Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak’

PennDOT, NS Reach Agreement on Route Improvements to Pittsburgh-Harrisburg Route

June 28, 2022

An agreement has been reached between the state of Pennsylvania and Norfolk Southern on infrastructure improvements that will be made as part of plans to launch a second daily Amtrak train between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg.

The improvements will cost $200 million with final details on the projects to be worked out by late this year.

Officials said the second Amtrak train is still about three years away from being inaugurated.

Currently the Pittsburgh-Harrisburg segment is served by Amtrak’s New York-Pittsburgh Pennsylvanian, which operates via Philadelphia.

There are numerous Amtrak trains operating between Harrisburg and Philadelphia on the Amtrak-owned Keystone Corridor.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation did not provide any details about planned infrastructure projects and a department spokeswoman said the agreement has yet to be signed by all parties involved.

It is at this point an agreement in principle. Earlier reports indicated that 12 new and upgraded interlocking plants on the NS Pittsburgh Line.

Committee OKs Transportation Funding Bill

June 27, 2022

A congressional committee last week approved a bill that provide a 23 percent increase in discretionary spending for public transit, and passenger and freight railroads in federal fiscal year 2023.

The Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill was approved by the transportation subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee on a voice vote.

The bill is expected to be considered this week by the full Appropriations Committee, which wants to clear spending bills before the July 4th recess.

It would then move to the Senate. The 2023 federal fiscal year begins on Oct. 1.

Much of the appropriations proposed by the bill are above the amounts appropriated for the current fiscal year, but below what was authorized in earlier congressional action.

For example, the bill approves $1.6 billion for Amtrak’s national network. That is an increase over the $1.4 billion appropriated for the current fiscal year but short of the $2.2 billion authorized for FY 2023.

Total Amtrak funding in the bill would be $2.3 billion versus the $3 billion proposed by the Biden administration and $3.3 billion sought by Amtrak.

The passenger carrier had said it needed that level of funding because of “the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic [that] continue to affect revenue and ridership.”

Amtrak said “robust FY 2023 grant funding is needed to enable Amtrak to continue operating our long-distance trains.”

The bill approved last week allocates $500 million for the Federal State Partnership for Intercity Passenger Rail program, which funds capital projects to bring facilities and infrastructure to a state of good repair, improve performance, and expand or establish new intercity passenger rail services.

The Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements program would receive $630 million. This includes a $150 million set-aside to “support the development of new intercity passenger rail service routes including alignments for existing routes.”

The bill contains language that seeks to prevent Amtrak from reducing or eliminating national network service, stating that Amtrak may not “discontinue, reduce the frequency of, suspend, or substantially alter the route of rail service on any portion of such route,” except in an emergency or during maintenance or construction outages.

No funding was appropriated for the Restoration and Enhancement Grants program, which provides operating assistance grants for initiating, restoring, or enhancing intercity passenger rail transportation.

Instead, the bill says Amtrak may use up to 10 percent of its $1.46 billion national network grant for the activities outlined in the service restoration program.

New York Cities Eyed as LSL Stop

June 27, 2022

New York officials are working with Amtrak to establish a passenger stop for the Lake Shore Limited in either Westfield or Dunkirk, New York.

Both communities are in Chautauqua County west of Buffalo.

Officials said Amtrak approached them more than a year ago about establishing the stop for the Chicago-New York/Boston train.

Although Amtrak would pay to create the station, funding to maintain it would be the responsibility of local officials.

Chautauqua County Executive P.J. Wendel said it is still to be determined whether the new station will be in Westfield or Dunkirk.

He indicated that Amtrak still need to reach an agreement with CSX to establish the station.

The City of Dunkirk is paying for a study to determine the viability of establishing the stop there.

Westfield said it has yet to be determined how much it would cost to maintain the station once it’s established and who would pay that cost.

The maintenance cost would also include hiring a station caretaker.

Amtrak’s Maple Leaf to Resume Serving Toronto

June 25, 2022

Amtrak said on Friday that its Maple Leaf train will resume operating between New York and Toronto on June 27.

The train has been operating only between New York and Niagara Falls, New York, since March 2020 due to restrictions on international travel imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said passengers crossing the border will need to follow standard entry documentation requirements as well as fulfill additional requirements imposed by the governments of the United States and Canada.

Passengers traveling to the United States who are not U.S. citizens must be fully vaccinated with a U.S. FDA or WHO-approved COVID-19 vaccine.

Passengers traveling into Canada must use the ArriveCAN app before travel and wear a facial mask while aboard the train traveling within Canada and in Canadian railroad stations.

Non-Canadian citizens must be fully vaccinated and carry the vaccination record that was uploaded into ArriveCAN.

Required documents include the following as well as copy of an ArriveCAN receipt: Passports and travel documents; visas required by foreign nationals to enter Canada; valid permanent resident cards; travel documents issued to permanent residents abroad to facilitate their return to Canada; single journey travel documents issued to refugees selected abroad for resettlement in Canada; travel documents issued by Canada to persons on whom the Government of Canada has conferred protection as refugees or protected persons.

The service advisory noted that minor children are subject to the same travel document and visa requirements as adults.

More information about the ArriveCan program is available at the website of VIA Rail Canada at

www.canada.ca/arrivecan.

VIA operates the Maple Leaf between Toronto and Niagara Falls, Ontario.

Harris Promoted to President at Amtrak

June 24, 2022

Amtrak is promoting Roger Harris to the position of president with current president Stephen Gardner focusing on being the railroad’s chief executive officer.

Harris is currently serving as Amtrak’s chief commercial officer, a position he has held since April 2019.

In his new role, Harris will report to Gardner who became CEO last January following the retirement of William Flynn. Gardner was named president of Amtrak in November 2020.

As president Harris will lead coordination of operations, marketing, customer service, network planning, and other functions.

Splitting the CEO and president positions is not uncommon at Amtrak. The president of Amtrak was the passenger carrier’s highest executive position until the CEO post was created during the Joseph Boardman administration (2008-2016).

Amtrak also announced that effective July 5 Gerhard (Gery) Williams will become executive vice president, service delivery and operations.

He will report to Harris and a new chief commercial officer when one is hired.

Williams succeeds Scot Naparstek, who is retiring after 10 years with Amtrak, including five in his current role where he has supervised such safety improvements as the implementation of positive train control.

Williams has served as senior vice president, service delivery and operations, since January. He joined Amtrak in 2017 as vice president and chief engineer.

Amtrak Finalizes Order for 25 More Chargers

June 24, 2022

Amtrak said on Thursday it expects to place in service by 2029 another 50 ALC-42 locomotives that it has ordered from Siemens Mobility.

The passenger carrier had said in February it planned to buy the additional Charger locomotives, but this week’s announcement indicated that terms of the purchase have now been completed.

A handful of the 4,200-horsepower locomotives have begun revenue service on the Chicago-Seattle/Portland Empire Builder with additional Chargers slated to soon begin pulling the City of New Orleans between Chicago and New Orleans.

In all Amtrak plans to buy 125 ALC-42 units to be used on long-distance routes and select corridor routes in the national network.

The Chargers are replacements for aging General Electric-built P42DC and P40 locomotives that began operating in the 1990s.

The ALC-42 locomotives are similar to SC-44 locomotives built by Siemens that now pull corridor trains in the Midwest, California and Pacific Northwest.

Amtrak’s first order of 75 ALC-42 locomotives was announced in 2018. That order plus the supplemental Chargers it now has on order are expected to cost $2 billion for the locomotives and a maintenance support program.

The new Chargers are Tier 4 compliant and will be built in Sacramento, California.

CSX Track Work Affects Boston LSL Section

June 22, 2022

The second phase of a CSX track work program that began this week is affecting operations of the Boston section of Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited.

Nos. 448 and 449 will not operate between Albany-Rensselaer, New York, and Boston on Monday through Thursday through July 21.

Trains will operate as normal on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays during the construction period. The trains also will operate as normal on July 4.

Alternative transportation is being provided by bus to the Massachusetts stations of Pittsfield, Springfield, Worcester and Boston South Station. No alternate transportation is being provided to the missed stop of Framingham.

Passengers ticketed to Back Bay will be bused to Boston  South Station and take an Amtrak or MBTA commuter train to Back Bay.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said passengers at Boston South Station should go to the Amtrak Information Desk for instructions on boarding the buses.

Passengers at Worcester will board the bus at the main entrance in front of the station. Boarding will not occur at the Bus Terminal.

Amtrak Eyes New Entrance to Chicago

June 13, 2022

Amtrak is seeking funding to develop a new entrance to Chicago for its trains from the East Coast and Michigan.

Trains magazine reported on its website that the proposal is multiple pronged and involves using tracks of the South Shore Line in Northwest Indiana, acquiring Canadian National’s lightly used Lakefront Line and constructing a direct connection from the St. Charles Air Line to Amtrak-owned tracks leading into Chicago Union Station.

The project, if funded, would cost an estimated $418.5 million.

The Chicago-New York/Boston Lake Shore Limited and Chicago-Washington Capitol Limited would leave their current route on Norfolk Southern’s Chicago Line at a connection from NS to the South Shore near the current Amtrak station in South Bend, Indiana.

Amtrak trains from Michigan would get onto the South Shore in Michigan City, Indiana. From there Amtrak would take the South Shore to Kensington in Chicago before switching to the CN Lakefront Line, which was formerly the mainline of the Illinois Central.

Amtrak trains using the former IC between Chicago and New Orleans currently use the St. Charles Air Line over its entire length.

But this requires a backup move on BNSF’s busy Chicago-Aurora line to reach Union Station.

Building a direct connection from the Air Line to Union Station would cost an estimated $146.5 million.

The proposed project also would route the Chicago-New York Cardinal over the under construction West Lake Corridor line of the South Shore between Dyer and Hammond, Indiana.

At Hammond, Nos. 50 and 51 would then continue in or out of Chicago via the South Shore mainline.

The advantages of the project would be to get passenger trains off the busy NS Chicago Line, where Amtrak operations have been frequently subject to delay.

The Trains report indicated Amtrak is eyeing grants from the National Infrastructure Project Assistance program.

Also known as the Mega Program, Amtrak would seek $251.1 million in federal grants that it would match with $83.7 million from its own budget.

The passenger carrier would also seek equal amounts from a combination of state and local agencies, including transportation departments of Illinois, Michigan, and the City of Chicago; commuter rail agency Metra; and Cook County, Illinois.

Amtrak also has proposed double-tracking its Michigan Line for 16 miles between Niles and Glenwood, Michigan.

This would eliminate delays that occur when scheduled trains run late and miss their planned meets at the existing sidings.

No timeline has been given for these projects and it is unclear if CN would be willing to sell to Amtrak its Lake Front Line in Chicago. Nor has Amtrak yet held discussions about using the South Shore with that rail operator’s parent, the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District.

The new Chicago entrance proposal is similar to one studied several years ago involving creating a dedicated passenger route in Chicago and Northwest Indiana on no-longer used right of way that once belonged to the New York Central that runs parallel to the former Pennsylvania Railroad mainline that Amtrak and NS use today. That proposal died due to lack of funding.

The Trains report can be read at https://www.trains.com/trn/news-reviews/news-wire/amtrak-unveils-infrastructure-plan-to-transform-chicago-operations/

Amtrak Begins New Thruway in Pennsylvania

June 9, 2022

Amtrak has launched a new Thruway service in Pennsylvania linking Philadelphia with Reading and Pottstown.

The twice daily service is being operated by Krapf Coaches under a service agreement with Amtrak.

It is being sponsored in part by the South Central Transit Authority in Reading and the Pottstown Area Economic Development agency.

Been More Than a Decade Now

June 8, 2022

I recently ran across this image of the Amtrak 40th anniversary exhibit train in Jackson, Michigan. The exhibit train contained numerous artifacts regarding Amtrak history in those three baggage cars.

The Amfleet food service car contained a gift shop while the sleeping car on the rear provided quarters for the traveling exhibit train staff.

The image was made in October 2011. That was more than 10 years ago. Last year when Amtrak marked its 50th anniversary, it did not send an exhibit train out to tour the country.

Aside from a few historic photographs posted on its website and giving some locomotives a 50th anniversary herald Amtrak did little to celebrate its half century of service.

The lingering COVID-19 pandemic no doubt had something to do with that. So did Amtrak’s aversion to spending money on something management viewed as a “frill” during a time when the passenger carrier continued to struggle with less revenue due to pandemic-induced ridership losses.

On the point of the exhibit train is an F40 non-powered control unit painted in the Phase III livery. The same retro look has been applied to the trailing P42DC, which provided motive power and head-end power to the train.

This image also is noteworthy for having been scanned from a slide that came from one of the last rolls of slide film that I ever exposed. Three months earlier I had purchased a digital single lens reflex camera and I seldom made photographs with slide film after that.

On this day I had both cameras although most of the images I made were created with the digital camera. I finished off a roll of slide film with my other camera, which left just one roll of slide film left in my camera bag.

Later this summer will be the 10th anniversary of my having exposed my last frame of slide film. That image was of Nickel Plate Road 2-8-4 No. 765 in Bucyrus pulling a Norfolk Southern employee appreciation special.

Those NS employee specials, like the Amtrak exhibit train, are both now things of the past and nothing similar has come along to take their place.

Photograph and Article by Craig Sanders