Archive for the ‘Amtrak News’ Category

Locomotive Failures Raise Concerns in N.Y.

May 26, 2017

Deteriorating track conditions at New York Penn Station isn’t the only source of frustration with Amtrak these days in New York State.

New York State Department of Transportation officials are noting that the locomotives used to haul Empire Corridor trains from upstate New York are breaking down, stranding passengers on some trips.

Two locomotives have malfunctioned this spring in the tunnels leading out of Penn Station, marooning hundreds of passengers on Empire Service trains. The locomotive of a third train broke down in the Mohawk Valley.

NYDOT officials wants new locomotives ordered before the breakdowns become chronic, but have been rebuffed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

The locomotives in question are P42DMAC units, most of which were built in 1995 but some of which were constructed in 1998.

The locomotives were designed to be dual mode, meaning they could operate as diesel-electrics or as straight electrics in third-rail territory.

The locomotives pull some Empire Service trains as far as Niagara Falls, New York.

“GE [Transportation] has … stopped manufacturing new replacement components, which combined with age and intense use makes it difficult and costly for Amtrak’s Rensselaer Maintenance Facility to keep these locomotives in service,” said Jack Madden, a retired engineer at the NYDOT’s rail division, who argued for replacing them in an opinion piece in The Daily Gazette of Schenectady. “The average failure rate in service for the (dual-mode) fleet is increasing, leading to more frustrating delays to passengers.”

Empire Builder Subject to Delays in Montana

May 25, 2017

Amtrak’s Empire Builder will be subject to delays as long as two hours through June 16 due to BNSF track work being undertaken in Montana.

The work will take place on the route of the Chicago-Seattle/Portland train between Glasgow and Whitefish.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said westbound No. 7/27 may encounter delays of up to two hours at stations west of Glasgow. Eastbound No. 8/28 may encounter delays of up to two hours at stations east of Whitefish.

Amtrak noted that trains can make up time and passengers are encouraged to  check the status of their train before heading to the station.

Texas Eagle Delayed 10 Hours En route to St. Louis

May 24, 2017

A detouring Texas Eagle this week got stuck behind a disabled freight train on Monday in Tuscola, Illinois, and wound up being delayed 10 hours.

The westbound Eagle had departed Chicago on time and was detouring over the former Chicago & Eastern Illinois route of Union Pacific due to track work being done on its regular route via Springfield, Illinois.

No. 21 did not arrive in St. Louis until 3:30 a.m. An Amtrak spokesperson said that a two-hour delay was expected, but not a 10-hour one.

“We were alerted by Amtrak that there might be some delays because apparently there is work on the track,” said passenger Janelle Jones. “Our first delay was about a three-hour standstill. They kept us pretty apprised of what was going on, they let people off the train for a smoke break and what not.

“Then we traveled for about an hour and then we stopped for another three hours. There was a lot of communication at that point that we were gonna get started as soon as possible. We rolled for about five minutes and then the communication stopped and we were at a standstill for another three hours. No one would tell us why we weren’t moving. Apparently, the crew had to switch out because they had been on board for 12 hours, so they were tired.”

Amtrak officials could not say when crew change occurred.

Jones said the café car was open until about 10 p.m.. “There were some hungry people on the train,” Jones said.

 

Amtrak Conductor’s Condition Upgraded to Serious

May 24, 2017

The condition of the Amtrak conductor who was shot last week in Naperville, Illinois, has been upgraded from critical to serious.

Doctors said that Michael Case, 45, of Homewood, Illinois, remains in Edward Hospital in Naperville after being shot in the abdomen and suffering what they described as “very significant intestinal injuries.”

Case was shot with a single bullet from a .38-caliber revolver and faces a long recovery time. He was working on the eastbound Southwest Chief at the time.

The doctors said Case suffered injuries to his pancreas and a region of the intestines called the duodenum, but many of the major blood vessels in the area were not harmed, which should aid his recovery.

Edward Klein, 79, of West Allis, Wisconsin, has been charged with attempted murder and aggravated battery in connection with the shooting.

Klein will next appear in DuPage County court on June 12.

Trump Budget Slashes Amtrak Funding by 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.

Amtrak, Ann Arbor Agree on Tunnel Project

May 24, 2017

While Ann Arbor officials await action on the city’s bid to build a new Amtrak station, it has reached an agreement with the passenger carrier about the first steps in being allowed to build a tunnel beneath the tracks.

The Allen Creek Railroad Berm Opening Project will enable storm water to more easily reach the Huron River and therefore reduce flooding.

The project is also expected to allow pedestrians and cyclists to reach riverfront recreation areas.

The tracks used by Amtrak are owned by the Michigan Department of Transportation, but Amtrak is the primary approval agency.

Amtrak is requiring the city to enter into a design-phase agreement and to reimburse the railroad Amtrak for its costs.

By its estimate, Amtrak said work in the design phase of the project will cost $71,940. The Ann Arbor City Council has authorized a reimbursement of up to $97,020.

“The amount being paid to Amtrak at this time is $71,940,” said City Engineer Nick Hutchinson. “As a contingency, we obtained authorization from council for a total amount of $97,000 should more be needed.”

Any unused money for design work will be returned by Amtrak to the city.

“This action by the city of Ann Arbor is another example of our close working relationship with the city, Michigan DOT and Amtrak for improvements to facilities and service at the busiest Amtrak station in the state,” said Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari.

Ann Arbor officials have said that pedestrians and cyclists will be able to use the tunnel beneath the railroad tracks used by Amtrak’s Chicago-Detroit (Pontiac) Wolverine Service.

Federal Emergency Management Agency grants are expected to cover 75 percent of the storm water portion of the project. Construction is expected to begin in summer 2018.

Amtrak to Allow All to Get Late Alerts

May 23, 2017

Amtrak said this week that it will allow anyone to subscribe to automated email or text message notifications sent out when Amtrak trains are behind schedule at specific stations.

Until now, only passengers holding holding reservations or tickets could use this service.

In a news release, Amtrak said the messages will be sent out at no charge although data and message charges might be imposed by cellular carriers.

“This useful new tool allows anyone – whether you’re traveling on one of our trains, monitoring travel options or just picking up someone from a station – to stay informed,” Amtrak said in the news release.

The alerts will be of particular use to passengers who buy multi-ride tickets because they are not linked to specific train numbers.

Notifications will be provided for up to six trains and stations by either text or email and delivered on a single day, every day, or just certain days of the week.

The notifications schedule can be modified or deleted at any time by creating a subscription at Amtrak.com/delayalerts.

PennDot Might Sponsor Buses Before Amtrak Service Expands from Harrisburg to Pittsburgh

May 23, 2017

As the Pennsylvania Senate considers approving legislation designed to increase Amtrak service to Pittsburgh, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is eyeing sponsoring bus service until Amtrak service can be expanded.

The state funds the Pittsburgh-New York Pennsylvanian and is considering funding additional Amtrak service between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

The Senate Transportation Committee recent voted unanimously in favor of a nine-month review study into adding two more passenger trains between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg. The full Senate is expected to vote on the study proposal by the end of June.

The study would be conducted within nine months by the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee.

The resolution also calls for looking at the prospect of adding service between Pittsburgh and Cleveland.

A number of steps would need to be taken before the service could become a reality, including making improvements to the Norfolk Southern tracks that the trains would use and negotiating agreements with Amtrak and NS. The route to be used is a busy NS freight line.

Western Pennsylvania interests have long noted that since 2000, the state has invested $400 million to increase passenger service between Harrisburg and Philadelphia from six trains to 14.

PennDOT spokesman Rich Kirkpatrick said the agency welcomes the review of what it would take to increase passenger service but that earlier studies have shown it would cost $3.75 million to $6 million to add one more passenger train, plus capital improvements estimated at $100 million in 2005.

Kirkpatrick said that in other regions of the country bus service has been paired with Amtrak service.

He said a dedicated bus could connect western Pennsylvania cities with Amtrak’s Keystone Service in Harrisburg to New York and Philadelphia.

Man Charged in Amtrak Conductor Shooting

May 22, 2017

As an Amtrak conductor continues to recover from being shot by a disgruntled passenger last week, a retired law enforcement official now living in Wisconsin.

Edward Klein, 79, of West Allis, Wisconsin, has been charged in DuPage County, Illinois, with attempted murder and aggravated battery charges. During a bond hearing on Friday, Klein was ordered held in lieu of $1.5 million bail.

Edward Klein

Klein is charged with shooting Amtrak conductor Michael Case as he worked the platform during a stop in Naperville, Illinois, on May 16.

Authorities have said Klein was angry because he wasn’t allowed to disembark from the eastbound Southwest Chief at Naperville.

Prosecutors said Klein fired a single shot from a .38-caliber Smith and Wesson revolver through an open window of the train.

According to a police report, Klein was ticketed to go to Chicago. When he was told he couldn’t get off at Naperville, which is located 28 miles west of Chicago Union Station, Klein allegedly pulled out a revolver, leaned from the  train window and fired, hitting Case in the abdomen.

The Chicago Tribune reported that Klein told investigators: “I had built up all this anger, and I blew him away.”

News reports said that Klein once worked for the Federal Protective Services, a branch of Homeland Security responsible for protecting federal buildings. He lived in an independent living facility in the Milwaukee region.

In a court hearing, prosecutors said Klein had been traveling to Las Vegas to visit a friend, but instead got off an Amtrak train in Kansas City, Missouri. He later boarded Amtrak No. 4 for Chicago in Kansas City.

Amtrak personnel who had become concerned for Klein’s welfare had helped arrange for someone to pick him up in Chicago to take him home, authorities said.

After the shooting, Klein tried to get off the train by climbing through a window, but other passengers and Amtrak personnel restrained Klein until police arrived.

Klein said in court that he didn’t need a public defender but didn’t indicate if he had hired an attorney. A status hearing will be held on June 12.

In the meantime, Case continues to recover in a hospital where doctors say he is improving but his body is still responding to the effects of the shooting.

The bullet wound caused injuries to multiple organs and he underwent an arduous six hours of surgery at Edward Hospital in Naperville.

“His injuries are stabilized, but the body’s response to injuries is still going,” said Dr. David Piazza, trauma director at Edward Hospital. “He was critically injured and he’s recovering from that state at this point. We are heading in the right direction, but he has a long way to go.”

Case has been sedated and is on a ventilator. His wife, Sara Case, told reporters in Chicago that she has not been able to talk to her husband since his surgery.

However, he did speak with her by phone before the surgery. “He just said to me ‘I love you, I love you, I love you,'” Sara Case said. “You never think your husband is going to go to work and be shot.”

Michael Case, 45, has worked at Amtrak for about a decade and is a father of four. He and Sara Case have been married for nine years.

Case’s family says the outpouring of support from friends, family and even strangers has been overwhelming.

In another development, a witness to the shooting said that a Naperville station worker did little to let her and other passengers seek cover in a secure area.

The witness told a Chicago television station that shortly after the Southwest Chief pulled into the station, she and others heard a loud pop.

The woman, who was waiting for a Metra train bound for Chicago, said she saw the Amtrak conductor fall to the ground.

“I heard a loud pop, looked over to see what it was, and I saw what looked like a conductor fall towards the train station. And I was going to go help him when I realized it was gunshots,” she said.

Metra passengers alerted the Amtrak agent at the station and looked for cover, unaware that the gunman was aboard the train.

“She [worker] was trying to open the door,” the witness said. “When she opened it, we tried to follow her in because we would be protected there, because we were scared. And she closed the door and locked it, and said, ‘You can’t come in here.’ And I said, ‘What are we supposed to do?’ And she said, ‘Go to the bathroom.’ ”

The witness said employees seemed unprepared to deal with an emergency situation.

In response, an Amtrak spokesperson said, “This was traumatic for everyone involved. We’ll look at lessons learned from the incident.”

S.W. Chief Conductor Reported in Critical Condition, Charges Pending in Shooting

May 18, 2017

The Amtrak conductor wounded in a shooting in Naperville, Illinois, on Tuesday was still in critical condition authorities said Thursday afternoon.

The conductor of the Southwest Chief was identified as Michael Case, 45, of Homewood, Illinois. He was being treated at Edward Hospital in Naperville.

Authorities have taken a suspect into custody but have yet to identify him other than being a man in his 70s from Wisconsin.

Case underwent surgery on Wednesday morning to treat wounds that he suffered in his torso. The shooting occurred after he stepped down to the platform during a scheduled station stop for Amtrak train No. 4.

Police said that Case and a passenger had gotten into an argument before the shooting occurred.

Reports indicate that the suspect shot the conductor from aboard the train. Other passengers restrained the suspect until police arrived.

Naperville police Cmdr. Lou Cammiso said officers have interviewed witnesses and reviewed surveillance footage at the station. Charges are expected to be filed by the DuPage County prosecutor’s office.

“The suspect was on the train; the victim was off the train,” Cammiso said. “Not knowing the intention of the suspect, not knowing what further acts he was capable of, I think it was key that the other passengers did restrain him for police. I think that possibly could have saved lives.”

According to police, the suspect fired one shot during the incident.

A passenger, Mike Leming, of Lake Forest, California, was en route to Chicago where he planned to connect with an Amtrak train to Boston.

He said the argument that preceded the shooting had to do with luggage.

Amtrak officials said over the station’s public address system that police needed to interview passengers who possibly saw something before they could leave.

The announcement said the priority was to get buses for passengers seeking a connecting ride to Cleveland, then “sleepers,” and then everyone else. No. 4 was running two late at the time of the Naperville stop.

“With the assistance of the assistant conductor and several passengers, a suspect was taken into custody by the Naperville Police Department without further incident,” said Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari. “This senseless and random act of violence is under investigation, and [Amtrak police are] working closely with local law enforcement personnel.”

The Southwest Chief had 239 passengers aboard when it arrived in Naperville and the train was delayed another three hours while police investigated the shooting.

Magliari said Amtrak held connecting passengers at Union Station until passengers from No. 4 could arrive.

He would not speculate about whether Amtrak will change its security procedures.

The passenger carrier prohibits firearms in carry-on baggage along with such other items as archery or martial-arts equipment, corrosive chemicals, hoverboards, flammable liquids or gases and sharp objects such as scissors, nail clippers, corkscrews and razors.