management and Budget, served as acting administrator of the Federal Highway Administration, and was a general counsel for DOT from 2006 to 2008.

Britt, who has been the chief of staff for Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, will become senior adviser for Federal Aviation Administration modernization.

All Aboard the Akron Soul Train

April 21, 2017

Shipping containers and small houses are going to be used to create a residential artists’ village in Akron that will be known as The Akron Soul Train.

The complex will also have tiny houses and be built near the Northside Arts District.

Funding for the project came from a $150,000 Knight Foundation Arts Challenge grant that was matched by a $50,000 Burton D. Morgan Foundation grant.

Money also is being raised through train-themed memberships, allowing members to get special deals at the village and on Akron Soul Train-branded collectibles.

“A year ago we were just announcing that we got a grant,” said Akron artist Amy Mothersbaugh, who is leading the project with Nancy Brennan. “It’s not because we’re really good at what we do. It’s because everyone seems to be excited about the vision and the possibility of this being in Akron. People feel like it’s theirs too, and that’s so cool.”

The plan is to offer artistic fellowships that help develop, promote and teach visitors about the arts through educational outreach, workshops, classes and exhibitions.

The group hopes to be able to select three artists to live at the village under varying-length fellowships.

For the time being, the fellowships can only be offered in warmer months until heat can be installed.

Akron Soul Train is working to develop collaborative programming with the city, Summit Metro Parks and the CVSR, whose Akron station is near the site of the village.

PM 1225 to Pull August Excursions

April 20, 2017

Pere Marquette 2-8-4 No. 1225 will pull nine roundtrip excursions on Aug. 19 and 20 between Owosso and Howell, Michigan.

The hour-long trips are being conducted in conjunction with Howell’s annual Melon Festival.

Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for children. Caboose seating is available for $25 for adults and $20 for children.

The excursions will depart from the Ann Arbor Railroad station in downtown Owosso.

The Lima Locomotive Works Berkshire will be fired up on Aug. 18 for hand on the throttle sessions to allow participants up to 30 minutes to operate the locomotive.

Free Steamtown Admission on April 22-23

April 20, 2017

The National Park Service is offering free admission to Steamtown National Historic Site on April 22 and 23 to celebrate the 101st anniversary of the national park system.

The Park Service said free admission also will be offered on Sept. 30 for National Public Lands Day and Nov. 11-12 for the Veteran’s Day weekend.

Steamtown plans to have Baldwin Locomotive Works 0-6-0 No. 26 fired up for the April event and offer short train rides around the former Delaware, Lackawanna & Western rail yard for $5. Locomotive No. 26 returned to regular service in 2016.

Ocean Vessels Reaching Inland Ports

April 20, 2017

Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor said it received its first ocean-going vessel of the season last week to mark the start of the international shipping season.

Nearly 900 tons of wind turbine sections arrived at the port from Marin, Spain, aboard the general cargo carrier BBC Mont Blanc.

In a news release, the port said stevedore Federal Marine Terminals and workers from the International Longshoreman’s Association and International Union of Operating Engineers unloaded the components, which will be transported to a wind farm in Illinois.

The St. Lawrence Seaway opened its locks to ocean vessels for the 59th navigation season on March 20 after closing in late December 2016.

How About a Heritage Jet?

April 17, 2017

You’re heard of the heritage locomotives of Norfolk Southern that pay tribute to its predecessor railroads by adorning them with a livery once used by those fallen flag companies.

Some airlines also have painted select planes in heritage liveries that pay tribute to predecessor companies.

Among them is American Airlines, which has painted a few jets in liveries that pay tribute to predecessor companies that it either acquired outright or which were merged with a company that American merged with.

Shown is the Piedmont Airlines tribute jet after landing at John Glenn Columbus International Airport upon arriving on a flight from Phoenix.

The original Piedmont operated primarily in the southeast United States as a local service carrier between 1948 and 1989 when it was acquired by USAir.

During the 1980s and 1990s, Piedmont had a hub operation at Dayton International Airport.

USAir, which later renamed itself US Airways, was acquired by American in 2013, although the two carriers continued to operate with separate identities until October 2015.

The Piedmont retro jet wears the Piedmont livery that the carrier’s planes bore until the merger with USAir.

The aircraft type was featured on the tails of some Piedmont aircraft. However, Piedmont never operated an Airbus jet. Its fleet in its final years consisted of Boeing 737s and a few 727s.

It is noteworthy that for a time Norfolk Southern had an ownership stake in Piedmont.

The Piedmont name remains in use for a regional carrier once known as Henson Airlines, a feeder carrier that today operates flights for American Eagle.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

2-8-2 Headed for Age of Steam Roundhouse

April 13, 2017

Another steam locomotive is en route to the Age of Steam Roundhouse in Sugarcreek.

Yreka Western 2-8-2 No. 19 was loaded onto a flatcar this week and left Yreka, California.

AOS owner Jerry Joe Jacobson bought No. 19 for $400,000 last October at a sheriff’s auction after a boiler company placed a lien on it for nonpayment of work done in 2006.

The steamer was built in 1915 by Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1915 and has worked for an an Arkansas logging railroad and California’s McCloud River Railroad. It appeared in the 1973 movie Emperor of the North.

No. 19 is the second ex-McCloud locomotive to be owned by AOS, including 2-6-2 No. 9.