Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak’

Razing Begins of Rochester Amtrak Station

November 24, 2015

Demolition work began earlier this month on the Amtrak-built 1970s era station in Rochester, New York, to make way for a new intermodal facility.

Amtrak passengers will use a temporary facility while the $29.8 million new station is built during the next 18 months.

The New York Department of Transportation said the new station is expected to open in summer 2017 and will feature retail space and more comfortable waiting and ticketing areas.

The design of the station has a two-sided, high-level passenger platform that will be accessed through a concourse from the station.

Station parking and bicycle and pedestrian access will be improved.

CSX previously had realigned its tracks by the station and installed a dedicated rail line for freight traffic.

Amtrak and CSX trains will continue to share two main tracks. As part of the project, CSX strengthened three railroad bridges near the station to carry the two additional passenger tracks being constructed to provide Amtrak train access to the new station.

Funding for the project included a $15 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant.

NYSDOT and the Federal Railroad Administration provided $3.5 million in funding for the preliminary engineering phase of the project, including $2.8 million secured through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The city of Rochester is contributing $500,000 toward final design and construction.

Rochester is served by the Chicago-New York/Boston Lake Shore Limited, the New York-Toronto Maple Leaf and four Empire Service trains between New York and Niagara Falls, New York.

Ypsilanti Eyes Becoming Amtrak Stop

November 23, 2015

Officials in Ypsilanti, Michigan, are pursuing becoming a stop for Amtrak’s Wolverine Service trains.

The city council was recently informed that Amtrak is interested in using the Depot Town facility.

Although adding Ypsilanti, which is located between Ann Arbor and Dearborn, to the Amtrak map has been discussed before, a contract between the city and the Downtown Development Authority could help secure a portion of funding for the train stop.

“If and when a train stop comes we would put  . . . that as our No. 1 priority,” said DDA Executive Director Tim Colbeck.

“There’s a high level of commitment on a lot of parties to make this happen and there’s a high level of optimism,” he said. “We would absolutely want to support a train stop and when it does happen we would want to be able to put our full capacity behind it through our ability to bond revenue.”

LSL Boston Through Cars to Resume in February

November 17, 2015

The Boston section of the Lake Shore Limited will not resume operating between Chicago and Boston until Feb. 1, 2016.

Currently, Nos. 448 and 449 are operating as a connecting train between Boston and Albany-Rensselaer, New York.

Amtrak said additional time is needed to complete a track reconfiguration and new platform construction at the station in Rensselaer. That project was originally scheduled to be completed in the fall.

Nos. 448 and 449 have been operating only between Boston and Albany-Rensselaer since early 2015.

The Viewliner sleepers previously assigned to the Boston section have instead been operating between Chicago and New York on Nos. 48 and 49, the parent train of the Lake Shore Limited.

In the interim, the Boston section has operated with coaches and a café car.

Amtrak Adds Michigan Thanksgiving Trains

November 9, 2015

In cooperation with the Michigan Department of Transportation, Amtrak is adding additional trains on two of its three Michigan corridors.

Wolverine Extra No. 356 will depart Chicago at 9:30 a.m. and make intermediate stops in Michigan at New Buffalo, Niles, Kalamazoo, Battle Creek and Jackson before arriving in Ann Arbor at 3:14 p.m.

The equipment will turn back and become Wolverine Extra No. 359, departing at 4:05 p.m. for Chicago with the same intermediate stops as No. 356. No. 359 is scheduled to arrive in Chicago at 7:50 p.m.

Nos. 356 and 359 will operate on Nov. 25, 28 and 29.

An extra section of the Pere Marquette will operate on Nov. 25 and 29 between Chicago and Holland, Michigan.

No. 372 will depart Chicago at 10 a.m. and make intermediate stops in St. Joseph and Bangor before arriving in Holland at 2:11 p.m.

The equipment will turn back and depart Holland at 3:10 p.m., making the same intermediate stops before arriving back in Chicago at 5:27 p.m.

Amtrak is encouraging passengers to plan for Thanksgiving travel and book their reservations now in order to obtain the best availability and pricing.

The travel days that are most likely to sell out are the Tuesday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Sunday after the holiday.

Other than on Thanksgiving Day, morning trains typically have more available seats than those in the afternoon and evening.

Buses Replace Maple Leaf in Toronto Nov. 21, 22

November 9, 2015

Amtrak passengers riding the New York-Toronto Maple Leaf will begin or end their journey in Toronto on a bus on Nov. 21 and 22 due to bridge work being performed by VIA Rail Canada.

Amtrak Nos. 63 and 64 will originate at and depart from the Mimico GO Transit Commuter Station in Etobicoke, eight miles west of Toronto Union Station.

Passengers will be transported by bus between Toronto Union Station and the Mimico GO Transit Commuter Station.

Buses Replacing Boston LSL Through Nov. 18

November 6, 2015

Buses are replacing trains for the Boston section of the Lake Shore Limited on Sunday through Wednesday through Nov. 18.

Nos. 448 and 449 are not operating between Albany-Rensselaer and Boston due to CSX trackwork.

Amtrak said in a service advisory that bus service will operate to and from Albany-Rensselaer, Pittsfield, Springfield, Worcester, Framingham and Boston South Station.

Passengers at Boston South Station should go to the Amtrak Information Desk for instructions on boarding the buses.

Passengers at Framingham, will board all buses at the drop-off/pick-up area Track 2 platform (at Waverly Street).

There will be no alternative transportation operated by Amtrak to Boston Back Bay station. Passengers are being referred to MBTS trains for travel to and from Back Bay station.

Lake Shore Limited Began 40 Years Ago Today

October 31, 2015
Ad advertisement for Amtrak's Lake Shore Limited that was placed in newspapers in Massachusetts in early November 1975.

Ad advertisement for Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited that was placed in newspapers in Massachusetts in early November 1975.

Forty years ago today Cleveland, Toledo and Elyria returned to the Amtrak map with the inauguration of the Lake Shore Limited between Chicago and New York/Boston.

All three cities had been left out of the Amtrak network when the rail passenger carrier began service on May 1, 1971.

The only city in Northeast Ohio at which Amtrak stopped was Canton on the route of the Chicago-New York Broadway Limited.

A short-lived Chicago-New York train named the Lake Shore served Toledo and Cleveland slightly less than seven months.

That service, which began in mid May 1971, was premised on the promises of the states served by the train to underwrite its losses. But none of them put up any money and Amtrak canceled the train in early January.

The Amtrak Improvement Act of 1973 required Amtrak to launch one experimental route a year.

Ohio officials lobbied Amtrak hard for service to be reinstated to Cleveland and Toledo via the former Water Level Route of the New York Central, which by the time Amtrak arrived had become Penn Central.

At the time that Amtrak began in 1971, Cleveland was the largest city in the county not served by Amtrak.

Secretary of Transportation Claude S. Brinegar announced on June 27, 1974, that Chicago-Boston would be Amtrak’s experimental route for 1974. A week later, Amtrak said the train would have a New York section.

Service was expected to begin within six months but was delayed for more than a year due to an equipment shortage, particularly of sleeping cars.

A public relations special operated eastbound over the route on Oct. 28-29, 1975.

Amtrak President Paul Reistrup was aboard the special and he spoke at the Cleveland stop along with Ohio Senator Robert Taft Jr., who had pushed Amtrak hard for restoration of service via Cleveland.

Taft noted that it had been a long and hard fight to get intercity passenger service restored via the former New York Central route through northern Ohio.

Reistrup had favored the route all along, saying he was amazed that it had not been part of the Amtrak network.

“This was an unwanted child, no secret about it,” Resitrup said in Cleveland. “They (Amtrak) didn’t want to run this train.”

The publicity special arrived in Cleveland at 5:30 p.m. to a crowd of about 500. The train was pulled by a pair of SDP40F locomotives, the newest equipment in the consist.

The Cleveland station was a pair of trailers, the current station having not yet been built.

“This probably will be the most important inaugural I take part in,” Reistrup told the crowd. “It’s up to you out there in this crowd to keep this train running.”

When Nos. 48/448 and 49/449 began service on Friday, Oct. 31, 1975, the Chicago-New York running time was 21 hours, which was two-and-a-half hours slower than the Lake Shore of 1971.

The Chicago-Boston running time was 25 hours, which included a backup move the train had to make at Castleton Junction, New York, because the connection that Boston-bound New York Central trains had made for decades east of Rensselaer had been removed by Penn Central.

Amtrak officials emphasized at every stop of the publicity trip that the Lake Shore Limited was experimental and if ridership was poor it would be discontinued after a two-year trial.

On the day that scheduled service began, a crowd of 300 showed up at the Cleveland Amtrak station. Most of them were bus company employees who protested federal funding of the train. They said that made rail cheaper than the bus, which threatened their jobs.

But the public embraced the train and two years after it began the Lake Shore Limited was averaging 272 passengers per trip, a figure that eclipsed the Chicago-New York Broadway Limited.

The U.S. Department of Transportation lifted the experimental status for the Lake Shore Limited on May 9, 1978.

The Lake Shore Limited was the first direct Chicago-Boston train since the Dec. 3, 1967, discontinuance by the New York Central of the New England States.

However, the NYC and later Penn Central ran through cars between the two cities that were interchanged at Buffalo, New York.

News accounts published in October 1975, noted the longer travel time for Amtrak compared to what the New York Central once offered.

Amtrak officials blamed that on poor track conditions. Conrail would not take over the route until the following spring and it would take years to rebuild the track.

When it began, the Lake Shore Limited was scheduled to arrive and depart Chicago in mid afternoon.

The westbound train was scheduled out of Cleveland at 7:30 a.m. The eastbound train was scheduled at 11:20 p.m.

At that time, not all of the western long-distance trains departed Chicago as they do today by mid afternoon.

Failed Inspection Sidelines Hoosier State

October 31, 2015

A failed inspection prompted the cancellation of the Chicago-Indianapolis Hoosier State this past week. Passengers were transported by bus.

The cancelations occurred on Wednesday morning after Amtrak inspectors cited the train for having wheel tolerances that failed to comply with federal regulations.

The inspectors ordered the defects on the two Iowa Pacific Holdings locomotives to be repaired.

The Hoosier State operates with Iowa Pacific equipment and an Amtrak operating crew.

Amtrak performed the repairs at its Chicago maintenance facility and the Hoosier State operated as scheduled Wednesday night to Indianapolis.

Trains magazine reported that Iowa Pacific asked for a separate inspection of its locomotives by a Federal Railroad Administration inspector before any work was done on the wheels.

However, Amtrak worker had already made the repairs before a joint FRA-Iowa Pacific-Amtrak inspection took place Wednesday morning.

The Indiana Department of Transportation pays Amtrak to perform needed repairs before the train leaves Chicago.

“At [Indiana’s] request, we have repeatedly made unscheduled repairs to multiple defects in its vendor’s equipment…and disrupted scheduled work on our own equipment in order to make every effort to dispatch these trains on time,” said Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari.

Boardman Decries ‘Zero’ Funding of Rail Transportation Infrastructure Projects

October 27, 2015

Amtrak President Joe Boardman has come face to face with a reality that all of his predecessors have faced. Funding for Amtrak is always year to year and that makes long-term planning difficult.

As if that isn’t bad enough, Boardman said the nation faces billions of dollars in infrastructure repairs but has made no progress toward addressing those.

Chief among those infrastructure needs is a plan to resolve railroad congestion in Chicago that delays Amtrak and freight trains alike.

Boardman appeared on Monday on a panel at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on Monday to stump for a plan that Amtrak presented recently to fund the $2.6 billion Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency program.

Boardman lamented that Amtrak’s annual funding struggles has made multi-year projects exceedingly difficult to plan and carry out.

Also appearing on the panel were Amtrak board member Thomas Carper, former U.S. Rep. Jack Quinn ( R-New York) and Chicago-based Environmental Law & Policy Center President Howard Lerner.

The panel noted that 29 CREATE projects have been built at a cost of $1 billion.

Boardman said it has been a long time since national leaders approved major projects for the common good.

He said the Chicago projects remain unfunded along with the Gateway project to rebuild century-old infrastructure and increase capacity between New York City and New Jersey.

Boardman said at stake is the day-in, day-out reliability of the rail network as well as the mobility needs of students, residents of remote areas and the physically disadvantaged.

As an example of why operation of the rail system needs to be more reliable, Boardman said that the on-time performance of state-supported Amtrak trains is around 55 percent while that of long-distance trains is below 50 percent.

Carper noted that completion of the Englewood Flyover in Chicago eliminated about six train delays per hour at the busiest times.

That $130 million project elevated Metra’s Rock Island District over the Chicago Line of Norfolk Southern. The latter is used by 14 Amtrak trains per day.

Carper said that United Parcel Service loses $1 million for every minute of delay to its shipments and that $7 to $9 billion of the nation’s annual gross domestic product is dependent on the flow of freight through Chicago.

Lerner said the next priorities for Chicago should be the 75th Street Corridor Improvement Project and the Grand Crossing Project.

He also said that Amtrak, Metra and freight railroads need to better coordinate dispatching and that the Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing loan program must be reformed to make its loans easier to obtain.

However, funding for the rest of CREATE projects as well as the $20 billion Gateway project has yet to be approved.

Lerner said that there are no substitutes for a long-term federal funding program for passenger rail.

NS Won’t Accept Hazardous Cargo After Dec. 1

October 21, 2015

Norfolk Southern has followed through on a threat that all Class 1 railroads have been making as they seek to pressure Congress to extend the deadline for installation of positive train control.

It has notified shippers of poisonous inhalation hazard commodities that it will not accept anymore of these commodities for shipment as of Dec. 1, 2015.

In a customer service bulletin, NS said cars already in transit on that date will be delivered by Dec. 31.

NS has also notified Amtrak, Virginia Railway Express and Metra that it will no longer allow passenger trains to use NS tracks after Dec. 31, the deadline for installation of PTC that is set in federal law.

“These service changes – effective across the entire NS rail network – are required to comply with federal safety laws that become effective after Dec. 31, 2015, the government’s deadline for installation of PTC,” NS said in the service bulletin. “Despite investment of more than $1 billion to date, NS will not meet the deadline.

“Norfolk Southern sincerely regrets the inconvenience that customers, passengers and commuters will experience and hopes that Congress will act quickly and decisively to allow us to restore full access to our rail network.”

Class 1 railroads along with the Association of American Railroads have stated that they will no longer allow passenger trains to use their tracks or haul hazardous cargo after Dec. 31 because they do not wish to pay the fines that the Federal Railroad Administration has said it will levy on railroads that do not comply with the PTC installation deadline.


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