Archive for September, 2017

CSX Repairing Pere Marquette Route

September 27, 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.

Track Work Disrupts Vermonter

September 27, 2017

Track work underway between New Haven and Springfield, Massachusetts, will affect some Northeast Regional, Springfield Shuttle and Vermonter service through the remainder of the year.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said the service disruptions will affect the stations of Wallingford, Meriden, Berlin, Hartford, Windsor, Windsor Locks and Springfield.

On Sept. 29 and Oct. 13 Northeast Regional Trains 136 and 148 will operate normally from Washington to New Haven. Passengers will be provided bus service at all stations from New Haven to Springfield.

On Sept. 30 and Oct. 14 Northeast Regional Trains 140, 143, 146 and 147 will operate normally between Washington and New Haven. Passengers will be provided bus service at all stations between New Haven and Springfield.

The Vermonter Train 54 will operate normally from Washington to New Haven. At New Haven all passengers will transfer to a bus that will make stops at Wallingford, Meriden, Berlin, Hartford, Windsor Locks and Springfield. At Springfield, Passengers will board the train to their destination.

Vermonter Train 57 will operate normally from St. Albans to Springfield. At Springfield, all passengers will transfer to a bus that will make stops at Windsor Locks, Hartford, Berlin, Meriden, Wallingford and New Haven. At New Haven, Passengers will board the train to their destination.

Springfield Shuttle Trains 401, 405, 450, 460, 463, 464, 467 and 488 will be cancelled, and bus service will be provided all stations on the route.

On Oct. 1 and Oct. 15, Northeast Regional Trains 143 and 157 will operate normally from New Haven to Washington.  Passengers will be provided bus service at all stations from Springfield to New Haven.

On Monday through Friday through Dec. 29, Springfield Shuttle Trains 470, 476, 479, 490, 493 and 495 will be cancelled, and bus service will be provided at all stops on the route.

SB Downeasters to Skip Woburn

September 27, 2017

On and Saturdays and Sundays through Oct. 1, weekend track track work being performed by Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority will have the Downeaster trains detouring between Boston North Station and Haverhill.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said that service changes will occur on the weekend dates shown below

Service will be provided to or from Woburn but southbound trains will operate over a detour route and miss the station stop at Woburn.

Service will not be provided to or from Woburn.

CUS Restoration Work Gets Underway

September 26, 2017

A $22 million project to renovate and restore the Great Hall at Chicago Union Station is underway.

Amtrak said the work includes repainting the hall into its original colors and restoring the skylight.

The 219-foot-long skylight that sits 115 feet above the Great Hall floor and over the years it has deteriorated due to water damage and flaws within the original design.

Natural light is expected to increase by about 50 percent by replacing the 2,052 pieces of glass in frames that had been made bigger over the years in a failed effort to prevent leaks in the skylight, Amtrak officials said.

Workers will construct an energy-efficient skylight above the historic skylight in order to maintain its historic appearance and overcome complications of an existing drainage system.

After the skylight and roof work is finished, the historic skylight and water-damaged plaster and stone will be restored.

A suspended work deck and swing stations are being used to minimize disruption to passengers.

A crane erected on Clinton Street is being used to move materials through the building and above the Great Hall.

The painting and plaster repairs have been divided into phases to further provide full public access to the Great Hall during the repairs.

Union Station opened in 1925 and was designed by Daniel Burnham and successor firm Graham, Anderson, Probst & White.

Goettsch Parkets is the architect on the project and Berglund Construction is the contractor for the restoration project, which is being funded by Amtrak.

Elliott Stepping Down From STB

September 26, 2017

Surface Transportation Board Vice Chairman Daniel R. Elliott III said on Monday that he plans to step down from his position on Sept. 30.

Elliott

In a news release issued by the STB announcing the resignation, Elliott did not give a reason for his resignation.

He was appointed chair of the STB in 2009 by President Barack Obama and served in that position until Jan. 25, 2017, when President Donald Trump designated Ann D. Begeman as acting chairman.

In a statement, Elliott said serving on the STB has been an honor and his tenure has brought rewards and challenges. He added that he has gained an appreciation for the “sophisticated rail transportation industry and its shippers that serve as the backbone of our nation’s economy.”

Elliott grew up in Cleveland and earned a law degree from Ohio State University. He practiced law in Cleveland for a time before moving to Washington.

Before being confirmed to his STB post, Elliott served as an attorney for the United Transportation Union.

Bus Replacing Boston Section of LSL for Track Work

September 21, 2017

The Boston section of the Lake Shore Limited will be affected on select dates Sept. 15-25 due to track work being performed by Keolis/MBTA.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said passengers on Train 48 who are traveling to Pittsfield, Springfield, Worcester, Framingham, and Boston (South Station) will get off the train at Albany on the dates below and travel by bus to and from all stations, except Boston Back Bay.

  • Friday, Sept. 15 through Saturday, Sunday, Sept. 17
  • Friday, Sept. 22 through Sunday, Sept. 24

Train 449 will not operate between Boston (South Station) and Albany on the dates below. Passengers boarding at Boston (South Station), Framingham, Worcester, Springfield, Pittsfield will be provided bus service to Albany, where they will transfer to westbound Train 49 to their destination.

  • Saturday, Sept.  16 through Monday, Sept.  18
  • Saturday, Sept.  23 through Monday, Sept.  25

Service at Boston Back Bay station is cancelled and bus service will not be provided. Passengers for Back Bay can contact MBTA for travel to and from Boston Back Bay.

Passengers at Boston South Station should go to the Amtrak Information Desk for instructions on boarding the buses.

Passengers at Framingham, will board all buses at the drop-off/pick-up area track 2 platform (at Waverly Street)

Passengers at Worcester should go downstairs to the intercity bus area and board the bus marked Premier Bus.

California Zephyr Detouring via Wyoming

September 21, 2017

Track work by Union Pacific has sent the California Zephyr detouring through Wyoming between Sept. 16 and 23 and Oct. 1 and 8.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said the detour of Nos. 5 and 6, will result in them missing station stops in Colorado at Winter Park, Granby, Glenwood Springs and Grand Junction; and in Utah at Green River, Helper and Provo.

Amtrak said passengers for No. 5 detraining at any of the missed station stops will be provided bus service from Denver to their destination. Passengers boarding at any of the missed stops will be provided bus service to Salt Lake City.

However, alternate service will not be provided for Winter Park or Granby.

A similar procedure will apply to No. 6. Passengers detraining at any of the missed station stops will be provided bus service from Salt Lake City to destination.

Passengers boarding at any of the missed stops will be provided bus service to Denver, where you can board the train. Alternate service will not be provided at Winter Park or Granby.

House Approves $1.4B for Amtrak

September 20, 2017

The U.S. House of Representatives has appropriated money to Amtrak, but not to TIGER grant funding.

The House last week approved a $2.1-trillion budget federal budget for fiscal year 2018.

The bill now goes to the Senate, which can accept it as is or pass its own budget with the differences being worked out in a House-Senate conference committee.

Amtrak funding in the bill is $1.4 billion, of which $1.1 billion is for the national network and $328 million for Northeast Corridor grants.

Lawmakers also approved $500 million for federal-state partnership for state of good repair grants.

Another $25 million was earmarked for Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements Grants, which is down from $68 million in 2017.

The Federal Transit Administration Capital Investment Grant program would receive $1.75 billion, including $1 billion for funding grant agreement projects, and $145 million for core capacity projects. FTA’s “Small Starts” program would receive $182 million.

Amtrak Restoring Southeast Service

September 18, 2017

Amtrak said on Monday that all trains to and from Florida will return to regular operations after service was temporarily disrupted due to severe weather stemming from Hurricane Irma.

The Silver Meteor from New York to Miami will resume scheduled service on Tuesday (Sept, 19) while its northbound counterpart will depart Miami for the first time on Wednesday (Sept. 20)

The Silver Star will will resume scheduled service between Jacksonville and Miami on Tuesday while its northbound counterpart will resume departing from Miami on Thursday (Sept. 21.) The Star is currently operating only between New York and Jacksonville.

Fuller Park Favored for New Ann Arbor Station

September 18, 2017

A draft environmental assessment favors placing the new Amtrak station in Ann Arbor in Fuller Park.

The long-awaited 212-page report was released on Monday after the Federal Railroad Administration gave the go ahead to do so.

Public comments are being accepted through Nov. 2 and opposition is expected given that many in Ann Arbor have already spoken against using a city park for a new train station.

The city also considered sites along Depot Street, where the existing Amtrak station is located.

Ann Arbor officials have long favored the Fuller Park site in front of the University of Michigan Hospital.

The new station would be elevated over the tracks in order to connect with a city-owned parking lot leased to the University of Michigan.

Development of the station is projected to occur in two stages. Phase I includes:

  • Construct station above the tracks
  • Construct five-level intermodal operations and parking structure to accommodate transit operations, 435 long-term parking spaces, 50 short-term parking spaces, 150 parks user parking spaces and motorcycle parking, bicycle parking, shared bicycle service and bicycle room in parking structure
  • Construct vertical circulation element on north side of the tracks
  • Construct platform on the north side of the tracks with two warming shelters and 650 feet of canopy
  • Construct new 250-foot, eastbound, right-turn lane at the Fuller Road/West Site driveway intersection
  • Construct new 250-foot, eastbound, right-turn lane at the Fuller Road/East Site driveway intersection
  • Relocate and reconstruct the Fuller Road crossovers, including 250 foot, left-turn bays at each crossover
  • Construct four bus bays

Phase II includes:

  • Construct additional parking structure levels to accommodate 870 total long-term parking spaces, 50 short-term spaces, 150 parks user parking spaces
  • Construct five additional bus bays to equal nine bus bays

If a commuter rail service between Ann Arbor and Detroit is implemented, the station project would also include:

  • Construct second 800-foot platform on south side of the tracks with two warming shelters and 650 feet of canopy
  • Construct vertical circulation elements (elevators and stairs for pedestrians) on south side of the tracks
  • Construct an additional 250 spaces (1,320 total)

The environmental assessment noted that the Fuller Road site can be developed on property owned by the city and the Michigan Department of Transportation, thereby eliminating the need to acquire additional property.

However, the station will require the will require use of 3.2 acres of Fuller Park, which in turn must be approved by Ann Arbor’s Park Advisory Commission and City Council approval.

Another factor weighing in favor of the Fuller Park site was lower costs, which were estimated at $81 million. Development of a station along Depot Street would cost between $94 million to $98 million.