Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak’s Maple Leaf’

LSL New York Section Suspension Begins May 26

May 12, 2018

The New York section of Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited will be suspended between May 26 and Sept. 4.

During that time, Nos. 48 and 49 will operate only between Chicago and Boston. Passengers bound to and from New York will connect at Albany-Rensselaer with other Amtrak trains.

At the same time, Amtrak’s Empire Service trains, the Adirondack, Ethan Allen Express and the Maple Leaf will begin using Grand Central Terminal in New York.

The service changes are due to an infrastructure renewal program at New York Penn Station and the route leading to the depot from the Empire Corridor.

This includes construction in the Empire Tunnel and the Spuyten Duyvil Bridge. Workers will also be rebuilding Track 19 at Penn Station.

Work on Track 19 will occur between June 8 and July 20 during which time Amtrak will operate on a modified schedule.

Suspension of the Lake Shore Limited along with establishing Washington as the temporary eastern terminus of the Cardinal means that there will be no direct scheduled intercity rail passenger service between Chicago and New York City for the first time since the 19th century.

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NY Congressman Still Pushing to Make Buffalo Central Terminal an Amtrak Station

April 17, 2018

A New York Congressman is not giving up his efforts to convert the vacant Buffalo Central Terminal into an Amtrak station.

Brian Higgins is continuing to push Amtrak to use the former New York Central depot despite the fact that the New York Department of Transportation plans to build a new Buffalo depot at the site of the current Exchange Street station.

That $25 million project is slated to get underway this fall.

“Almost 90 percent of respondents to the site selection committee . . . preferred the Central Terminal. So this is not a decision that’s widely supported by the public to site a new Amtrak station in downtown Buffalo,” Higgins said.

Higgins planned to attend an information open house being hosted by NYDOT to prod it into reconsidering Central Terminal.

“Keep in mind, that the downtown location for a brand new Amtrak station, you cannot access 65 percent of America,” he said.

Amtrak would continue to serve a station it built in suburban Depew, New York. The Chicago-New York/Boston Lake Shore Limited would continue to stop at Depew along with Empire Service trains and the New York-Toronto Maple Leaf.

The Lake Shore Limited is not expected to use the new Buffalo station because that would require a long back-up move.

Aside from its historic character, Higgins said renovating Central Terminal would enable Amtrak to close Depew station.

“There’s tremendous benefits with historic tax credits. A developer could save 30 percent or more of the entire project cost,” Higgins said. “With a tenant in there like Amtrak, the Central Terminal becomes that much more attractive for a private developer that wants to do mixed-use development including retail.”

Rochester Station Cost 49% More Than Expected

October 19, 2017

The newly opened Amtrak station in Rochester, New York, has received high marks, but it also wound up costing 49 percent more than projected.

The station replaced a modular facility that Amtrak built in the 1970s.

When the project was announced in 2014, the projected cost was put at $29.8 million.

Even that figure was an increase over projections of a few years earlier. Officials said that design changes and delays has increased the sticker price.

But when the station opened more than a week ago, officials said that the station had cost $44.3 million.

In a news release, the New York Department of Transportation said that $20.4 million of the expenses were covered by the federal government, $500,000 by the City of Rochester and $23.4 million by the state.

NYDOT said a number of things led to the increased cost. Those included unexpected costs related to skylights, bridges, soil removal and drainage work.

This included unforeseen problems once workers reached the basement of the former New York Central Railroad station that stood at the site.

Those increased design and construction expenses cost from $29.5 million to $34.3 million.

Much of the remaining $10 million in added costs came from track work performed by CSX. This included moving two mainline tracks and building two new tracks for Amtrak’s use.

An open government group said that CSX was paid $8 million for that work.

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

New Rochester Amtrak Station Opens

October 10, 2017

The new Amtrak station in Rochester, New York, opened last Friday at the same location as the previous Amtrak-built modular facility.

The new station is fully ADA-compliant and has a new high-level platform serving two dedicated boarding tracks.

Attending a ribbon cutting ceremony were Congresswoman Louise Slaughter and Gov. Andrew Cuomo. During the ceremony, the eastbound and westbound Maple Leaf’s met at the new station.

Aside from the Maple Leaf, Rochester is served by the Lake Shore Limited and four Empire Service trains between New York and Niagara Falls, New York.

Most Amtrak Trains on CSX Took Timekeeping Hit in July, But Not All of Them

August 29, 2017

Not all Amtrak trains that run on CSX rails were plagued by poor timekeeping in July, but many of them were.

An analysis by Trains magazine found that the Silver Meteor, Silver Star, Palmetto, Cardinal, Hoosier State and Maple Leaf suffered serious deterioration in their on-time performance in July compared with the previous 12 months.

The Silver Service and Palmetto ran late 80 percent of the time compared with 56 percent of the time over the past 12 months.

The Cardinal was late 77 percent of the time compared with 43 percent in the previous 12 months.

The on-time performance of the Hoosier State dipped to 54 percent in July, down from 77 percent over the last 12 months.

The Maple Leaf’s timekeeping declined from 77 percent over the past 12 months to 61 percent in July.

However, issues on Metro-North in the New York City region caused some of the delays.

Emerging relatively unaffected were the Auto TrainCapitol LimitedLake Shore LimitedEmpire Service, and Carolinian/Piedmont. The on-time performance of those trains either improved or held steady.

When the performance of some trains did decline, it had more to do with factors other than CSX dispatching.

For example, the Capitol Limited was late 66 percent of the time in July compared with 58 percent in the previous year.

Much of the delay occurred on Norfolk Southern between Chicago and Pittsburgh.

Likewise, most of the delays to the Lake Shore Limited could be attributed to NS.

The Lake Shore Limited was late 64 percent of the time in July, which was down from 53 percent in the past 12 months.

Half of the delays to Nos. 48 and 49 occurred between Chicago and Cleveland, which is owned and dispatched by NS.

Thirty-percent of the delays to the Boston section of the Lake Shore were due to CSX freight train interference.

On the Empire Corridor, trains posted 78 percent on-time performance in July, down from 84 percent over the past 12 months. However, most of the delays occurred on Metro North tracks.

The Auto Train’s timekeeping improved in July to 66 percent versus 56 percent over the past year.

The Carolinian/Piedmont service posted a 57 percent on-time record in July, which was up from 54 percent over the past year.

Although Amtrak would not say if poor on-time performance has affected ridership, spokesman Marc Magliari said arriving on time is the biggest single factor in customer satisfaction.

“Amtrak performance on a route is often the ‘canary in the coal mine,’ ” Magliari said. “If our trains are not running well, the freight trains are often not running well.

“The numbers speak for themselves every month. Host railroads make operational and dispatching decisions that can result in delays to our trains and cause our trains not to make the times on the schedules the host railroads have agreed to meet.”

For its part, CSX acknowledges Amtrak trains have been delayed, but spokesman Rob Doolittle compared it to the undesired effects that CSX customers have had as the railroad implemented a new operating plan.

“We value all of our customers, including Amtrak, and we have worked diligently to resolve those issues as they have emerged.”

Doolittle insisted that CSX dispatchers continue to provide Amtrak trains with preference in accordance with federal law.

Amtrak to Skip Buffalo Exchange Street on July 23-24

July 22, 2017

Amtrak’s New York-Toronto Maple Leaf and New York-Niagara Falls Empire Service trains will not stop at Buffalo Exchange Street Station on July 23 and 24 due to track work being performed by CSX.

Alternative transportation will be provided between the Exchange Street station and Buffalo-Depew station.

Affected are Trains 63, 64, 281, 283, 284 and 288 on July 23, and trains Trains 63, 64, 280, 281, 283 and 284 on July 24.

Amtrak Names Trains to Use Grand Central

July 6, 2017

Amtrak has announced which Empire Service trains will be using Grand Central Terminal once the reconstruction of tracks at New York’s Penn Station gets underway.

Three weekday trains originating at Albany-Rensselaer, New York, will use Grand Central and be turned on the the station’s loop track.

The trains set to diverge at Spuyten Duyvil and head for Grand Central are No. 230, departing Albany-Rensselaer at 5:05 a.m.; No. 236, departing at 8:20 a.m.; and No. 242, whose departure time has been moved up to 2:40 p.m. from 3:10 p.m.)

Northbound trains will depart Grand Central at 11:15 a.m. (No. 233, weekdays only), 2:15 p.m. (No. 235), and 5:48 p.m. (No. 239).

The New York-Montreal Adirondack will continue to use Penn Station but will be combined with the New York-Toronto Maple Leaf between New York and Albany. The Adirondack will arrive earlier at intermediate stops to Montreal.

The Friday departure time of the Ethan Allen Express will be moved up to the Saturday-Thursday 3:15 p.m. scheduled departure time.

Amtrak plans to cancel six New York-Washington Northeast Regional trains and the New York-Philadelphia portion of three Keystone round-trips.

Another Keystone Service train will terminate at Newark, New Jersey while the New York-New Orleans Crescent will originate and terminate in Washington

Travel between all Northeast Corridor stops will be allowed on the New York-Miami Silver Star and Silver Meteor, and aboard the Chicago-New York Cardinal.

Those trains ordinarily stop between New York and Washington to pick up and discharge passengers traveling to and from destinations south and west of Washington.

Unaffected by the changes are Empire Service trains operating to and from Niagara Falls, New York, and the Chicago-New York Lake Shore Limited.

The schedule changes are effective July 10. The work at Penn Station will continue through Sept. 1.

Third-rail shoes have been modified from over-running contact to Metro-North’s under-running configuration on at least four P32-DM locomotives to power the detouring Amtrak trains.

Only tracks 1-9 and 11 of Penn Station’s 21 tracks will be accessible from the west end during the construction work.

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.

Capital Region Track Work to Finish in Summer

March 22, 2017

Amtrak expects to finish a massive rail improvement project in New York’s Capital Region this summer.

The $163 million program is adding a second track between Albany and Schenectady, New York, in order to eliminate a bottleneck on the single-track route used by the Lake Shore Limited, Empire Service trains, the Adirondack, the Ethan Allen Express and the Maple Leaf.

The work also includes upgrading the signal system and improving grade crossings.

An earlier stage of the project involved lengthening two passenger platforms at the Albany-Rensselaer station, primarily for the benefit of passengers boarding and disembarking from the Lake Shore Limited.

Amtrak officials said the work is nearly finished south of the Capital Region and that the second track between Albany and Schenectady should go into service in late spring or early summer.

A NYDOT spokesman said contractors are still placing ballast on the new track, as well as making deck repairs on the Union Street and Erie Boulevard bridges in Schenectady, cleaning and improving culverts, and removing poles, now that the new signal system is underground.

However, officials say that earlier ides to increase the level of service west and north of the region are uncertain at best.

Michael Franchini, who heads the Capital District Transportation Committee, a government planning organization that oversees the disbursement of federal transportation funds, said there are no serious proposals to extend Empire Service trains now terminating at Albany-Rensselaer to Schenectady or Saratoga Springs.

The New York Department of Transportation will say only that it continues to consider increased service.

Saratoga County residents who are now served by the New York-Montreal Adirondack said that they need additional service to provide them more flexibility in their travel plans.

Some now drive an hour to the Albany-Rensselaer station to take advantage of its higher level of service to New York City.

In a related development, NYDOT officials have been asked to replace the locomotives used between Albany-Rensselaer and New York Penn Station.

The dual model locomotives are able to run on diesel fuel or electric current, but use electric power in the Manhattan tunnels that bring trains into Penn Station.

Replacing the fleet with 25 new locomotives would cost an estimated $250 million.

The current locomotives are old and prone to breakdowns that delay trains.

NYDOT Pledges That New Schenectady Amtrak Station Will be Completed by November 2018

February 9, 2017

A New York transportation official pledged on Wednesday that a new Amtrak station for Schenectady will go out for bid this year and be completed by November 2018. Department of Transportation Commissioner Matthew Driscoll said during a tour of the early 1970s era station that the new station project will be bid in two stages.

Amtrak 4The construction steel work will be released for bid on Feb. 24 and is expected to cost about $6 million.

The remainder of the project will go to bid this fall and is expected to cost $9 million.

Amtrak has agreed to pay some costs not directly associated with the station building, including track work.

Driscoll said the building alone — without repairs to a 100-year-old viaduct included in the first bid proposal — can be done with a $15 million budget.

Some bridge rehabilitation work will be funded by an Amtrak track rebuilding project that is currently in progress.

Amtrak and NYDOT are still discussing erecting a temporary station that passengers will use while the permanent depot is being built.

Schenectady is served by Amtrak’s Maple Leaf, Ethan Allen Express, Lake Shore Limited and Empire Service trains.