Posts Tagged ‘Chicago rail congestion’

Amtrak Panel Recommends Chicago Rail Fixes

October 3, 2015

Amtrak’s Chicago Gateway Blue Ribbon Panel is calling for bringing together rail traffic control dispatchers that are now scattered across the country, improving operating practices by Amtrak and other railroads, and funding for priority projects in northern Illinois and Indiana.

The panel also released a study that concluded that rail congestion in Chicago poses the greatest potential economic vulnerability to the economy of all the major U.S. rail hubs.

Chicago has been dubbed America’s “rail traffic speed bump,” creating an economic vulnerability of up to $799 billion every year.

“The panel interviewed experts with the freight-rail industry, Metra commuter rail, the states of Illinois, Indiana and Michigan and others and the verdict was unanimous: the implications of failing to act are dire for the economy of the nation in general and the Chicago area in particular,” said Amtrak President and Chief Executive Officer Joseph Boardman.

The panel said its recommended fixes are expensive but without actions rail gridlock will only get worse.

The panel recommended:
• Coordinate in real time operations among Chicago’s railroads, including coordinated dispatching.
• Continue efforts to improve operational performance in the Chicago terminal.
• Obtain adequate and sustained public funding for vital projects.
• Give priority to the CREATE 75th Street Corridor and Grand Crossing projects.
• Make additional investments in Chicago-Porter, Indiana, corridor.
• Seek innovative financing through the federal Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing loan program.
• Provide consistent environmental review requirements among all transportation modes with priorities given to projects of national importance.

The report can be found

STB Seeking to Collect Chicago Rail Data

January 4, 2015

The Surface Transportation Board announced last week a notice of proposed rulemaking that would result all Class I railroads and the Chicago Transportation Coordination Office to report performance metrics to the board on a weekly basis.

The action is an outgrowth of the Board’s temporary data collection order issued last October in a case involving U.S. rail service issues.

The STB’s latest action follows concerns expressed at the Board’s public hearings and in other communications regarding the need for standardized performance data in the Chicago area.

The weekly performance data collection will enable the STB to better understand current service issues and more quickly identify and help resolve regional or national service disruptions.

“Transparency would also benefit rail shippers and stakeholders by helping them to better plan operations and make informed decisions based on publicly available, near real-time data, and their own analysis of performance trends over time,” the STB said in a news release.

Attorney to Head Amtrak’s Chicago Rail Panel

December 5, 2014


Chicago attorney Howard Learner will lead Amtrak’s blue ribbon panel that is seeking to identify infrastructure and operational improvements that can mitigate railroad traffic gridlock in the Chicago area.

Learner is president of the Chicago-based Environmental Law and Policy Center and has “deep local expertise in regional issues,” Amtrak said in a news release. Learner is also a member of the Chicago Gateway Initiative,

“The rail gridlock in Chicago is causing unacceptable delays for Amtrak passengers while reducing revenues and driving up operating costs for Amtrak,” said Amtrak President and Chief Executive Officer Joe Boardman. “Howard Learner will bring an important perspective to our work and will be a collaborative partner in this effort.

Other panel members include former U.S. Rep. Jack Quinn, who served as chairman of the House railroads subcommittee; Linda Morgan, former chairwoman of the Surface Transportation Board; and Tom Carper, an Amtrak board member and past chairman.
Representatives from freight railroads and other stakeholder organizations will be invited to participate in panel activities and are key to implementing recommended solutions, Amtrak officials said.

The panel’s report and recommendations are due at the end of May 2015.



Amtrak Forms Panel to Study Chicago Congestion

October 30, 2014

Amtrak announced on Tuesday that it has established a blue ribbon panel of railroad and transportation industry leaders that will study how to relieve rail congestion in the Chicago region.

The Chicago Gateway Initiative will include former Congressman Jack Quinn, former Surface Transportation Board Chair Linda Morgan and former Amtrak board member Tom Carper.

The panel will ask representatives from the freight railroads that operate in Chicago and other stakeholders to participate in panel activities and recommend solutions.

“The rail gridlock in Chicago is causing unacceptable delays for Amtrak passengers while reducing revenues and driving up [our] operating costs,” said Amtrak President and Chief Executive Officer Joe Boardman in a news release.

The panel will identify and evaluate infrastructure investments and operational actions that will optimize Amtrak’s on-time performance and improve freight-rail service.

This includes finding ways to minimize disruptions and delays, as well as accelerate construction of infrastructure projects. Final recommendations will be made by the end of May 2015.

Amtrak said that rail congestion in Chicago has been triggered by a combination of rising demand on the East Coast for more intermodal and freight, and crude oil shipments that originate west of Chicago.

Another factor has been what Amtrak terms “underinvestment” in critical rail infrastructure and short-term capital projects.