Archive for October, 2020

Grants Will Improve Passenger Service Routes

October 29, 2020

Federal grants from the Federal Railroad Administration’s Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair Program are expected to improve passenger service in a number of states.

The grants were recently awarded to Amtrak and various state and local government agencies.

The grants include $31.8 million to the Southern California Regional Rail Authority for rehabilitation of track, structures, and grade crossings along the route used by Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner and Los Angeles Metrolink commuter trains in Ventura County and northern Los Angeles County.

A $29.3 million grant went to to the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority for track and platform upgrades at Worchester Union Station, along with rehabilitation of two tracks and signals.

Some of the work at the station will bring it into compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act standards as well as enable multiple trains to stop at Worcester simultaneously.

The New York State Department of Transportation received $2 million for grade crossing upgrades and addition of accessible pedestrian walkways and gates in Peekskill on Metro-North’s Hudson Line, which also hosts Amtrak trains.

Amtrak Releases Acela Interior Video

October 29, 2020

Amtrak has created and posted a video that shows the interiors of its new Acela trainsets that are currently undergoing testing.

The video singles out the touchless nature of many features of the equipment as well as shows such things as the leather seating.

The video is two-and-half-minutes in length and hosted by Amtrak vice president Caroline Decker.

Amtrak is testing the new equipment on its Northeast Corridor and at the Association of American Railroads test facility in Colorado.

The Acela trainsets are expected to begin revenue service in 2021.

An Amtrak Birthday Treat

October 28, 2020

It is Nov. 13, 1998. The eastbound Pennsylvanian is stopped in the Cleveland Amtrak station, having begun service a week earlier.

The photographer is standing in a parking garage overlooking Conrail’s Lakefront Line.

In the background the stadium that will host the expansion Cleveland Browns franchise is under construction.

He said getting this photo of Amtrak train No. 44 was a birthday present that he gave himself.

Photograph by Edward Ribinskas

Station Customer Reps Placed in Cincinnati, Charleston, Shelby

October 28, 2020

Amtrak has placed customer service representatives in its stations in Charleston, West Virginia, and Cincinnati to assist passengers booking trips and boarding the Chicago-New York Cardinal.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said that the station waiting room in Charleston has been relocated to a trailer due to construction to make the station compliant with ADA standards.

The interim facility will be open for passengers at all train times as will be the station in Cincinnati.

Customer service representatives have also begun working in the Amtrak station in Shelby, Montana, to assist passengers boarding or buying tickets for travel aboard the Chicago-Seattle/Portland Empire Builder.

Passengers will be unable to buy tickets with cash but must use a credit card, reloadable credit or debit card, or an Amtrak gift card.

Zeta Prompts Service Cancellations to New Orleans

October 28, 2020

Amtrak has canceled all service to New Orleans due to Tropical Storm Zeta with no alternative transportation being provided.

Affected are the Sunset Limited, Crescent and City of New Orleans.

The Sunset Limited will operate only between Los Angeles and San Antonio, a move that began with the train that departed Los Angeles on Tuesday (Oct. 27).

Train No. 2 will originate in San Antonio on Thursday (Oct. 29).

The Crescent will operate between New York and Atlanta starting with the train that originated in New York on Tuesday.

The next train from Atlanta to New York was to depart on Thursday.

The City of New Orleans has been canceled for the length of its route.

Amtrak said alternative service is being provided between Chicago and Carbondale, Illinois, by the northbound Saluki and southbound Illini.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said passengers whose travel has been disrupted should contact it at 800-USA-RAIL.There will be no change or cancellation fees imposed.

MDOT Gets Grant to Improve Passenger Line

October 28, 2020

The Michigan Department of Transportation has been awarded a federal $15.6 million State of Good Repair grant to upgrade state-owned tracks used by Amtrak between Ypsilanti and Jackson.

The work will replace 80,000 feet of rail,  upgrade 42 horizontal curves, and make safety enhancements at 16 public and eight private grade crossings.

MDOT Director Paul Ajebga in a statement said the work will make the route and enable Amtrak’s Chicago-Detroit (Pontiac) Wolverine Service trains to operate faster.

A news release issued by MDOT said the grant will assist with completing 136 miles to serve trains operating up to 110 mph.

Grants Awarded in Connecticut, New Jersey for Passenger Rail Improvements

October 28, 2020

Connecticut received $144.9 million in federal grants for bridge replacement in Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor.

The grants are from the State of Good Repair Program.

One grant of $79.7 million to the Connecticut Department of Transportation and Amtrak will be used to replace the Walk Bridge in Norwalk, a movable bridge built in 1896.

It will be replaced with two-track vertical lift bridges. The project also involves improvements to bridge supports and retaining walls, catenary structures, and signal systems.

The other grant, for $65.2 million, will help fund replacement of the 113-year-old Connecticut River Bridge between Old Lyme and Old Saybrook with a new bascule bridge just south of the existing structure.

New Jersey Transit will receive a $27 million grant to renovate the Trenton Transit Center.

The work involves rebuilding the station’s two island platforms, restoring the canopies for those platforms, and bringing the facility into compliance with Americans With Disabilities Act standards.

Construction of a high-level platform with an elevator will enable expansion by Amtrak, NJ Transit, and the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority.

The current wood platforms will be replaced with concrete surfaces.

Another grant of $9.8 million went to North County Transit District in California for signal and crossing upgrades.

2 Retired NS Executives Join Virginia Passenger Rail Board

October 28, 2020

Two retired Norfolk Southern executives have been appointed to the board of directors of the Virginia Passenger Rail Authority.

Charles “Wick” Moorman, formerly served as NS chief executive officer and president of Amtrak. He joins Deborah Butler Painter on the board who also was with NS.

The 15-member board held its first meeting Monday. It is overseeing the efforts to improve rail transportation in the state.

That is expected to include the purchase of track and right of way from CSX as part of a project to create a passenger corridor linking Virginia and North Carolina.

Virginia Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine told board members that the agreement with CSX is not yet final due to delays associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The board will also need to search for an executive director, create organizational bylaws, and approve a memorandum of understanding to set types of assistance and fees for help that the Department of Rail and Public Transportation can provide while the authority is developing the ability to function independently.

The board will have 12 voting members selected by the governor and ex-officio members representing Amtrak and commuter agency Virginia Railway Express.

Station Development Begins in Oakley, California

October 28, 2020

Construction of a platform to serve Amtrak has begun in Oakley, California.

The project is for a 700-foot that will serve San Joaquin Service trains and is expected to be completed in 2022.

Passengers boarding in the Contra Costa County city of 35,000 will be able to reach Oakland less than an hour.

Las Vegas Rail Project Bond Sale Facing Delays

October 28, 2020

A proposed high-speed rail route between Las Vegas and Southern California has been rebranded as Brightline West.

In the meantime, a public sale of bonds to finance creation of the line has been delayed.

Construction of the line will be undertaken in six phases, split evenly between California and Nevada.

Construction under the current timeline is projected to start later this year and will include

most of the right-of-way not within the median of Interstate 15.

The middle and north sections, 45 and 51 miles, respectively, are projected to begin in the second quarter of 2021.

One Nevada segment is projected to start this year with two other segments to get underway in the second quarter of 2021.

A website devoted to the project said, though, that the timeline is subject to change and is contingent upon bonds being sold in California by Dec. 1.

The prospect of a delay increased this week when Fortress Investment Group delayed the pricing of $3.2 billion of municipal bonds it will seek to sell to finance the project.

Some observers said this may be a sign that investors were hesitant to finance what they view as a speculative project at a time of economic uncertainty.

No new date has been set for the bond sale.