Posts Tagged ‘Northeast Corridor’

Amtrak Sends Congress its Wish List

April 30, 2021

Amtrak sent Congress its wish list this week for fiscal year 2022 funding and it is quite ambitious, seeking to nearly double what Amtrak received before 2020.

The requests include funding for new corridor services, hints at expanding the frequency of operation of the Cardinal and Sunset Limited, and seeks “bold” funding for Northeast Corridor and other capital projects.

The intercity passengers carrier wants a FY2022 grant of $3.88 billion for base needs and funding to offset the pandemic’s impacts on Amtrak and its state and commuter partners.

Also requested was $1.55 billion for Northeast Corridor infrastructure projects and development of new corridor routes across the nation.

In a statement, Amtrak CEO William Flynn noted that Amtrak will soon place into service new Acela equipment and locomotives for long distance trains.

Flynn said that granting Amtrak the funding it seeks would enable it to “play a central role” in helping the nation’s economy recover from the pandemic.

The funding requests are contained in a 77-page General and Legislative Annual Report and Fiscal Year 2022 Grant Request.

As reported earlier, Amtrak proposes to pick up all of the capital and operating costs for the first two years of operation of any new multi-frequency corridor.

But state and local governments would be expected to pay at least 10 percent of costs in the third year, 20 percent in the fourth, and 50 percent in the fifth.

In the sixth year state and local governments would be responsible for all costs as allocated uniformly under Section 209 of the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act.

However, Amtrak believes that the corridor operations will earn enough revenue after five years to make continued operation attractive.

The funding for new corridor services could also be used to support increases in service frequency for less-than-daily long distance routes and certain specific investments in corridor service at no long-term cost to Amtrak’s state partners.

The latter could include service to Canada and Mexico. All of Amtrak’s service to Canada is currently suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The request mentions that Amtrak’s funding request also reflects funding needed to buy replacement equipment for Amtrak’s Superliner and Amfleet II fleet.

Amtrak earlier this month named Siemens to build 83 transets to replace Amfleet equipment but that is not thought to include Amfleet II cars.

Elsewhere on Amtrak’s wish list is federal legislation to give it a right to sue its host railroads for failure to provide dispatching preference for passenger trains and give the Surface Transportation Board authority to determine whether additional trains on a given route “would unreasonably impair freight transportation.”

The passenger carrier also reprised an idea from the 1980s that was never adopted of establishing an Intercity Passenger Rail Trust Fund.

If Amtrak gets its way, Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Program loans would be easier to obtain and states would be allowed to spend a portion of their Highway Trust Fund money on passenger rail.

Getting to Work in Philadelphia

January 6, 2021

Southeast Pennsylvania Transit Authority train is shown in Morrisville, Pennsylvania on Aug. 23, 1978. The train appears to be operating on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor.

Photograph by Robert Farkas

Senators Express Dismay Over Proposed DOT Budget Cuts

July 18, 2017

Although members of a Senate committee are displeased with the Trump administration’s proposed cuts of the U.S. Department of Transportation budget for fiscal year 2018, Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao was unmoved during a hearing held last week.

Trump has proposed slashing the DOT budget by $2.4 million. If Congress adopts the administration’s budget proposal, the DOT budget would fall from $18.6 billion to $16.2 billion with major cuts made from the hide of Amtrak and various transportation grant programs.

The budget proposal received a hearing from the Senate Appropriations Committee where some members spoke out in favor of keeping Amtrak as it is now.

“With regard to Amtrak, I am concerned about the impact that elimination of long-distance service would have on shared infrastructure with state-supported routes, such as the Downeaster in Maine,” said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, chairman of the subcommittee on transportation.

“Long distance routes contribute in part to the capital expenditures for the Northeast Corridor,” said Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., the ranking member on the subcommittee. “That’s something of concern to many of us on the committee”

In response to a question asked by Reed as to whether DOT would be able to focus additional resources on the capital infrastructure needs of the Northeast Corridor, Chao said the Northeast Corridor is the only Amtrak route able to sustain itself and that DOT is working closely with Amtrak and local and state authorities in that region.

However, Chao said there is no money available for the Northeast Corridor except what’s in the president’s budget.

In response to a question asked by another senator, Chao suggested that finding more funding for Northeast Corridor repairs is Amtrak’s problem, not DOT’s

“These are repairs which have been delayed and the maintenance requirements are immense,” she said. “There has to be some way of looking at all these repairs, strategically figuring out [how] best to prioritize these repairs, have a program, and then execute [it].

“Amtrak has a new president, and I am very hopeful the president and the board will be able to address some of these issues.”

The Trump administration has proposed diverting money used to pay for Amtrak’s long-distance routes into funding NEC infrastructure work.

Some funding for Northeast Corridor capital projects would come from transit and commuter rail projects under the Federal Transit Administration’s Capital Investment Program.

Amtrak is relying on a Capital Investment Program grant to finance some costs of building a new tunnel under the Hudson River between New Jersey and New York Penn Station.

At the same time, the administration has proposed ending the TIGER grant program, which is used to help fund rail capital projects nationwide, including those that benefit intercity passenger rail.

Sen. Christopher Coons, D-Del., expressed concern that cuts in funding for Amtrak intercity service would increase congestion on the highways.

As Chao sees it, though, ending funding of long-distance passenger trains would enable Amtrak to focus its resources on what she termed its most vibrant component.

Trump Budget Slashes Amtrak Funding 45%

May 24, 2017

The Trump administration wants to slash Amtrak funding by 45 percent in fiscal year 2018.

The detailed budget proposed released this week proposed giving Amtrak $744 million.

In the current fiscal year, Amtrak received $1.4 billion. The cuts for next year include ending $289 for Amtrak’s long-distance train routes.

The budget document described long-distance trains as “a vestige of when train service was the only viable transcontinental transportation option. Today, communities are served by an expansive aviation, interstate highway, and intercity bus network.”

The document said Amtrak’s long-distance trains represent the greatest amount of Amtrak’s operating losses, serve relatively small populations, and have the worst on-time record.

The Trump administration would instead appropriate $1.5 billion for the Northeast Corridor between Boston and Washington.

[The Northeast Corridor] “faces many challenges, and the 2018 Budget proposal would allow Amtrak to right-size itself and more adequately focus on these pressing issues,” the budget document said.

Nonetheless, the Trump administration has proposed cutting funding for the development of New York’s Penn Station by 64 percent from $14 million to $5 million.

The Amtrak funding cuts make up the lion’s share of the 37 percent cut proposed by the Trump administration for the Federal Railroad Administration.

The agency’s parent organization, the U.S. Department of Transportation, would receive $16.2-billion in FY 2018, a decline of 12.7 percent over what it received in FY 2017.

The Federal Railroad Administration’s budget would drop by 37 percent from $1.7 billion to $1.05 billion while Federal Transit Administration will decline by 5 percent from its FY 2017 appropriation of $11.8 billion.

The FTA would receive $11.2 billion, which includes $9.7 billion for transit formula grants. The FTA’s Capital Investment Grant program for new starts would be cut by 43 percent from $2.16 billion to $1.2.

Funding would be continued only for programs that FTA is legally bound to support through full-funding grant agreements.

Funding for the Transportation Generating Economic Recovery grant program would be eliminated.

The budget document said projects that are attempting to receive TIGER funding could still earn grants through the Nationally Significant Freight and Highways Projects fund managed by DOT’s Build America Bureau.

The Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing and Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation programs would remain in place, but receive no additional funding.

The National Transportation Safety Board would receive $106 million, which is no change from FY 2017.

The Surface Transportation Board would receive a $5 million boost to $37 million in order to implement regulatory changes under the STB reauthorization law of 2015.

The Trump administration budget proposal is likely to undergo numerous changes as Congress considers federal funding priorities for FY 2018.

Foggy Day at Princeton Junction

February 24, 2017

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The day was nice here in the suburbs of New Jersey. I was in the mood to go see some big time passenger train action so I headed 40 miles west to where the wide open spaces of central New Jersey yield some nice places to photograph the Northeast Corridor.

Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other ideas and I ended up in a fog bank at Princeton Junction, 47 miles southwest of New York City and 10 miles from the New Jersey capital of Trenton.

The NEC hosts an interesting variety of equipment, including old and new technologies working together to move tens of thousands of people a day from home to work and back again or countless other destinations.

One minute, you see a New Jersey Transit local made up of New Jersey Arrow MUs, originally built in the late ‘70s and rebuilt in the ‘90s. The next minute, an Acela streaks by at 125 m.p.h.

The fast, quiet electric trains running at more than 100 m.p.h. on 140-pound welded rail are hard enough to photograph on a good day.

I picked Princeton Junction due to dead-straight lines of sight for several miles in either direction.

The fog erased the advantage, but also made for an interesting time because you never knew what was going to pop out of the fog.

I had old NJT MUs as well as their modern ALP46 electrics. Amtrak produced modern ACS-64s as well as a pair of cab cars that were at one time the pride of the Penn Central Metroliner fleet, the future of high speed rail back in the late ‘60s.

I didn’t spend much time there today, but if I had waited long enough maybe the ghost of a Pennsylvania Railroad GG-1 would have emerged from the fog. Only the out-of-service Nassau Tower knows the answer.

Article and Photographs by Jack Norris

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Amtrak Sends Off its AEM-7s With Farewell Excursion between Washington and Philadelphia

June 24, 2016

Amtrak AEM-7 No. 951 leads a Regional train into Stamford, Conneticut, on July 13, 2000. Once ubiquitous on the Northeast Corridor, the AEM-7 have now been retired from revenue service.

Amtrak AEM-7 No. 951 leads a Regional train into Stamford, Conneticut, on July 13, 2000. Once ubiquitous on the Northeast Corridor, the AEM-7 have now been retired from revenue service.

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Commuter operators MARC and SEPTA still operate AEM-7 locomotives in the Northeast Corridor. SEPTA No. 2306 is seen in Trenton on May 14, 2016. (Photographs by Craig Sanders)

On Saturday, June 18, Amtrak operated an eight-hour Farewell to the AEM-7 (electric motor) excursion on the Northeast Corridor from Washington Union Station to Philadelphia and back to mark the end of the 35-year reign of what former Amtrak President Paul Reistrup once called, “One of the two locomotives that saved Amtrak.”

The diesel-electric F40PH was the other Amtrak-saving locomotive.

The 7,000 horsepower B-B electric motor (AEM-7 stands for Amtrak Electric Motor, 7,000 hp) is based on a Swedish design and were built by a partnership between Sweden’s ASEA (later becoming the “A” in successor company ABB) and the Electro-Motive Division of General Motors. The body shells were built by the Budd Company.

Delivered in 1981-1982, the AEM-7s replaced the venerable Pennsylvania Railroad GG-1s, and, eventually, their hoped-for replacement GE six-axle E60 heavy electrics.

The E60s turned out to be unsafe to operate above 100 mph.

A sell-out crowd of 476 enjoyed a brilliantly sunny (and hot) day that included a short segment of rare mileage while turning the train at Zoo interlocking in Philadelphia.

They also had a tour of Amtrak’s main electric locomotive shops in Wilmington, Delaware.

The train was led by a couple of the last remaining operable AEM-7s on the roster, Nos. 942 and 946, pulling a nine car train that included Amtrak business car No. 10001, the Beech Grove, carrying the markers.

Amtrak President Joe Boardman was aboard the Beech Grove and joined the tour of the Wilmington shops.

I didn’t catch the significance of lead unit 942, but 946 was the last unit of the 1981 first order of AEM-7s.

In 1988, Amtrak bought seven more AEM-7s (Nos. 947-953) to replace several that had been wrecked or suffered fire or other damage.

Class unit No. 900 was destroyed along with No. 903 in the Train No. 94 wreck at Chase, Maryland, in January 1987.

Neither of the two motors on the excursion had received any special repainting or body repair for the excursion and both looked very tired and worn.

We were told that Amtrak couldn’t justify to Congress fixing up two locomotives that were going to be retired after the trip.

Both motors did operate trouble-free all day and the air conditioning worked in every car.

With only six weeks of lead time from announcement to trip day, the trip sold out amazingly fast.

My understanding is that tickets were gone by June 9 for a trip that really didn’t cover rare mileage, didn’t consist of rare, historic passenger cars and didn’t include a spectacular photo run-by.

However, the Amfleet I coaches are now at least 40 years old.

The photo opportunity  was at the MARC Penn Line Halethorpe station located between Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport and Baltimore Penn Station. The train backed up about a quarter of a mile and slowly arrived back into the station, stopping exactly where it had let the passengers off.

Even on a Saturday, traffic on the Corridor prohibited a more spectacular display.

Indeed, at least three other Amtrak or MARC trains passed us while we were at Halethorpe and the next MARC train to Baltimore was right behind us when we left.

We then operated non-stop to Philadelphia 30th St. Station at up to the maximum allowable speed of 125 mph for an AEM-7.

The Amtrak official providing the running commentary was well-versed in the history and geography of the Corridor as well as the history of Amtrak’s electric locomotives.

The crew for the train consisted of four hourly employees, the engineer, two conductors, and a lead service attendant in the cafe.

Every car had a car host who were salaried Amtrak employees, mostly office or management employees who had volunteered to work the train on a day off.

They wore specially made “Farewell AEM-7 Excursion” and “staff” tee shirts.

There also was a heavy – at least to me – Amtrak Police presence in the stations and at Wilmington Shops. At one point one of their K-9s walked the train with its handler.

At Philadelphia, we stopped in the station for about 30 minutes to receive bag lunches of turkey subs from Jimmy John’s and possibly to wait for scheduled traffic to clear before we slowly made our way out to CP Zoo to turn the train and return to Washington.

In addition to lunch, every passenger also received a commemorative farewell AEM-7 pin.  After another brief stop at 30th St. Station to return the trays the bag lunches were delivered on, we operated non-stop to Wilmington shops, where the train backed into the facility for a scheduled 2.5-hour layover for tours and photographs of the shops and equipment.

At least 20 and probably more shop employees were present to guide the passengers around a carefully taped-off route through the shops.

Various work stations in the facility were marked and parts and components labeled so you could discern what they were and where they went on a locomotive or coach.

They also spotted locomotives around the facility for photography and brought in some pieces for the occasion.

For instance, both Amtrak’s electric and diesel veterans tribute units – Nos. 42 and 642 – were displayed together.

You could also photograph an Acela power car with its front cowling open, something the public rarely gets to see.

There were at least 10 or so AEM-7s scattered around the facility, including a dead line of at least seven next to our train.

Other notable units on display included the final new replacement motor for the AEM-7s, ACS-64 No. 670, Amtrak Phase III Heritage P42 unit No. 145, the Wilmington shop switcher (GE 80 Tonner No. 1100, which had been polished-up), and out-of-service HHP-8, No. 690.

Some cab doors were open for photography, but taped off to prevent anyone from entering them.

We had been told to start heading back to the train by 3:20 pm for a 3:50 p.m. departure.

Being a very hot day, everyone was back on a little early and the train departed at 3:45 p.m.

We then operated non-stop except for some very slow running for other traffic around New Carrollton, Maryland, on our way back to D.C.

On the return trip, Amtrak took the opportunity to sell-off now obsolete shelf-stock AEM-7 number boards and a few other components, such as a bell and a horn valve.

There were more than 100 number boards sold at $75 each and they sold them by lottery during the approximately 90-minute run back to Washington. Each winner was announced over the PA system.

Arrival back at Union Station was 25 minute early at 5:15 p.m., which I was grateful for because I had to drive straight back to Ohio for Father’s Day.

All in all, it was a successful day for all on board, as well as for Amtrak.  Perhaps we’ll see more such excursions in the future.

As for the fate of the AEM-7s, we were told that at least a couple were being kept serviceable for now.

I spotted No. 917 on a MARC consist laying over in Baltimore Penn Station. For the time being, MARC and Philadelphia’s SEPTA still operate a handful of AEM-7s.

So, it will be possible to see one running a little longer.

Article by Paul Woodring