Amtrak Forms Panel to Study Chicago Congestion

Amtrak announced on Tuesday that it has established a blue ribbon panel of railroad and transportation industry leaders that will study how to relieve rail congestion in the Chicago region.

The Chicago Gateway Initiative will include former Congressman Jack Quinn, former Surface Transportation Board Chair Linda Morgan and former Amtrak board member Tom Carper.

The panel will ask representatives from the freight railroads that operate in Chicago and other stakeholders to participate in panel activities and recommend solutions.

“The rail gridlock in Chicago is causing unacceptable delays for Amtrak passengers while reducing revenues and driving up [our] operating costs,” said Amtrak President and Chief Executive Officer Joe Boardman in a news release.

The panel will identify and evaluate infrastructure investments and operational actions that will optimize Amtrak’s on-time performance and improve freight-rail service.

This includes finding ways to minimize disruptions and delays, as well as accelerate construction of infrastructure projects. Final recommendations will be made by the end of May 2015.

Amtrak said that rail congestion in Chicago has been triggered by a combination of rising demand on the East Coast for more intermodal and freight, and crude oil shipments that originate west of Chicago.

Another factor has been what Amtrak terms “underinvestment” in critical rail infrastructure and short-term capital projects.

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