Posts Tagged ‘Empire Corridor’

Second Track Opens in Amtrak Empire Corridor

July 14, 2017

Work to install a second track on a CSX route in New York State heavily used by Amtrak has been completed.

The $91.2 million project involved building the second track between Schenectady and Albany in order to eliminate a bottleneck that often delayed Amtrak trains on a 17-mile stretch of single track.

The track went into service on June 26 to conclude the end of the three-year project.

Some trains waited as long as 20 minutes in Schenectady or Rensselaer for opposing traffic to clear.

The track had been removed when the rails were owned by Penn Central.

Overseeing the project were the New York State Department of Transportation, Amtrak and CSX.

In a related development, New York officials released design details for a new $23 million Amtrak station in Schenectady. The station is expected to be completed in late 2018.

The design will feature a wraparound awning outside the building, a weather vane in the shape of New York state on top of a gold dome on the roof, and over-sized arched windows similar in design to those of the 1910-era Union station that once sat at the site.

Earlier this year, Amtrak finished work to improve its station serving Albany-Rensselaer.

That $50.5 million project involved construction of a fourth passenger loading track, extending the loading platforms and upgrading block signals.

Much of that work will benefit the Chicago-New York/Boston Lake Shore Limited, which splits at the Albany-Rensselaer station.

Still to be completed is a $3.5 million state-funded project to rebuild platform elevators and replace the escalators.

Other work that remains in the Empire Corridor to be completed includes making grade crossing and signal improvements south of Rensselaer on the route to New York City.

Most of the funding for the work in the Capitol Region of New York came from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

The Federal Railroad Administration in a separate allotment had granted New York $33 million to be used to install positive train control technology between Poughkeepsie and Schenectady.

Advertisements

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.

Gov. Pledges Funding for Schenectady Station

January 13, 2017

New Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed spending $15 million to build a new Amtrak station in Schenectady, New York.

The funding was mentioned in his State of the State speech given this week.

Amtrak 3Amtrak currently uses a depot on Erie Boulevard. Cuomo cited the Schenectady station project while discussing plans to upgrade transportation hubs across the state.

It is not clear how much new state money will be spent on the new station. Some federal and local funding is also expected to go into the project.

The New York Department of Transportation has budgeted $15 million for the station, but that includes some federal funding that may no longer be available.

Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy said the state is expected to kick in some additional money in order to get the project going and the station open by 2018.

“Anybody that’s gone through that station, it’s an embarrassment,” McCarthy said. “It doesn’t reflect the quality of the community we’re building. We’re doing demolitions in the neighborhoods, working on home ownership, getting the casino online, and that train station is just an embarrassment.”

In March 2016, NYDOT sought bids for a new station, but received just one response. That bid was $10 million over budget, so the state scrapped its plans.

Instead, it decided to split the work into two projects, one involving razing the 1970s era that Amtrak built and now uses, and another to build a replacement station.

The Chicago-New York/Boston Lake Shore Limited, New York-Toronto Maple Leaf, the New York-Montreal Adirondack, the New York-Rutland (Vermont) Ethan Allen Express and four New York-Niagara Falls Empire Service trains serve Schenectady, which handled 61,000 passengers last year.

Amtrak and the NYDOT are building a second track between Schenectady and Albany-Rensselaer to alleviate rail traffic congestion on the route. That track is expected to be completed this spring.

Buffalo Exchange Street Station Closed After Heavy Rainfall Leads to Ceiling Collapse

September 22, 2016

Exchange Street station in Buffalo, New York, has been closed after heavy rain caused the ceiling to collapse.

Amtrak 3The city of Buffalo, which owns the station, has indicated that it will seek cost estimates about repairing the facility, which is served by New York-Niagara Falls Empire Service trains and the New York-Toronto Maple Leaf.

All of those trains plus the Chicago-New York Lake Shore Limited are also served by another Amtrak station in suburban Buffalo in Depew, New York.

Buffalo Public Works Commissioner Steven Stepniak said a contractor has been sent to the site to evaluate the condition of the building. Stepniak said the city will explore various options before moving forward.

The ceiling collapse occurred near the passenger waiting area last weekend and the station was closed on Monday.

Earlier this month, another portion of the ceiling collapsed, prompting the closure of the station’s ticket office.

Amtrak will continue to serve the station in the meantime. The passenger carrier said it is working with the New York State Department of Transportation, but is not directly involved in station repairs because it does not own the station.

A passenger train advocate said the situation underscores the need for a new station in Buffalo near the city’s waterfront.

“We are very concerned over the immediate safety implications, and the loss of service to the increasingly vibrant downtown Buffalo area,” said Bruce Becker, vice president of operations for the National Association of Railroad Passengers.

New Niagara Falls Depot Still Without Trains

September 22, 2016

Niagara Falls, New York, has a state-of-the-art new $43 million intermodal station that was built to serve Amtrak, yet its trains continue to call elsewhere.

Amtrak 4The city and Amtrak have yet to agree on a lease agreement for the station, which remains closed until such a pact is reached.

“Amtrak continues to work with the City of Niagara Falls toward execution of a lease agreement allowing us to occupy space in the new train station,” said Amtrak spokesman Craig Schulz. “We are working through the remaining issues which we are optimistic can be resolved. We look forward to moving Amtrak operations into the new building and inaugurating service to the new station.”

Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster has told local media that “the ball is now in Amtrak’s court.”

Work on the new station was completed this summer and an open house was held at which Amtrak showed off a display train.

In the meantime, Amtrak continues to use a facility in Niagara Falls near Lockport Road.

CSX Wants Seperate Empire Corridor Track

June 27, 2014

CSX is demanding a separate track for passenger trains operating more than 79 mph between Albany and Buffalo, N.Y.

The company made the demand in a filing that is part of a preliminary environmental impact statement for a proposal to raise the maximum speed limits for Amtrak trains using the Empire Corridor to 90 or 110 mph.

CSX said the dedicated passenger track would allow speeds of up to 125 mph.

The former New York Central Water Level Route between Schenectady and Buffalo sees 70 to 75 trains daily. It is, CSX said, the company’s “most important line” in its network. Amtrak’s Chicago-New York Lake Shore Limited, New York-Toronto Maple Leaf and New York-Niagara Falls Empire Service trains use the route.

The railroad said that adding additional passenger trains would only add more congestion, causing delays and hindering access to freight customers on sidings along the main line.

Without adequate separation between the freight tracks and a newly constructed passenger track, high-speed trains also would pose increased danger to CSX track crews, it said.

CSX criticized the methods used to compile the draft statement, saying the projected costs don’t include payments for use of CSX property, which it said is worth “billions.”

The railroad also contended that the draft statement doesn’t reflect the detrimental environmental impact that would result from shifting freight traffic from trains to less fuel-efficient trucks as shippers facing delays from the added rail congestion moves freight to the highways.

CSX said that increase in truck traffic would lead to additional road and bridge maintenance cost.
The CSX filing said the statement fails to consider other, more cost-effective, ways to improve passenger mobility, including improved bus service and air service.

However, the filing doesn’t acknowledge that scheduled air service along the Albany-Buffalo corridor is nonexistent because air carriers have been unable to serve the route profitably.

CSX did note the relative lack of population density and transit connections around existing stations in Buffalo, Syracuse, Utica, Rome, and the Capital Region, factors that could affect demand for the service.

The railroad said the study should have considered the Albany-New York City and Albany-Niagara Falls segments as different corridors, allowing policy makers to proceed with improvements on the first and choosing the “no-build” alternative for the second.

CSX freight trains do not use the same tracks s Amtrak uses between Albany and New York City.

The New York State Department of Transportation collected comments from the public during several meetings across the state and through written submissions. On March 21, it extended the deadline for comments to April 30. CSX filed its comments that day.

The final draft environmental impact statement is expected to be released six months to a year after the comment period ends. Another environmental impact statement on the alternative selected will then be produced.

Progress Slow on New Stations in New York

January 26, 2014

Local officials and Amtrak are slowly moving ahead toward constructing a new intermodal station in Niagara, Falls, N.Y., that will be used by Empire Corridor trains as well as the New York-Toronto Maple Leaf. The facility will also accommodate buses.

However, the Niagara Falls project is several years behind schedule and the construction bids recently came in higher than expected.

The station project is now expected to cost $25.6 million.

Plans for a new intermodal station in Rochester, N.Y., which sees the same trains as Niagara Falls plus the Chicago-New York Lake Shore Limited has suffered similar delays.

The New York Department of Transportation has taken over the design of the proposed Rochester facility.

The four design-build teams being considered for the project have now submitted proposals, DOT spokeswoman Jennifer Post said, but they’re still being reviewed.

The proposed Rochester facility would be located at the same location as the current Amtrak station, which was built in the 1970s.

CSX Track Upgrades to Benefit Amtrak

December 27, 2013

Amtrak’s Chicago-New York Lake Shore Limited and New York-Buffalo Empire Corridor trains should have smoother sailing through Syracuse, N.Y., after CSX completes a congestion relief project being funded with an $18.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The money will be used to reconfigure the tracks and upgrade the signal system in the vicinity of the Amtrak station and DeWitt Yard.

The New York Department of Transportation will chip in $4.6 million. Construction will begin in 2015.

The project involves upgrading two sidings, one of which is used by Amtrak to reach the station. The other siding is used by CSX freights to enter and leave the yard. Currently, both siding have 30 mph speed limits.

2 States Still Talking Funding Pact With Amtrak

October 13, 2013
Empire Corridor train No. 288 boards passengers at Buffalo Depew station on July 31, 2011. (Photograph by Craig Sanders)

Empire Corridor train No. 288 boards passengers at Buffalo Depew station on July 31, 2011. (Photograph by Craig Sanders)

With California having reached a funding agreement with Amtrak to share costs of short-distance routes, there are now just two states left that have yet to reach a pact.

Illinois is reported to be close to coming to terms with Amtrak and negotiators are optimistic that an agreement can be reached with Indiana.

In the meantime, more details have been released about the agreement that the New York State Department and Amtrak reached.

The cost sharing agreements are required by the federal Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008.

New York state will pay about $22 million in federal fiscal year 2014 to cover operating and capital costs associated with the Empire Service trains between New York and Niagara Falls, the Adirondack (New York-Montreal), Maple Leaf (New York-Toronto), and the Ethan Allen (New York-Rutland, Vt.)

Amtrak and New York earlier had reached a separate agreement to share costs with Vermont on the Ethan Allen in which New York will pay 35 percent of the train’s costs. That is an estimated to be about $800,000, in federal fiscal year 2014.

The latest agreement will fund seven daily round trips between New York Penn Station and Albany, two daily round trips between New York and Niagara Falls, and one daily round trip each between New York and Toronto, Montreal, and Rutland. State funding will pay for operating costs associated with the lines, including fuel and labor costs., and repair and maintenance of Amtrak equipment.

Amtrak and NYSDOT have established a committee to review and approve maintenance costs for the Hudson line between Schenectady and Poughkeepsie. It costs Amtrak about $100 million per year to operate the four routes.

The $22 million state share helps make up the difference between revenues and Amtrak’s operational costs.

New York and Amtrak will establish performance measures for the state-supported trains, including  on-time performance, cleanliness of the trains and Amtrak-operated facilities, and customer service.

Amtrak and NYSDOT will develop performance program standards over the next 90 days, which will include incentives for meeting and exceeding the agreed-upon standards. The first year of the program will be used to create a baseline for future years.

The states of Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont will be establishing identical programs.