Archive for February, 2017

IP Hoosier State Makes Last Trip Today

February 28, 2017

The Hoosier State was to make its last trip today with Iowa Pacific equipment and on-board service.

The train will operate from Indianapolis to Chicago. The last run from Chicago to Indianapolis was to occur on Monday night.

indianaEffective with Wednesday morning’s departure from Indianapolis, Nos. 850/851 will become solely an Amtrak operation as it was before IP took over the train in July 2015.

IP pulled out of the Hoosier State operation after the Indiana Department of Transportation spurned its request for more funding.

Amtrak and IP had shared the state funding of the quad-weekly run with Amtrak being paid for providing operating personnel and acting as the go-between with the host railroads. IP provided equipment and marketing support.

Operation of the tri-weekly Chicago-New York Cardinal, which shares the Hoosier State route between Indianapolis and Chicago, will remain unchanged.

No. 50 operates eastbound through Indiana on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday while westbound No. 51 operates on Monday, Thursday and Saturday.

The Hoosier State operates on days and schedule slots that the Cardinal does not. The two trains serve the same stations in Indiana.

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March 6 North Carolina Service Disruptions Set, State to Launch Free Bus Transfer Program

February 28, 2017

Amtrak will suspend service at Kannapolis, North Carolina, on March 6, due to track work being performed by Norfolk Southern.

north-carolinaAffected are the Raleigh-Charlotte Piedmont trains and the New York-Charlotte Carolinian.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said that trains 73, 75 and 79 will operate normally to Salisbury. At Salisbury, express buses will operate non-stop to Charlotte.

Trains 74, 76 and 80 will originate at Salisbury with express bus service operating  non-stop from Charlotte to Salisbury.

The service advisory noted that buses will depart Charlotte 15 minutes earlier than the trains they replace.

In an another development affecting North Carolina Amtrak service, passengers boarding or disembarking in some cities will receive a free transfer to local transit buses.

Participating in the program are Salisbury Transit, Go Raleigh, Go Cary, Go Durham, Go Triangle, Greensboro Transit Authority, High Point Transit System, Concord-Kannapolis Area Transit (CK Rider), Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) and Higher Education Area Transit.

The program is set to begin on March 1 but could be delayed depending on when agreements are signed.

Salisbury Transit Manager Rodney Harrison said that the purpose of the program is to ensure that travelers aren’t stuck at a train station without a way to travel further in the city.

Harrison told the Salisbury City Council that Amtrak will reimburse the city for the bus transfers.

He also said that Amtrak passengers disembarking in Salisbury could also transfer to Rowan County’s transit service.

Amtrak to Repave Kalamazoo Crossings

February 28, 2017

Amtrak will be repaving four railroad crossings in Kalamazoo this summer.

michiganAlthough the work is not expected to affect operations of Amtrak trains, when combined with another road construction project planned for downtown Kalamazoo, it will create challenges getting to and from the station.

The crossing are located at West Main Street, West Kalamazoo Avenue, North Westnedge Avenue and North Park Street. Detours will be posted for the four crossing.

The Michigan Department of Transportation will also launch a rebuilding of a four-mile stretch of  M-43.

During that project, M-43 will be reduced to a single lane for most of 2017.

MDOT plans to mill and replace pavement on a section of M-43, also known as West Michigan Avenue, from US-131 east to Michikal Street, and a section of M-43, also known as West Kalamazoo Avenue, from Pitcher Street east to Douglas Avenue.

Kalamazoo is served by Amtrak’ Wolverine Service and Blue Water.

Colfax Thruway Bus Stop Moved

February 28, 2017

The Amtrak Thruway bus stop in Colfax, California, is being moved a half block east across the Union Pacific tracks from the Amtrak station to Roy Tom’s Plaza 33 on Grass Valley Street.

Amtrak 4In a service advisory, Amtrak said the temporary change is due to road restrictions preventing buses from accessing the station.

Amtrak trains will continue to stop at the Colfax train station on Railroad Street.

Serving Colfax are the Chicago-Emeryville California Zephyr, and some Capitol Corridor trains.

 

Kicking Up a Little Snow

February 27, 2017

amtrak-48-berea-april-7-2007

Contrary to appearances, this image of Amtrak’s eastbound Lake Shore Limited was made in April.

No. 48 is running several hours late as it kicks up the snow in Berea, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland. Snow in Northeast Ohio, even heavy snow, during April is not unusual.

I didn’t know that No. 48 was running late. I might have learned about it from a radio transmission or simply seeing an Amtrak train come around the bend.

We don’t always get this much snow in April, but it happens. The photo was made on April 7, 2007, and was scanned from a slide.

Opposition to Hiawatha Expansion Softening

February 26, 2017

Some north suburban Chicago officials are having second thoughts about their opposition to a proposed expansion of Amtrak’s Hiawatha Service.

Hiawatha 2News reports indicate that officials in Lake Forest have softened their stance in view of the likelihood that the Federal Railroad Administration is unlikely to order that a full environmental impact study be done on a proposal to add a third track on the route used by Amtrak, Metra and Canadian Pacific.

Lake Forest, Glenview, Northbrook, Deerfield and Bannockburn have demanded the EIS after the release of an environmental assessment last fall that found installing the additional tracks would not adversely affect communities along the line.

That triggered intense opposition from homeowners and public officials who argue that CP freight trains will sit  for long period of time while awaiting permission to enter Union Pacific tracks. This, they argued, will create noise, pollution and lower property values.

Lake Forest Mayor Donald Schoenheider said the city council will vote on a resolution on March 6 pertaining to the proposed expansion.

The news reports indicate that meetings between Lake Forest officials and Metra also played a key role in the change of mind.

Lake Forest City Manager Robert Kiely Jr. said Metra, which owns the tracks between Rondout and Chicago, favors building the third track and opposes conducting an EIS.

Kiely said Metra CEO Donald Orseno recently told suburban officials, “We are not in the business of holding trains. We are in the business of moving trains. The third rail is not a holding track. It is there so faster trains can pass.”

A consulting firm hired by Lake Forest concluded after studying the environmental assessment that the FRA is unlikely to order an EIS and will take a “narrow” view of the proposed expansion because it involves an existing railroad right of way and won’t involve land acquisition.

The consultants concluded that as long as there is no impact on the environment within the railroad’s right of way the chances of FRA requiring an environmental impact study are remote.

Joanne Desmond, president of the Academy Woods Homeowners Association, which has been particularly vocal in its opposition disagrees with her city’s changing stance.

“We do not agree with your rationale,” Desmond said. “What about our safety? Is this just to get more Amtrak trains and Metra trains? Be considerate and consult with the stakeholders. Please reinstate the environmental impact study. Right now there are vibrations.”

Alderman Prue Beidler said she spent several hours in the Academy Woods area February 21. She said she got a first-hand feel for the noise and vibrations as a pair of freight trains passed while she was there.

“I really feel for these people,” said Beidler. “It seems pretty consequential. Can we get some kind of noise buffer because this really has an impact on their neighborhood?

A draft of the resolution that Lake Forest city council will vote on says the city will not oppose construction of the third track provided that idling locomotives are kept away from Academy Woods.

It also asks Metra, Amtrak and the departments of transportation of Illinois and Wisconsin to support the city’s effort to establish an Amtrak stop and increase the number of Metra trains that stop at the west Lake Forest Metra station.

Meta has said that once the third track is built it will launch express service between Chicago and Lake Forest.

In the meantime, representatives of the other cities opposing the expansion continue to insist that the FRA order an EIS.

Dan Owen, Glenview’s interim village manager, said that the project may affect communities in different ways. “We want to know what it is going to do to our community,” he said.

Deerfield Village Manager Kent Street said his town was not changed its position. The same is true for Northbrook Village President Sandy Frum.

“We are concerned about how the provisions put forth in the environmental assessment will affect our Northbrook community,” said Erik Jensen, assistant to the village manager of Northbrook.

Renovated Sacramento Station Reopens

February 26, 2017

A renovated Sacramento, California, Amtrak station has opened. One goal of the $34 million dollar project was to create within the former Southern Pacific station a celebration of Sacramento’’ past and its future.

Amtrak 4This includes a mural depicting the 1863 groundbreaking of the station as a terminus of the transcontinental railroad.

Some of the station has been devoted to commercial use, including a digital video lab created by the McClatchy Newspapers, publisher of the Sacramento Bee.

Amtrak’s California Zephyr, Coast Starlight, Capitol Corridor and San Joaquin trains use the station, which is connected to the Sacramento’s light rail system.

Amtrak said that in 2015 Sacramento was its seventh busiest station in the country.

CZ Resumes Operating Length of its Route

February 24, 2017

The northern California avalanche threat has subsided so Amtrak’s California Zephyr is back to operating the full length of its route between Chicago and Emeryville, California.

Nos. 5 and 6 had ceased operating early this week west of Reno due to the threat of avalanches on Donner Pass. No. 6 departed Emeryville on Thursday 3.5 hours late. No. 5 was running late as well.

New Michigan Thruway Route Started

February 24, 2017

Amtrak and Indian Trails bus lines are instituting a Thruway bus connecting service between Amtrak’s Wolverine Service trains and point in central Michigan, including Mt. Pleasant and Gaylord.

michiganPassengers on Train No. 350 will connect in Battle Creek, Michigan, with the bus heading to Michigan points, while passengers originating at those points will connect with Train No. 355 in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

The new bus route will travel to various communities along U.S. Route 127 and Interstate 75.

Mt. Pleasant is the home of Central Michigan University.

Indian Trails motorcoaches provide free Wi-Fi, 110V electrical outlets and are wheelchair-accessible.

Amtrak said that the new route expands the  Indian Trails’ network of connections with Amtrak to reach 270,000 people in more than 100 towns throughout Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas, as well as Duluth, Minnesota; Chicago and Milwaukee.

Amtrak Find New HQ Site in Washington

February 24, 2017

The Washington Business Journal reported this week that Amtrak has agreed to a deal to move its corporate headquarters from Washington Union Station to a nearby office building.

Amtrak logoAmtrak has reportedly signed an 11-year lease for 85,000 square feet at One Massachusetts Ave. NW, which is about a block west of the current headquarters at 60 Massachusetts Ave. NE.

Amtrak is expected to begin using the first through sixth floors of its new space this fall in the building that is also known as the National Guard Memorial Building.

The space that the national rail carrier now uses is slated to be re-purposed into a boutique hotel.

Amtrak is currently leasing 106,000 square feet of space at Union Station and that lease expires this year.

In looking for a new home, Amtrak hired Savills Studley to study existing space and the possibility of building new structure.

Amtrak’s new landlord will be an affiliate of the National Guard Association of the United States. The lease give Amtrak access to a large conference center and a tenant-only fitness center.