Posts Tagged ‘Indiana Department of Transportation’

INDOT Taking Applications for Grade Crossing Projects

May 9, 2018

Applications are being accepted by the Indiana Department of Transportation for the LocalTrax matching grant program for grade crossing separations, closures and other safety enhancements at railroad intersections with local roads.

The program has $125 million in state matching funds for eligible projects. The deadline for applications is Aug. 31 with awards expected to be awarded soon thereafter.

Local Trax requires local governments to provide 20 percent of funding for land acquisition and construction. The state will provide the remaining 80 percent.

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INDOT Starts Railroad Safety Project Fund

April 4, 2018

The Indiana Department of Transportation is making available $125 million in grants for “high-priority” railroad safety projects.

The grants are being channel through a new program, Local Trax, which will provide state matching funds for Indiana cities, towns and counties interested in pursuing grade separations, crossing closures and other safety enhancements at railroad grade crossings.

Grant applications will be accepted by INDOT between May and August. A local government agency must agree to provide 20 percent of the funding for the project with the state providing the other 80 percent.

INDOT plans to conduct public hearings throughout the state this month to answer questions about the new program.

Funding for Local Trax was appropriated in the state’s long-term road funding legislation signed by Gov. Eric Holcomb last year.

South Shore Developing Tracking Map

January 12, 2018

The Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District has approved a contract with a Florida company to develop a tracking map as well as upgrading 19 grade crossings on the South Shore Line.

The $58,000 contract with ETATransit will lead to the creating of a tracking map and app that will enable South Shore passengers to check the progress of trains in real time.

The app will provide information on schedules and expected arrival times at stations.

The NICTD board of director also has authorized the purchase of 38 crossing gate mechanisms to upgrade 19 crossings that are currently only protected by flashing lights.

The Indiana Department of Transportation is funding the $168,000 project as part of the $1.3 million plan to double track the South Shore mainline and develop the West Lake Extension.

South Shore management was given the authority to negotiate contacts with land title companies because the railroad will need title services on 400 to 500 closings on a much shorter timeline than normal closings.

Chicago-Columbus Rail Route Planning to Start

December 20, 2016

All Aboard Ohio said Monday that enough funding has been raised to begin what it described as an alternatives analysis and public input process for a proposed Chicago-Columbus passenger rail route.

Amtrak 4The Indiana Department of Transportation submitted an application to the Federal Railroad Administration in support of the planning process for the route.

In a news release, AAO, a rail passenger advocacy group based in Cleveland, said INDOT offered the locally-raised funds, totaling $350,000, to start the planning process as part of an arrangement with the FRA.

The initial planning work is to be completed by late 2017.  AAO also said the support of the Northeast Indiana Passenger Rail Association was also critical.

The Chicago-Columbus route would operate via Fort Wayne, Indiana, and Lima, Ohio, using large portions of the former Pennsylvania Railroad’s Fort Wayne Line, which hosted Amtrak trains until November 1990 when the trains were rerouted due to Conrail downgrading the route.

“There are only two rail corridors to the east of Chicago that lack heavy freight rail traffic and could offer the potential for frequent, reliable, 110-mph passenger trains,” said Ken Prendergast, executive director of AAO.

The Fort Wayne Line is one of those with Amtrak’s Chicago-Detroit being the other.

Prendergast noted that work is already underway to upgrade the Michigan corridor for 110-mph passenger service.

Communities OK Funding for Rail Study

November 10, 2016

All Aboard Ohio repots that communities and counties in Ohio have been approving funding for a tier I environmental assessment for a proposed Chicago-Columbus high-performance passenger rail corridor.

OhioFunding pledges have already been approved in Indiana.

The assessment is the first step toward developing a major transportation project.

Backing the project has been the Northern Indiana/Ohio Passenger Rail Initiative, comprised of the nine largest cities on the preferred corridor.

Also taking part are the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission and Indiana Department of Transportation.

The project promoters are expected to seek a $2.56 million federal grant for the tier I assessment.

A high-performance rail corridor can involve building a new right of way or rehabilitating an existing rail line by adding safety features that would allow higher train speeds.

A tier I assessments identifies the most cost-effective, environmentally benign route(s), potential station sites and may include a service development plan.

INDOT Sets Meetings on Rail Plan

November 1, 2016

The Indiana Department of Transportation will conduct a series of public meetings as part of an update to the state’s freight and passenger rail plan.

InDOTThe meeting will be held  at INDOT offices in Vincennes (Nov. 10), LaPorte (Nov. 15) and Indianapolis (Nov. 17).

Brief informal presentations will be given at 5:30 p.m.  and 6:30 p.m.

Staff from INDOT’s rail division and consultant WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff will be available before and after the presentations for members of the public or rail stakeholders who may wish to speak with them. Attendees will also be asked to complete a paper survey

INDOT expects to have a draft rail plan completed for public review in the spring of 2017.

Ohio Project Gets Share of FRA Grant Money

September 14, 2016

The Ohio Rail Development Commission has been awarded  $600,000 by the Federal Railroad Administration that will be used to upgrade 9.7 miles of track to Class II standards on the Ohio South Central Railroad from Hamden to Red Diamond.

FRAThe award was one of several the FRA handed out recently for projects in 14 states and the District of Columbia that will benefit from $25 million in federal grant money.

The grants will be used to improve safety at railroad grade crossings, passenger rail stations, and rebuild tracks. Other major grants included:

  • $2.6 million to add two platform access points at the East Chicago, Indiana, station on the South Shore commuter railroad.
    • $129,537 to make improvements at 321 grade crossings in 10 Indiana and Illinois counties along the Indiana Rail Road.
  • $640,000 to the Indiana Department of Transportation to upgrade four major at-risk grade crossings with improvements that include flashing signals, over-lane cantilevers, automatic gates, constant warning time circuitry, and warning bells.

IP Looking Ahead as Hoosier State Celebrates First Year of Operation Under its Direction

August 31, 2016

Operation of the Chicago-Indianapolis Hoosier State by Iowa Pacific Holdings has reached the end of the first year of a two-year trial and the results are promising and concerning.

Iowa PacificUnder IP oversight, the average on-time performance has been 86 percent, which was better than the OT average of Amtrak trains of between 60 to 65 percent.

Ridership, though, has fallen by 11 percent since IP took over the quad-weekly train from Amtrak on Aug. 2, 2015.

The Hoosier State was racking up financial losses that were on track to reach $2 million a year.

On the other hand, ticket revenue has increased by 26 percent and during June the Hoosier State even turned a small profit on the strength of increases in patronage and revenue.

IP head Ed Ellis has attributed that turnaround to growth in business class passengers, who pay a premium to receive food and beverage service while riding in a dome car.

The Chicago-Indianapolis route is different from other intercity corridors in that IP and Amtrak both provide service over it.

Amtrak’s tri-weekly Chicago-New York Cardinal uses the route and the Hoosier State operates on days that the Cardinal does not.

Ellis told West Lafayette radio station WBAA that the improved timekeeping is a result of establishing personal relationships with Amtrak and every freight railroad that hosts the train.

“I think, if nothing else, just that level of daily attention has caused everybody else to pay daily attention to the train and has solved the problem,” Ellis said.

For its part, IP has focused on ensuring that the equipment is ready to go at departure time, thus eliminating late departures that can have a ripple effect.

“ . .  . it’s when trains get out of slot that you get more host-related delays because they need to run freight trains. So leaving on time is important,” Ellis said.

The Hoosier State is not solely an IP train. Amtrak provides under contract the operating employees and does servicing in Chicago and Indianapolis.

IP provides the equipment and handles marketing and promotion although the train is shown on the Amtrak website and Amtrak sells tickets for it.

Funding comes from the Indiana Department of Transportation and five communities along the train’s route.

The Hoosier State costs about $2.7 million annually to operate. Eventually, all of the parties concerned would like to see it become more self-supporting financially. They would also like to see more service.

But Ellis said that will require additional sidings and signal work on the mostly-CSX route that would need to be paid for by the Indiana Department of Transportation.

“I think it’s obvious we need more trains, and the only way to do that is for the state to go to the freight railroads and say, ‘What does it take,’ and for the railroads to give us all a number and for us to decide if we can afford to do that,” Ellis said.

If Ellis had his way, he would create a new route into Chicago and use a different terminal.

What he has in mind is building a connection in Blue Island between the Metra line from Joliet to La Salle Street Station and the former Grand Trunk Western mainline that CSX now operates.

Writing on Train Orders.com, Ellis said that and other improvements could cost $500 million and cut the Chicago-Indianapolis running time to 3 hours, 20 minutes.

Ellis also would like to operate three daily roundtrips between the two cities.

He wants to trade Chicago terminals because Union Station is crowded but La Salle Street is not.

A new Chicago routing would eliminate running on tracks owned by Amtrak, Norfolk Southern, Union Pacific and the Belt Railway of Chicago. In the process, IP would gain a faster route into Chicago and eliminate a congestion- prone junction with the Indiana Harbor Belt in Dolton.

If the money was available today, Ellis figures it would take a year to 18 months to complete the track improvement work. Given the realities of the situation he said it would more likely take until 2020 to get the improvements made and train frequencies increased.

“There is a lot of spade work that has to be done between INDOT, the [Indiana] legislature and CSX on infrastructure improvement,” Ellis wrote on TO.

But he sees progress, noting that revenue in July 2016 was 70 percent more than that of the same month in 2015.

“  . . . so the effects of improved service are beginning to take hold. But there is a long way to go,” he said.

Continued political support for Hoosier State funding appears to be building.

Indiana lawmaker Tim Brown, a Crawfordsville Republican, is chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, which writes the state’s biennial budget.

He admits to having been skeptical at first about funding intercity rail passenger service, but after riding the Hoosier State he came away with a favorable impression.

“This experience showed me there is a desire, there is interest in continuing it and growing it, and so I’m more convinced now more than two years ago that it’s more appropriate to continue funding,” Brown told WBAA.

Brown said that although it is too early to say how much will be allotted for the Hoosier State when the next budget is hammered out in 2017, he expects legislators to approve a line item for passenger rail in the INDOT budget.

IP Marks 1st Anniversary of Hoosier State Service

August 4, 2016

Iowa Pacific Holdings operation of the Chicago-Indianapolis Hoosier State celebrated its first anniversary this week.

Iowa PacificIP took over the train from Amtrak on Aug. 2, 2015, although Amtrak continues to provide operating employees and handle certain other tasks on IP’s behalf.

During May and June ticket revenue rose 62 percent and 90 percent of the route’s riders indicated in a survey that they were very satisfied with the service.

Since October 2015, on-time performance has averaged 82 percent.

The Hoosier State operates four times a week on days that the Chicago-New York Cardinal does not operate.

The service is funded by the Indiana Department of Transportation and on-line communities.

Hoosier State OT Performance Reaches 86%

June 14, 2016

Since October 2015, the Chicago-Indianapolis Hoosier State has posted an average on-time performance rating of 86 percent and an increase in ticket revenue of 20 percent.

InDOTThe figures were announced by the Indiana Department of Transportation. The Hoosier State is operated by Iowa Pacific Holdings, which contracts with Amtrak for operating crew members.

InDOT said the Hoosier State is among the highest-rated Amtrak routes, with 90 percent of riders reporting in a recent survey that they are “very satisfied” with the service.

The Hoosier State operates four days a week on days when the Chicago-New York Cardinal does not operate.

“Instead of being discontinued, the Hoosier State train was improved,” said Iowa Pacific President Ed Ellis. “On-time performance and customer service leading to more riders will be key to future success and improvements.”

Aside from providing operating crews, Amtrak works with host railroads and manages ticketing and reservations.

Iowa Pacific provides the train equipment, train maintenance, marketing and onboard amenities.