Posts Tagged ‘Michigan’

Port Huron Wants New or Improved Amtrak Station

October 19, 2017

Port Huron wants a new or renovated Amtrak station and has received a grant to study that prospect.

The Blue Water Area Transportation Commission received the $125,000 that will fund a station site study. Public hearings will be held on Oct. 19 and 26.

It is not clear at this point if a new station would be built at the existing site on 16th Street or elsewhere.

“We’re reaching out to the public to do a couple of things. One, let them know this study is occurring, and two, get their input or feelings on the existing Amtrak station or any potential sites they can think of,” said Dave McElroy, BWAT assistant manager and finance director.

“I think it’s been talked about in the community for a long time. It’s been highlighted in a few community long-range plans. It’s one of the few Amtrak stations that hasn’t been updated in the state.”

Most of the grant funds came from the federal government with the remainder channeled from the Michigan Department of Transportation. The study is expected to be completed next spring.

The primary objective of the study is to identify potential site options and determine what requirements may exist for a new or rehabilitated station.

“There is no predetermined location and it has not been predetermined that an existing station will be replaced,” McElroy said.

Among the complaints that passengers have expressed about the current Port Huron station are parking and security issues, as well as access for those with disabilities.

“I’m not talking about the neighborhood. I’m talking about the lighting, the parking, blind spots, things that make people feel unsafe,” McElroy said. “It’s just the lighting and layout that exists there. If parking’s (an issue) now, and they project ridership to increase, it’s going to be a problem then. But we’ll see when the study comes back.”

Port Huron is the eastern terminus of Amtrak’s Blue Water, which originates in Chicago.

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Sanders Presents at Michigan Conference

September 29, 2017

Akron Railroad Club President Craig Sanders gave a presentation at the 14th Michigan Railroad History Conference titled Michigan’s Bootstrap Campaign: Passenger Rail Development in the Amtrak Era.

The conference was held on Sept. 23 at the Maas Conference Center of Hope College in Holland, Michigan.

Sanders described how the now-named Michigan Department of Transportation sought to improve rail passenger in the state following the inauguration of Amtrak on May 1, 1971.

Michigan’s intercity rail service in the early Amtrak years was limited to two daily roundtrips between Chicago and Detroit.

Since then service in the state has expanded to three routes linking Chicago with Detroit, Grand Rapids and Port Huron. The Detroit corridor also reaches north to suburban Pontiac.

The state has purchased much of the Chicago-Detroit corridor within Michigan, buying from Norfolk Southern 135 miles between Kalamazoo and Dearborn, and landing $511 million in federal funding to upgrade the line for higher speed service.

The state and communities served by Amtrak have also invested in station rehabilitation and many cities not served by Amtrak are linked to it by connecting bus service.

Despite these successes, the state has also had some misses. It stopped funding an Ann Arbor-Detroit commuter operation after ridership fell substantially, and a Detroit-New York train funded in part with the state of New York ended in 1979, in part due to lower ridership between Detroit and Buffalo, New York.

Several proposals to establish service between Detroit and Grand Rapids have failed to come to fruition.

The Michigan Railroad History Conference began 30 years ago at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn as an educational outreach program of the Bluewater Michigan chapter of the National Railway Historical Society.

The conference features a full day of presentations on Michigan’s railroad history and is rotated among various cities in the state.

CSX Repairing Route of Pere Marquette

September 28, 2017

CSX is repairing a broken seawall below the CSX railroad tracks in St. Joseph, Michigan, that hosts Amtrak’s Chicago-Grand Rapids, Michigan, Pere Marquette.

The break in the seawall had allowed waves to erode the bluff. A barge and giant crane are lowering rocks to fill the gap in the seawall.

CSX pulled permits from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to add stone to shore up the hillside, which local officials believe will last longer than a steel wall.

Nearby residents first noticed a gap in the wall in the 1990s. At that time it was about 20 to 30 feet wide, but today it is an estimated 120 feet.

The residents said they have been communicating with CSX about the problem for 15 years, but the railroad has not taken action until now.

St. Joseph City Manager John Hodgson said CSX officials told him they did not think the bank was in danger of collapse or that the tracks, 45 feet from the edge, were at risk.

Hodgson, though, insisted that this type of slope can fail without warning and that it has occurred in the past.

In May 1943 heavy rains washed away the bluff, derailing a freight train.

MDOT Taking Comments on Freight Plan

August 30, 2017

The Michigan Department of Transportation is accepting public comment through Sept. 29 on its draft state freight plan.

The plan is a supplement to the 2040 MI Transportation Plan and provides a comprehensive overview of the state’s freight transportation system, including existing assets, system performance and investments needed to “ensure long-term success,” MDOT officials said in a news release.

It will provides a framework for freight system improvements and priorities.

A public webinar has been set to discuss the plan on Sept. 12.

Michigan’s railroads handled more than 479 million tons moved to, from, within and through the state in 2014. Coal, chemical products and metallic ores were the top commodities moved by rail in 2014.

By comparison, tucking companies hauled 65 percent of tonnage moved, while rail handled 21 percent, according to the plan.

Some Amtrak Michigan Trains Subject to Delay

August 4, 2017

Amtrak has warned that some Michigan corridor trains are subject to delay due to the performance of system maintenance.

Affected are Wolverine Service trains 350 and 355, and Blue Water trains 364 and 365. The service advisory said the trains may experience delays of 15 to 30 minutes.

Amtrak did not say how long the maintenance program would last.

Pere Marquette 1225 to Pull All-Day Trip in October

July 26, 2017

Pere Marquette No. 1225 will pull an all-day trip in late October.

The 2-8-4 will travel from Alma to Owosso in an excursion named the Curwood Highlander. The Steam Railroading Institute said the Oct. 28 journey would be the first time the engine has pulled an all-day excursion between those two points.

The train is expected to depart from Alma at 10 a.m. Coach tickets are $99 per person and caboose class tickets are $129 per person.

FTA Urges States to Enact Safety Programs

June 21, 2017

Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Michigan are among 30 states that have been reminded by the Federal Transit Administration that they must establish a state safety oversight program by April 15, 2019.

The rule was promulgated in 2016 and sets a three-year time frame for states to obtain certification for their SSO programs.

Failure to do so will mean the  FTA will not obligate funds to transportation agencies in that state until certification is achieved.

The FTA said it is encouraging states to act quickly to enact necessary legislation required to meet certification requirements.

Nine states have yet to enact legislation prior to FTA certification. FTA Executive Director Matthew Welbes said that by law the 2019 deadline cannot be waived.

“The affected states should act to establish an FTA-certified SSO program that is compliant with federal law and provides the highest level of safety for their rail-transit riders and workers,” he said in a statement.

Detroit SMART to Serve Troy Amtrak Station

June 15, 2017

Local bus service will return to the Troy Transit Center in suburban Detroit, which is also used by Amtrak’s Wolverine Service trains.

The signing of a court order this week involving the city of Troy and an Oakland County developer paved the way for the return of bus service provided by Detroit’s SMART bus system.

The settlement ended years of litigation that began in 1999 and had kept the buses away. “We’re very happy that the parties were able to reach an agreement without going to trial,” said SMART communications manager Beth Gibbons.

SMART buses will resume picking up and dropping off riders at the Transit Center.

The City of Troy agreed to pay $100,000 to developer Gary Sakwa and his Grand/Sakwa Properties, owners of a 75-acre shopping center and condominium complex that surrounds the transit center.

An earlier lawsuit was settled when Troy agreed to spend $4.15 million in federal transportation funds to buy the 2 acres under the center from Sakwa, whose ownership he claimed under previous legal rulings.

“It certainly is a welcome step in the right direction” for mass transit in southeast Michigan, said Megan Owens, executive director of TRU, or Transportation Riders United, a nonprofit group of bus riders.

Six daily Chicago-Detroit (Pontiac) Wolverine Service trains serve the transit center.

Cliffs Moving New Pellet Type by Rail

May 25, 2017

Cleveland-based Cliffs Natural Resources has begun shipping new “Mustang” flux taconite pellets via rail to ArcelorMittal’s Indiana Harbor Mill.

The iron ore is routed from Cliff’s United Taconite facility at Forbes via Canadian National’s foremer Duluth, Missabe & Iron Range dock in Duluth, Minnesota.

The Mustang flux pellets replace Viceroy taconite pellets previously produced at the Empire Mine near Marquette, Michigan, which closed in 2016.

Specially created for ArcelorMittal, the Mustang pellet uses a limestone binder during its production.

CN brings limestone from the Hallett Dock in Duluth to the plant to produce the Mustang pellets.

Cliffs invested $75 million for a new storage facility, silos, and a limestone crusher, conveyors, and rail infrastructure to support production of the Mustang pellet.

Work on the facility began in August 2016. About 40 percent of United Taconite’s production involves the Mustang pellets. About 60 percent of the plant production makes standard iron ore pellets.

Amtrak, Ann Arbor Agree on Tunnel Project

May 24, 2017

While Ann Arbor officials await action on the city’s bid to build a new Amtrak station, it has reached an agreement with the passenger carrier about the first steps in being allowed to build a tunnel beneath the tracks.

The Allen Creek Railroad Berm Opening Project will enable storm water to more easily reach the Huron River and therefore reduce flooding.

The project is expected to allow pedestrians and cyclists to reach riverfront recreation areas.

The tracks used by Amtrak are owned by the Michigan Department of Transportation, but Amtrak is the primary approval agency.

Amtrak is requiring the city to enter into a design-phase agreement and to reimburse the railroad Amtrak for its costs.

By its estimate, Amtrak said work in the design phase of the project will cost $71,940. The Ann Arbor City Council has authorized a reimbursement of up to $97,020.

“The amount being paid to Amtrak at this time is $71,940,” said City Engineer Nick Hutchinson. “As a contingency, we obtained authorization from council for a total amount of $97,000 should more be needed.”

Any unused money for design work will be returned by Amtrak to the city.

“This action by the city of Ann Arbor is another example of our close working relationship with the city, Michigan DOT and Amtrak for improvements to facilities and service at the busiest Amtrak station in the state,” said Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari.

Ann Arbor officials have said that pedestrians and cyclists will be able to use the tunnel beneath the railroad tracks used by Amtrak’s Chicago-Detroit (Pontiac) Wolverine Service.

Federal Emergency Management Agency grants are expected to cover 75 percent of the storm water portion of the project. Construction is expected to begin in summer 2018.