Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak stations’

Middletown Station to Open Jan. 10

January 8, 2022

Amtrak will begin using the new Middletown, Pennsylvania, station on Jan. 10 following completion of construction of the multimodal facility.

In a news release, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation said the new station will have high-level accessible boarding platforms, a pedestrian overpass, elevators, stair towers, on-site parking, and bus loading zones.

PennDOT said the $49.5 million station project was part of an initiative to improve rail passenger travel in the Keystone Corridor, part of which also is used by commuter trains of Philadelphia-based Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority.

Funding for the project included $25.6 million from the Federal Transit Administration, $15.9 million from PennDOT and $8 million of in-kind work from Amtrak.

PennDOT said it collaborated with the Middletown Borough, Capital Area Transit and Harrisburg International Airport.

In a related development, Amtrak said low-level platforms will go into service on Jan. 10 at its station in the Keystone Corridor at Ardmore, Pennsylvania.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said use of low-level platforms is a temporary measure because the current high-level boarding platforms are out of service due to construction at the station site.

The temporary platforms are located less than a half mile away from the previous location of 39 Station Avenue.

Westbound trains will board in the Suburban Square parking lot off Anderson Avenue while eastbound trains will board in the municipal parking lot located off Ardmore Avenue.

One Morning in Jackson, Michigan

November 25, 2021

It is a pleasant June 28, 1997, summer morning in Jackson, Michigan. I’ve drive here to spend a day catching Amtrak trains. From here I would drive to Battle Creek to catch the International in both directions on its Chicago-Toronto trek and end the day getting trains in Ann Arbor.

At the time, trains in the Chicago-Detroit (Pontiac) corridor were powered by P32-8 locomotives built by General Electric. The units were pointed east, which meant they pulled eastbounds and pushed westbounds.

Facing west was a cab car, either a former F40PH that had been rebuilt into a non-powered control unit, or a former Metroliner car serving as a cab car.

Amtrak owned 20 P32-8 units that it received in December 1991. They wore a stylized Phase III livery that was unique to these locomotives. It wasn’t long before railfans began calling them “Pepsi cans” because of the resemblance of the livery to a beverage can design of the time.

It also was a time when trains between Chicago and Detroit had individual names of Wolverine, Lake Cities and Twilight Limited.

In the top image No. 504 is pushing the Lake Cities out of Jackson toward Chicago. In the bottom image, No. 513 is pulling the Wolverine into the station.

Notice the mismatched style of the number boards above the front windshields.

Although P32s saw service on long-distance trains, they were most commonly used in corridor service. The “Pepsi can” look lasted a few years but eventually gave way to Phase IV.

The special Phase III livery used on the P32s was revived this year when a P42DC No. 160 was repainted in that livery.

RAISE Grants to Benefit Regional Rail Projects

November 23, 2021

Projects in Ohio, Detroit and Philadelphia will receive a share of nearly $1 billion in U.S. Department of Transportation Rebuilding American Infrastructure With Sustainability and Equity grants.

The Michigan Department of Transportation will receive $10 million to be used for the New Center Intermodal Facility Project.

Project plans include a new station to serve Amtrak trains and local and intercity buses that will replace an existing depot in the New Center neighborhood of Detroit.

The new facility will comply with Americans with Disabilities standards and have a multi-level parking garage.

It will be located on the south side of the Canadian National tracks used by Amtrak’s Chicago-Detroit (Pontiac) Wolverine Service trains.

The existing boarding platform at the site will be lengthened and rehabilitated. The boarding platform will be connected to the new station by a tunnel.

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority will receive $15 million to improve the 19th Street and 37th Street trolley subway stations.

That work is part of a larger trolley modernization program. The RAISE Grant will be used to bring both stations into compliance with ADA standards, rehabilitate boarding areas and conduct other renovations to station facilities.

The Maumee Watershed Conservancy District of Findlay will receive $7.1 million for replacement of a bridge carrying Norfolk Southern tracks over the Blanchard River.

The new bridge will be a three-span, through plate girder structure with a ballast deck.

RAISE grants are one of the few USDOT discretionary programs that allow regional and local governments to directly compete for multimodal transportation funding.

The funding provide are to be used for “planning and capital investments in surface transportation infrastructure and were awarded on a competitive basis for projects that will have a significant local or regional impact,” USDOT said in a news release.

The maximum grant award is $25 million with no more than $100 million being awarded to a single state.

Johnstown Amtrak Station to be Renovated

November 23, 2021

Amtrak has agreed to contribute $16 million to a project to renovate its station in Johnstown, Pennsylvania.

The work will include making the facility comply with standards of the Americans With Disabilities Act and otherwise bringing it up to a state of good repair.

The project include plans to replace the boarding platform, with an 8-inch above-top-of-rail island platform with a platform snow-melt system.

Other work included a new heating and air conditioning system for the station, and a new interior elevator, stairway, and storage area.

The existing baggage tunnel will be filled in and new concrete will be poured in the existing passenger tunnel, which also will see its lighting system repaired.

The tracks at the platform will be re-profiled on both sides of the boarding platform.

Work is expected to begin in October 2022. Once completed, the Johnstown station will also serve local public transit bus service.

Other funding for the project included a $24.45 million U.S. Department of Transportation RAISE grant which is being used to fund improvements to the CamTran Downtown Bus Intermodal Transportation Center and restore the historic Johnstown Inclined Plane system.

Johnstown is served by Amtrak’s New York-Pittsburgh Pennsylvanian.

Amtrak Rolling Out New Ticket Kiosks

October 29, 2021

New ticket kiosks are being rolled out by Amtrak in the Northeast Corridor that will eventually be installed throughout its system.

In a news release, Amtrak said the kiosks contain “an updated user interface consistent with other Amtrak digital channels that allows for a minimum-touch experience for the most common in-station transactions.”

Passengers will be able to activate the kiosks by touch, card swipe, barcode scan, or inserting a headset.

The kiosks are 48 inches tall, ADA compliant and eventually will be set up for contactless payment and the sending of tickets to a passenger’s email address.

In time Amtrak said it will install more than 200 of the kiosks at more than 150 stations. They will replace Quick-Trak machines that have been in service for almost two decades.

More information is available at https://media.amtrak.com/2021/10/amtrak-debuts-new-ticket-kiosks-with-national-rollout/

Groundbreaking Held for New Depot in Pennsylvania

October 26, 2021
Artists rendering of the planned new station in Coatesville, Pennsylvania.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held Oct. 22 in Coatesville, Pennsylvania, to mark the start of construction of a new passenger station.

The $65 million facility will serve Amtrak’s Keystone Corridor and commuter trains of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority. It is expected to open in 2025.

It is being built east of the existing station, which has been closed for more than 25 years.

Officials said the original station is located on a curve, which precludes the establishment of ADA-accessible platforms.

The new Coatesville station will have 530-foot-long ADA-accessible high-level platforms with canopies and seating, elevators, ramps, site lighting and security, improved drainage, and surface parking.

Funding is being provided by the Federal Transit Administration ($52 million), Pennsylvania Department of Transportation ($13 million) and Chester County ($700,000).

Amtrak Displaying Anniversary Graphics in Stations

September 25, 2021

This design by Ye Rin Kim is among those being displayed in Amtrak stations.

Amtrak will be putting up displays of graphic photo canvasses in its stations around the country as part of its 50th anniversary celebration.

The displays are 10-by-8 feet in size and feature designs created in a collaborative project involving Amtrak and the Maryland Institute College of Art.

Eleven people submitted designs that were judged by Amtrak staff members with the work of two MICA students, a recent MICA graduate, and a current Amtrak intern selected as the winners. Those designs will appear on the canvasses.

The winning designers were Victoria Grzesiak , Glen Ellyn, Illinois, an Amtrak intern who is a fourth-year student studying economics and design at the University of Pennsylvania; Allison Hao, Fremont, California, a fourth-year MICA student majoring in graphic design; Ye Rin Kim, Tongyoung, South Korea, a fourth-year MICA student majoring in graphic design; and Demond Young, Toledo, Ohio, a recent MICA graphic design alum.

Amtrak is encouraging passengers to post photos on social media of themselves in front of the displays with the hashtag #Amtrak50.

Amtrak Might Not Finish ADA Station Work on Time

September 10, 2021

The Amtrak Office of Inspector General has concluded that the passenger carrier may be unable to finish a plan to bring stations into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act within its stated six-year timeline.

Amtrak has allocated $1.2 billion for the program. The carrier still has 312 stations in which it has sole or shared responsibility to bring into ADA compliance.

The OIG report said Amtrak needs to develop the requisite planning to achieve its timeline.

The report said Amtrak has established clearer lines of authority, responsibility and accountability for its ADA program, as well as realigning the program based on recommendations from a 2014 OIG report. 

Between October 2017 and April 2021 Amtrak brought 36 more stations into ADA compliance.

However, the OIG found Amtrak’s ADA stations team is already stretched, and without a commensurate increase in staffing and contractors, the team will face challenges in bringing the remaining stations into compliance by the target date.

Amtrak has yet to determine how it will use the current 46 contractors and eight full-time employees who make up the ADA stations team to achieve reach its goals.

In particular, Amtrak does not have enough staff to oversee contract employees it hired to augment ADA efforts. That has resulted in Amtrak staff not being able to adequately ensure that invoices reflect the work that contractors performed. 

OIG auditors questioned $81 million in costs associated with the work of those contractors from fiscal-year 2015 through fiscal year 2020.

Without adequate staff to oversee its contractors, such issues could be exacerbated as contract work increases, the OIG report said.

Ann Arbor’s New Amtrak Depot Plans Got Too Big and Expensive

September 7, 2021

In the wake of a decision by the Federal Railroad Administration to pull out of a project to build a new Amtrak station in Ann Arbor, Michigan, city officials are seeking ways to keep the project going, including reducing the project’s scope.

Work on getting a new Amtrak station in Ann Arbor began about a decade ago.

At the time, then Mayor John Hieftje projected the station would cost $30 million and the city would pay less than $3 million of that with the federal government picking up most of the tab.

Hieftje expected to do what Dearborn, a suburb of Detroit, did in building a new $28.2 million Amtrak station with federal stimulus money paying for most of it.

But over time the size of the proposed Ann Arbor station expanded and so did its costs. After cost estimates reached $171 million, the FRA backed away.

News accounts of the FRA’s decision focused on the agency’s belief that the station would have too much parking for intercity rail service.

But Amtrak passengers were not expected to be the only user of the station.

At one time local government planning agencies in Ann Arbor, Detroit and other communities along with the Michigan Department of Transportation were eyeing creating a commuter rail service.

The University of Michigan offered to buy commuter train tickets for its employees in lieu of them buying parking permits on the crowded campus.

MDOT acquired a fleet of passenger cars that would be used for the service.

The expectation of commuter rail service was the major deciding factor for locating the new station in Fuller Park next to the University of Michigan Hospital.

Rather than paying $1,000 a year for a parking pass, employees would be able to ride free on a commuter train.

Heiftjie noted that tens of thousands of daily commuters have jobs in Ann Arbor. City officials saw an opportunity to create a place where more people could travel without cars and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The UM hospital is the most visited place in Ann Arbor on a daily basis.

But the commuter rail concept collapsed after Michigan voters rejected a bond issue that would have funded development of the service.

All along, city planners had seen the station as a two-phase development with the second phase hinging on the creating of the commuter rail service.

The proposed station would have a parking deck with 1,300 spaces, although most of those spaces were expected to be used by commuter train passengers.

But other design features also drove up costs, including elevating the station and building a bridge over the tracks. Another considerable expense included constructing a retaining wall to stabilize the slope leading to the UM hospital.

But most of the expense of the project involved the parking deck, including elevator/stair towers and a metal fin design to soften the deck’s appearance and make it look like “an art object.”

A first floor bus station was also included in the plans as well as a bicycle maintenance and storage area.
In pulling out of the project, the FRA described the project costs as being “an order of magnitude higher” than other stations the agency had funded.

Heiftjie has since left office and his successor as mayor, Christopher Taylor, continued to support building a new Amtrak station.

The city’s current station is located west of the former Michigan Central depot, which is now a restaurant.

Built in 1982, city officials consider the station too cramped given the level of ridership there.

Ann Arbor is the busiest passenger rail station in Michigan although it suffered significant ridership losses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ridership of the Wolverine Service route between Chicago and Detroit (Pontiac) in 2020 was 278,450 compared with 990,068 in 2019. In Ann Arbor ridership fell from 154,813 in 2019 to 41,013 last year.

Hieftjie said he doesn’t regret pushing the project even though in hindsight he believes the city tried to go too big in recent years and proposed too much parking.

He said when he began pushing the project it was a different world and he had high hopes for significant growth in rail ridership.

Now Hieftjie is not so sure that could happen due to changes brought about by COVID-19.

“The environment has changed,” he said. “We’re obviously in a whole different period. Due to COVID, people are not riding trains like they used to. I think it’s going to be a while before people return to transit.”

Ann Arbor Station Project Derailed by FRA

August 27, 2021

Years of effort to develop a new Amtrak station in Ann Arbor, Michigan, may have hit a dead end after the Federal Railroad Administration pulled out of the project.

The agency cited high costs and unacceptable design features, including too much parking, for halting work on the environmental assessment of the project.

Ann Arbor Mayor Christopher Taylor called the FRA’s action an “unwelcome surprise.”

He will seek the assistance of Michigan’s congressional delegation to try to get the FRA decision reversed. The city also is seeking the help of the Michigan Department of Transportation.

Taylor said the existing Amtrak station in Ann Arbor is inadequate.

Efforts to create a new Amtrak station in Ann Arbor, which is served by Wolverine Service trains between Chicago and Detroit (Pontiac) go back at least a decade.

The city wants to put the new station in Fuller Park, a 60-acre recreation area location next to the University of Michigan medical center.

The plan is to place the station over the tracks, something the FRA said has resulted in high design costs. The agency also said the number of parking spaces planned for the facility exceed intercity passenger rail needs.

The station is estimated to cost $14.7 million, with another $86 million required for the first phase of construction.

Ann Arbor officials want the federal government to provide much of the funding of the project.