Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak’

NICTD Makes West Short Project Changes

May 22, 2017

The Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District has released plans for the proposed West Lake Corridor project of the South Shore Line.

The latest plans include a layover facility at the future Hammond Gateway Station in Hammond, Indiana.

The plan also shows that the platform location and parking lot for the Munster Ridge Road Station in Munster, Indiana, has been moved so that NICTD won’t need to acquire a set of homes south of Ridge Road.

In a news release NICTD President Michael Noland said the changes were based on “extensive community input.”

The West Lake Corridor involves extending the South Shore Line 9 miles between Dyer and Hammond on a former Monon Railroad route, part of which is still used by Amtrak and CSX.

West Shore trains would connect with Metra’s Electric District Line to the north.

The project plans call for four stations and building passenger-only tracks.

High Speed Rail Won’t be Inexpensive

May 22, 2017

High speed passenger rail service in America is going to cost a lot of money two railroad leaders said last week.

On that point Amtrak CEO Charles “Wick” Moorman” and Association of American Railroads Present Ed Hamberger both agree.

The two railroad executives appeared on Washington Journal, a daily C-SPAN cable network’s public affairs program.

AAR represents the interests of freight railroads so it is seeking different things in the pending Trump administration’s transportation infrastructure revitalization plan.

“The key issue with high speed trains which people don’t always recognize is that they essentially require [a] completely new right-of-way,” Moorman said. “The Europeans, the Chinese, the Japanese, and others have made significant commitments in the order of hundreds of billions of dollars, and that’s the kind of commitment it takes.”

Noting that Amtrak wants to boost train speeds in the Boston-New York-Washington Northeast Corridor, Moorman said that “will take huge amounts of infrastructure renewal and expenditure” to do so.

For his part, Hamberger made a pitch for freight rail. “Everybody says why can’t we have railroads like they have in Europe or Japan,” he said. “We have the best freight rail system in the world. We’re the envy of the world.”

Hamberger said freight railroads want changes in regulations of the industry, saying it now takes six to eight years to get government agencies to approve a capital investment such as a new bridge or intermodal yard.

“We need to compress that. You still have to go through the studies, you still have to get the permits, but let’s do it in a smart way so the different agencies are operating concurrently not in consecutive fashion,” Hamberger said.

Moorman also called for a balanced approach in providing passenger rail on long-distance and corridor routes.

“I view Amtrak as a government contractor,” Moorman said. “To date, the decision has always been made that Amtrak should be in the businesses that it’s currently in, and we continue to do what we do best, which is to promote the idea of passenger rail transportation across the country.”

Infrastructure Plan Might Not Benefit Amtrak

May 15, 2017

Public-private partnerships are unlikely to provide much, if any, benefit to Amtrak an executive of the carrier said last week during an industry conference to discuss the pending Trump administration infrastructure program.

Many attending the conference, which was sponsored by the Association of American Railroads, believer that the yet-to-be announced Trump plan will rely heavily on private investment.

That won’t provide much help to Amtrak said Caroline Decker, Amtrak’s senior vice president for government affairs and communications.

“There’s a lot discussion about an infrastructure package with PPPs, but when it comes to Amtrak and our infrastructure, most of that is going to require direct federal investment,” Decker said in an interview with Trains magazine.

Decker said during the a panel discussion that Amtrak’s infrastructure needs range from replacing aging bridges, tunnels and power distribution systems on the Northeast Corridor to buying new passenger cars to replace rolling stock that’s 50 years old and older.

Also speaking at the conference were other executives representing the AAR and the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association.

Ian Jeffries, a senior vice president for government affairs with AAR, said freight railroads are not seeking federal funding but instead looking to resolve funding shortfalls in the Highway Trust Fund and other user-pay systems.

AAR believes that the practice of underwriting the trust fund from general revenue, which has been going on for several years, gives the trucking industry a competitive advantage.

“Truckers are our biggest partners, and our biggest competitors,” Jeffries said.

AAR also wants to see some streamlining of environmental reviews when seeking permits for new construction.

Jo Strang, the vice president for safety and regulatory policy, of the short line association said that policy makers should be reminded that short-line railroads are small businesses and that changes in policy could have unintended consequences.

She cited raising the weight limit for trucks on highways as an example of a change that could harm short lines.

Nicole Berwin, vice president for government affairs with the Railroad Supply Institute, said Congress should view the industry as an integrated whole that includes railroads and their suppliers.

Amtrak Might Use Grand Central Again

May 15, 2017

Amtrak is considering terminating at least some of its Empire Corridor trains at New York Grand Central Terminal this summer as one way to deal with limited track capacity as an emergency repair program is undertaken at Penn Station.

It is not clear if the move would affect all trains operating via Albany, New York, including such long-distance and medium-distance trains as the Lake Shore Limited, Adirondack, Maple Leaf and Ethan Allen Express.

Amtrak used Grand Central until 1991 when it opened an abandoned freight  line along the west side of New York City to feed trains using the former New York Central Water Level Route into Penn Station.

The Penn Station track and switch replacement project is expected to reduce that station’s train capacity by as much as 25 percent when it gets underway on July 7 and lasts for 44 days.

A news report in the Times-Union of Albany, New York, indicated that at least some Empire Corridor trains would use Grand Central, suggesting that some trains would continue to originate and terminate at Penn Station.

The newspaper quoted an unnamed source as saying that Amtrak crews are being offered the opportunity to bid for job operating trains running to Grand Central.

Grand Central is used by Metro North Commuter Railroad trains.

Amtrak President Charles “Wick” Moorman has noted that Penn Station serves 1,300-plus weekday train movements using an infrastructure network designed in 1910 to accommodate less than half of its current volume.

Also using Penn Station are New Jersey Transit and the Long Island Railroad.

Grand Central serves about two-thirds the volume of Penn Station.

One advantage of using Grand Central for Amtrak is that the terminal has a loop track that can be used to turn inbound trains after they have unloaded their passengers.

Hoosier State Ridership up 11.6 % in April

May 12, 2017

The Indiana Department of Transportation reported this week that ridership of the state-funded Hoosier State increased by 11.6 percent in April to 2,034 passengers when compared with the same month last year.

Revenue rose 11.6 percent to $62,099 and the on-time performance since October was 85 percent, including more than 90 percent in March.

The Chicago-Indianapolis route was taken over by Amtrak in March from Iowa Pacific Holdings.

The Hoosier State operates quad-weekly on days that Amtrak’s Chicago-New York Cardinal does not run between Indianapolis and Chicago.

Amtrak Makes Forbes Best Employers List

May 11, 2017

Forbes magazine has named Amtrak a top U.S. employer, the third consecutive year that the carrier has made the list.

Amtrak was listed under the transportation and logistics category. The honor was based on Forbes’ independent survey of 30,000 workers throughout the United States to see which companies were the best.

Amtrak is a great company because of the people who continuously keep our customers safe and make the railroad the smarter way to travel,” said Amtrak President and CEO Charles “Wick” Moorman in a statement. “We want employees to find a safe workplace, challenging work, and receive the reward of competitive pay and benefits in a performance-oriented culture.”

Congress Approves Spending for FY2017

May 6, 2017

Congress this week approved an omnibus budget bill that will fund Amtrak and other transportation programs through Sept. 30, the end of the current federal fiscal year.

Amtrak received $1.495 billion, an increase of $105 million over its fiscal year 2016 appropriation.

The funding includes $328 million for the Northeast Corridor and $1.167 billion to support the national network.

Transit, Amtrak do Well in Budget Bill

May 3, 2017

A proposed federal budget for the remainder of fiscal year 2017 contains funding for public transportation and Amtrak, the American Public Transportation Association reported.

Congress is expected to vote on the budget this week to fund the federal government through Sept. 30.

The FY17 omnibus appropriations bill contains $12.4 billion in funding for the Federal Transit Administration, $657 million above the FY 2016 enacted level.

The transit formula grants total is $9.7 million while about $2.4 billion would go toward “New Starts” funding, including $1.5 billion for current Full Funding Grant Agreement transit projects.

Amtrak would receive a $75 million increase to $1.495 billion.

Also included in the bill is $199 million for positive train control funding authorized under the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act.

The Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements grant program would receive $68 million; the Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair grant program would get $25 million; the Restoration and Enhancement Grants would get $5 million; and the Transit Security Grant program, $88 million.

The Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant program would be funded at $500 million.

Cardinal, Hoosier State to be Rescheduled

April 28, 2017

Amtrak plans to reschedule the Cardinal and Hoosier State between Chicago and Indianapolis on May 1.

Trains 50 and 850 will operate 11 minutes earlier at all stations from Dyer to Indianapolis, departing Dyer at 6:44 p.m., Rensselaer at 7:35 p.m., Lafayette at 9:46 p.m. and Crawfordsville at 10:20 p.m. The arrival at Indianapolis will be 11:39 pm. All times shown are local.

Nos. 51 and 851 will be scheduled to arrive in Chicago at 10 a.m., five minutes earlier than the current schedule.

The Chicago to New York No. 50 originates in Chicago on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Train 850 originates in Chicago on Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Train 51 runs between Indianapolis and Chicago on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Train 851 will originate in Indianapolis on Sundays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Charger Locomotives Finish Testing in Illinois

April 25, 2017

The new Charger SC-44 locomotives were tested last weekend on three routes in the Midwest and are expected to enter revenue service this spring.

The Illinois Department of Transportation said the locomotives built by Siemens ran with empty trains of Amtrak passenger cars on routes linking Chicago with Milwaukee; Carbondale, Illinois; and Quincy, Illinois.

The locomotives will be tested on the Chicago-St. Louis corridor later this year.

“The delivery and testing of these attractive new locomotives will certainly get attention now and in years to come as they serve riders in our great Illinois communities,” said Illinois Transportation Secretary Randy Blankenhorn.

“Their arrival will be a welcome sight and put us one step closer to providing more efficient and reliable passenger rail service throughout our state and our neighboring states.”

During the test runs, engineering staff from Amtrak and Siemens rode the locomotives and performed required tests while monitoring each engine’s performance.

The Chargers are compliant with EPA Tier IV emissions standards and can operate at speeds up to 125 mph.

IDOT along with state transportation departments in Wisconsin, Michigan, Missouri, Oregon, Maryland, California and Washington collaborated on ordering the locomotives.

Midwest state agencies acquired 33 of the 4,400-horsepower locomotives, which were purchased through $216.5 million in federal funding and built in Sacramento, California. All of the Midwest-based locomotives are to be delivered by late 2017.

Revenue testing is to begin for 30 days on April 30 in California on the Capitol Corridor route. Six Chargers are expected to operate in Northern California on the Capitol Corridor and San Joaquin routes.

In a news release, Siemens said the Chargers are equipped with electronically controlled regenerative braking systems that use energy from traction motors during braking to feed the auxiliary and head-end power systems. The feature is expected to minimize fuel consumption.

The diesel-electric operation is designed to enable better acceleration, cleaner emissions and low noise levels. The locomotives feature a 4,400 horsepower Cummins QSK95 diesel engine.