Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak stations’

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.

Cleveland Amtrak Station Parking Lot to be Closed for Resurfacing

August 20, 2021

A parking resurfacing project will result in the parking lot of the Cleveland Amtrak station being close between Aug. 23 and 27.

All vehicles in the lot must be moved by Aug. 22. Those are aren’t will be towed or relocated.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said passengers are being encouraged to arrange to be picked up or dropped off just before their train is to arrive or shortly after they have disembarked.

Amtrak said access to the station during the resurfacing project will be available through the Marginal Road entrance for all trains for pick up and drop off only.

Pittsburgh Amtrak Station Elevator Out of Service

July 22, 2021

The elevator at the Amtrak station is out of service through Oct. 1.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said a new elevator is being installed with work having started on July 14.

Until October passengers will reach boarding platforms via stairways inside the station.

Passengers needing assistance in reaching the boarding area are urged to contact a customer service representative at the ticket office.

PennDOT Seeking Bids for New Coatesville Station

July 17, 2021

Bids are being sought to construct a new passenger station in Coatesville, Pennsylvania.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation said the project seeks to revitalize the surrounding community with a modern accessible train station and improved connections to the Keystone Corridor.

The new station will improve ADA accessibility and have level boarding platforms, elevators, ramps, and improved drainage and surface parking.

Interested contractors must be registered business partners with PennDOT and submit their bid through PennDOT’s Engineering and Construction Management System.

Contractor construction-related questions must be submitted electronically through ECMS. A pre-bid meeting will take place virtually on July 27.

Coatesville is served by Amtrak’s Keystone Service and the New York-Pittsburgh Pennsylvanian.

Nice Way to Start the Day

April 29, 2021

We had driven up Interstate 69 to Waterloo, Indiana, which would be our first stop during a day-long railfan outing.

Scarcely had we arrived when the detector west of town on the Chicago Line of Norfolk Southern went off on Track 2, likely indicating an eastbound was coming.

Through my telephoto lens I could tell the lead unit was not NS black and for a moment I thought that, maybe, it was a heritage unit.

It tuned out to be a BNSF pumpkin with a Southern Belle of Kansas City Southern trailing. That’s not a bad catch although I wished the order of the units had been reversed.

It was train 880, which had come into Chicago from the Power River Basin of Wyoming and been turned over to an NS crew at Cicero, Illinois. The train was bound for Trenton, Michigan.

In the view above, it is splitting the westbound home signals of CP 367 and passing the former New York Central passenger station, which is now owned by the city and contains a waiting room for Amtrak passengers.

Funding Set for Oxford Amtrak Station

March 11, 2021

Funding commitments are falling into place for construction of an Amtrak station in Oxford, Ohio.

The city of Oxford along with Miami University have agreed to spend $700,000 for the station, which will serve the Chicago-New York Cardinal.

The city and university funding will pay for a platform and an unmanned kiosk.

Negotiations are underway with vendors for design and cost estimates.

Located 40 miles north-northwest of Cincinnati, Oxford would become the second Ohio stop for the Cardinal and Amtrak’s eighth station in Ohio.

Nos. 50 and 51 stopped in Hamilton, Ohio, between August 1980 and October 2005.

The Oxford station will be located at 909 South Main St. The Cardinal will stop in Oxford westbound on Monday, Thursday and Saturday, and eastbound on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.

Bryan to get New Amtrak Station

March 3, 2021

The city of Bryan and Amtrak have reached an agreement that will continue Amtrak service as well as lead to a renovation of the station.

The agreement calls for a $3.3 million new enclosed station that will have a restroom and a boarding platform compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The project is expected to begin later this year.

Bryan is a stop of the Chicago-New York/Boston Lake Shore Limited. Although the Chicago-Washington Capitol Limited uses the same Norfolk Southern tracks, it does not stop in the western Ohio city.

The current station is an enclosed shelter with no other amenities.