Posts Tagged ‘Illinois Department of Transportation’

New Rail Cars Arrive for Testing

September 2, 2020

Four new passenger cars built by Siemens have been delivered to Amtrak’s Chicago service facility for testing.

The cars, which were ordered by the Illinois Department of Transportation, are to be used on state-supported Midwest corridor trains.

Known as Venture cars, the single-level cars are built to a design pattern that Siemens used to construct coaches for Florida’s Brightline intercity service.

IDOT and its partner departments of transportation have ordered 88 of the Venture cars in coach, coach-business and coach-café configurations.

The cars are expected to be delivered through 2023. They are being built in Sacramento, California, where Siemens is also building an order of ALC-42 Chargers for Amtrak that will pull long-distance trains once they enter revenue service.

The Siemens passenger cars have a long and convoluted history that dates to 2012 when IDOT ordered  bi-level cars from Japanese manufacturer Sumitomo, which subcontracted construction of the cars to Nippon Sharyo, which had a manufacturing plant in Rochelle, Illinois.

However, a prototype car failed a crash safety test in 2015.

IDOT ultimately switched the contract to Siemens, which agreed to build single-level cars for the transportation agency over a 24- to 34-month period.

In addition to the cars being built for IDOT, Siemens is building 49 single-level cars for the California Department of Transportation for use on corridor trains in that state.

Once the new passenger cars enter service on Midwest corridor routes serving Illinois, Missouri, Wisconsin and Michigan, it will mean that the trains will have Siemens locomotives (SC-44 Chargers) and Siemens passengers.

Midwest trains currently use a combination of Horizon Fleet and Amfleet cars.

CSX Will, First and Foremost, Protect Its Own Financial Interests in Line Sales or Leases

January 23, 2018

Many years ago when I was a college student intern at the Illinois Department of Transportation, one of my co-workers in the Bureau of Planning schooled me on what CSX is seeking to do today.

The Illinois Central Gulf Railroad was slimming down its route network much as CSX is doing today.

ICG was seeking to abandon a web of former Illinois Central Railroad branch lines in Illinois whose primary commodity handled was grain.

My fellow planner quoted officials of the ICG as saying “we’re going to get that grain one way or another.”

Even if the grain was taken away from those scores of small town grain elevators that dotted the Illinois prairie like rural skyscrapers by truck rather than in covered hopper rail cars, it had a long way to go to reach its final destination.

Those trucks leaving the elevators were not bound for a port on the Gulf of Mexico or the Mississippi or Ohio rivers.

The grain traveled by truck a relatively short distance to a regional grain facility such as the one operated by Cargil in Tuscola, Illinois, where unit trains were made up to move the grain onward toward its final destination, whether for export or domestic use.

ICG would continue to make good money hauling grain while getting rid of the expense of maintaining hundreds of miles of branch lines and paying union scales wages and benefits to the railroaders whose trains ran once a day or less on those branches.

The routes that CSX is seeking to lease or sell are not necessarily 25-mph or 10-mph branch lines in need of millions of dollars of rebuilding as was the case with many of the lines the ICG abandoned in the 1970s. Some of them, like the New Castle Sub, are significant mainlines handling much overhead traffic.

But they do cost a sizable amount of money to maintain and the CSX employees who operate the trains on those routes make Class 1 union scale wages and benefits. CSX would rather see that money wind up in the pockets of its shareholders or used for other purposes, such as buying back its stock.

Like the ICG in the 1970s, CSX will do all that it can to keep most of the business generated by its “surplus” routes while not having to pay to maintain or operate them.

CSX doesn’t do much business in Akron. What business there is could be handled by the Wheeling & Lake Erie, which already has a considerable presence in town.

But the Wheeling won’t be hauling most of that freight to its final destination. How that freight reaches its destination will come down to how those sale or lease contracts are written.

The ICG also spun off most of the former Gulf, Mobile & Ohio mainline between Chicago and St. Louis to an upstart known as the Chicago, Missouri & Western.

ICG was careful to keep for itself the more financially attractive elements of the route, including ownership and operation of the track between Chicago and Joliet, Illinois.

CM&W quickly found the traffic it received from the ICG was not what it thought it had been promised.

CM&W had overpaid for the ex-GM&O and couldn’t earn enough to pay its debts and get back its investment.

There are, of course, numerous success stories in which a short line or regional leased or purchased a route from a Class 1 and was able to make a go of it due to lower labor costs and more attentive customer relations policies.

Such was the case when the late Jerry Jacobson leased some track from CSX for his Ohio Central System.

It remains to be seen how much, if any, of the New Castle Sub that CSX will be willing to part with.

Aside from whatever business there is to be had in Akron, there is considerable auto rack business at Lordstown and some business in the Youngstown area.

CSX is not going to put itself in a position where it is likely to lose most of that business to Norfolk Southern for the long haul.

We’ve seen this game played before. Route rationalization has been the modus operandi of Class 1 railroads for years. That is how the modern W&LE got started. We’re about to see it play out again.

Charger Locomotives Set for Testing

June 23, 2016

The first Charger passenger locomotives have been sent to Colorado for testing.

Two SC-44 diesels built by Siemens are being tested at TTCI’s Pueblo facility.

SiemensThe locomotives are part of an order of 32 being built under a $228 contract for use on Amtrak corridor routes in Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, California and Washington state.

The Chargers can operate at up to 125 mph and come with a Cummins QSK95 prime mover rated at 4,400 horsepower.

The Illinois Department of Transportation is expected to take delivery of the first Chargers in December.

The units are being assembled in Sacramento, California.

Siemens is also building additional Chargers for use in Maryland and Florida. The Chargers are compliant with EPA Tier 4 emission standards.

Passenger Car Order at Risk of Losing Funds

May 18, 2016

A project to build 130 passenger cars for use on corridor trains in the Midwest and California is in danger of being sidetracked because it might lose its funding.

Trains magazine reported that the project is in danger of losing $551 in federal funds, which will be returned to the U.S. treasury if not spend by Sept. 30, 2017.

Nippon SharyoThe cars are to be built by Nippon Sharyo in Rochelle, Illinois, but little progress has been made since a prototype car failed a compression test last fall.

A car shell buckled under the compression of the required 800,000 pounds, for reasons that the manufacturer has not yet identified.

In the meantime, Nippon Sharyo has suspended work on the cars and laid off 98 workers.

The company has invested $50 million in the facility as part of a federal law’s “Buy America” provisions.

Bruce Roberts, chief of California’s Division of Rail in the Department of Public Transportation, the agency overseeing the procurement, said Congress could extend the funding, but that seems unlikely.

He said Nippon Sharyo is “actively working” on a redesign of the cars to address the test requirements, and together Caltran, the Illinois transportation department, and the Federal Railroad Administration are “working with (the manufacturer) to explore other funding options.”

Chicago-Detroit Route EIS Completed

September 28, 2014

Public comments will be taken on a Tier 1 Draft Environmental Impact Statement that evaluates planned improvements to the Chicago-Detroit (Pontiac) rail corridor used by Amtrak.

The study was prepared by the Federal Railroad Administration and the departments of transportation in Michigan, Indiana and Illinois.

The statement reviews the project’s purpose and need, identifies reasonable route alternatives, describes the affected environment, and analyzes the potential environmental impacts of the alternatives considered, including the no-build alternative, FRA officials said in a news release. Public comments must be submitted to the FRA by Dec. 19.

The study will also be the subject of public hearings in Michigan (Oct. 28), Illinois (Oct. 29) and Indiana (Oct. 30).

To view the study documents, or offer comments online, go to www.greatlakesrail.org.

 

Transportation planners are working to upgrade the corridor for high-speed rail service. The State of Michigan owns much of the route between Kalamazoo and Dearborn, Mich., while Amtrak owns the route between Kalamazoo and Porter, Ind.

Michigan is currently overseeing a project to rebuild the tracks over the portion that it owns. The Amtrak-owned section has already been rehabilitated.

Amtrak operates three daily Wolverine Service roundtrips between Chicago and Detroit (Pontiac). The Chicago-Port Huron, Mich., Blue Water and the Chicago-Grand Rapids, Mich., Pere Marquette use a portion of the route.

 

Siemens Wins Passenger Locomotive Contract

March 20, 2014

Despite protests from EMD, Siemens has won a $225 million contract to build 32 diesel passenger locomotives for a multi-state procurement being led by the Illinois Department of Transportation.

The Illinois agency represented departments of transportation from California, Michigan, Washington and Missouri.

Simens will build the 32 locomotives, with an option for 225 additional locomotives, in Sacramento, Calif.

The Tier 4-compliant locomotives are based on Siemens’ Vectron platform already in use in Europe. They will be powered by 4,400 hp Cummins QSK95 prime movers.

EMD, which is headquartered in Illinois, said it has filed formal complaints with the Illinois Procurement Policy Board as well as the Chancery Court in Cook County, Reuters reports.

EMD believe that the IDOT “unfairly evaluated and scored offers and improperly relaxed the specified performance requirements when making its selection,” the report says.
A previous protest filed with IDOT in February was denied.