Archive for the ‘Amtrak stations’ Category

Ann Arbor Sets New Schedule for Station Study

June 24, 2017

Although Ann Arbor officials have already missed one of their self-imposed deadlines, they continue to insist that there is still time to finish an environmental assessment for a new Amtrak station by late July.

That report will narrow three potential sites for the new depot to one.

Last month Ann Arbor City Administrator Howard Lazarus said the goal was to have the assessment ready for public release by June 19.

That didn’t happen but Lazarus told the Ann Arbor City Council this week that staff has made progress on the report and is working with the Federal Railroad Administration and the Michigan Department of Transportation to get it finished as soon as possible.

Among the locations being reviewed for the new station are the existing Amtrak station site on Depot Street, a location in Fuller Park in front of the University of Michigan Hospital and the former Michigan Central station on Depot Street that now houses the Gandy Dancer restaurant.

Lazarus said city staff and AECOM, a consultant helping the city prepare the environmental assessment report, have completed various revisions and are expected to have a complete draft ready to send to the FRA shortly after June 22.

“FRA will complete their review of the resubmitted and revised documents and schedule a call with the Michigan State Historic Preservation Office,” Lazarus wrote in a memo to the council. “MISHPO has the authority to make determinations on the implications of the proposed design alternatives on historic resources. The current draft documents reflect the current state of consideration recognizing specific detail regarding impacts on historic resources.”

The FRA review of the assessment is expected to take a couple of weeks.

“Once the FRA management signs off on the document, the materials are ready for public review,” he wrote in the council memo.

The environmental assessment will be made available on a project website, at city hall and during three public meetings.

Ann Arbor is facing a Sept. 30 deadline to use a federal grant to pay for preliminary engineering designs. Any money not spent by that date will revert back to the federal treasury.

Lazarus said the preliminary engineering work began on May 22.

City officials hope to begin a 30-day public comment period about the environmental assessment on July 30 with public meetings held in August.

The preliminary engineering work would continue into December.

Lazarus said the city, MDOT and the FRA have agreed to a “tapered match” approach for having federal funds cover all of the costs of ongoing work through the grant-funding period, after which the city will spend more local dollars to complete the remaining work.

That anticipates that 80 percent of the work will be federally funded and 20 percent locally funded.

After the FRA has approved a plan for a new station, Ann Arbor officials will put the project to a vote in an election. The city plans to seek federal funds to cover  most of the costs for final design and construction.

 

Waterloo to Hold Open House on June 25

June 20, 2017

The Waterloo, Indiana, Amtrak station will celebrate its first anniversary with an open house on June 25.

The station is located inside a former New York Central depot that was renovated by the city during a 10-year project.

The project, which was funded in part by a federal TIGER grant, involved moving the depot closer to the Amtrak boarding platform.

The open house will be held from 2-4 p.m. and feature refreshments, door prizes and historical information about the station.

More than 20,000 passengers board at the Waterloo every year. The station is served by Amtrak’s Capitol Limited and Lake Shore Limited.

Normal Close to Decision on Crossing at Station

June 19, 2017

The planning staff of the City of Normal has recommended building a underpass at the site of the Amtrak station.

Materials prepared for a June 19 meeting of the city council said that the underpass would have a park with it.

The council will vote at the meeting on which option for a railroad crossing will be studied by a consultant and thus given favorability.

Normal’s 2014 Uptown 2.0 plan recommended the underpass and estimated its cost at $12.7 million. The plan said an overpass would cost $8.6 million.

The consultant, WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff, has narrowed the options to an overpass for Amtrak passengers only; two varieties of public overpasses; and three varieties of public underpasses

Adding a park to the underpass would be the most expensive option, but it was also preferred by many who spoke at an April 27 hearing or who submitted written comments.

“Out of the 41 public comments received, 29 strongly supported the underpass (with park),” said Public Works Director Wayne Aldrich in a memo.

The consultant has already ruled out an at-grade crossing.

The voted in early 2015 to postpone plans for an overpass, which had been designed and funded, and instead research an underpass.

Normal is served by Amtrak’s Chicago-St. Louis Lincoln Service trains and the Texas Eagle.

Future of Alton Amtrak Station Remains Murky

June 14, 2017

The future of the soon-to-be former Amtrak station in Alton, Illinois, remains murky and city officials say there is little they can do about it.

“The city is out of the loop, the inquiries are to go to Union Pacific,” said Greg Caffey, Alton’s director of development and housing.

UP owns the former Gulf, Mobile & Ohio depot and has said it will have it razed if no one comes forward with a plan to move the 89-year-old structure away from its current site at 3400 College Avenue.

The city has been trying to find a new owner for the station, but Caffey said UP has not informed him of any solid offer from a group wanting to buy and move the station.

Calli Hite, director of corporate communications for UP said in a statement that the railroad continues to evaluate options for the depot. “We do not have a timeline for a decision,” she said.

Amtrak leases the station from UP but plans to move this year to the under construction Alton Regional Multi-Modal Transportation Center.

The facility is expected to be completed this month although Amtrak and the city have yet to agree on a lease for the national passenger carrier to use it.

Under terms of the $13.85 million federal grant being used to fund development of the new station, it must be completed by June 30.

It is located at the former Robert P. Wadlow Municipal Golf Course, Golf Road at Homer Adams Parkway.

The grant also include money to raze the existing station, but UP would have to pay for that work on it own if it is not completed by Sept. 30.

Caffey said Amtrak would not likely move to the new station until mid or late July.

Terry Sharp, president of Alton Area Landmarks Association, said this week that although his organization has sought to generate interest in saving the College Avenue depot, time appears to be running out.

“We don’t have anything lined up; the last three to four months, myself and the group from Facebook (Save the Alton Train Station) have explored different ways in how to do it,” he said.

A St. Louis company that specializes in moving structures estimates it would cost $150,000 to move the 1,602-square-foot brick station to Gordon F. Moore Community Park or Rock Spring Park.

However, the city has said it doesn’t have any use for the station and therefore doesn’t want to be responsible for it.

UP has said it would sell the station for $1 and take a tax write off, but whoever buys it must pay to move it to a location off railroad property.

Sharp said it is hard to plan to move a building when no one has determined a destination.

“It is kind of a circular problem, trying to find a place to go and figure out a use for it,” he said. “I didn’t want to dump it on the city. They could work out a use for it, maybe it could be a concession stand, maybe they could put it at the entrance to Gordon Moore Park. Maybe they could use it as a clubhouse at Rock Springs Golf Course. I am trying to find a use for it. I am trying to find a place for it. I am going around in circles. I have talked to developers, businessmen and (an attorney) trying to get some interest, trying to pick their brains,” he said.

Sharp said another challenge is overcoming the lack of interest in the community toward saving the depot. “People talk about how great old train stations are that are still around, but we haven’t gotten a lot of public sentiment,” he said. “Maybe when it gets closer to the deadline. I was hoping this would be part of the (April 4) election, but none of the candidates brought it up. We’ve tried, I said I would try, but nothing has clicked.”

Ann Arbor to Continue Station Studies

June 13, 2017

The Ann Arbor City Council will stay with the process of creating a new Amtrak station at least for a little while longer.

The council this week voted 8-3 to provide additional funding to a consultant to finish an environmental assessment and to move forward with preliminary engineering designs for multiple possible sites.

The council acted after the Federal Railroad Administration sought additional information and analysis of different alternatives.

Speaking in favor of continuing the process, Mayor Christopher Taylor said Ann Arbor demands better rail service.

“Better rail service for the city of Ann Arbor is critical to our economic improvement, to our quality-of-life improvement, to our environmental improvement,” Taylor said. “It is part of, I believe, the vision for the future of Ann Arbor that is shared by residents everywhere.”

But in voting against the proposal, council member Jane Lumm was skeptical that the city could meet its ambitious target dates for study and design work.

The city faces a late September deadline to spend a $2.8 million federal grant that it received in 2011.

The council’s latest action authorizes spending another $137,026 for the study and design work, which will now total $1,088,700 and must be completed before the federal grant expires on Sept. 30.

The city has yet to decide on a site for the new station. Among the proposals have been building a new depot off Depot Street or Fuller Road. Three other locations are still under consideration, including the existing Amtrak site on Depot Street, part of Fuller Park in front of the University of Michigan Hospital, and the former Michigan Central station, which is now the Gandy Dancer restaurant.

When asked why the city was doing preliminary engineering work for all the different alternatives as opposed to one preferred option, City Administrator Howard Lazarus said the FRA believes that Ann Arbor doesn’t “have a clear winner.”

The new station selection process has been dragging on for more than a decade, a point brought up by the dissenting council members.

Lazarus recommended moving ahead with the environmental assessment and releasing it to the public for a 30-day review.

The city would then seek a “finding of no significant impact” declaration from the FRA for a preferred option for a new Amtrak station.

At that point, he said the city would have a finished document that would be “non-perishable” and could be used to position the city for future FRA funding for final design and construction.

Lazarus and Eli Cooper, the city’s transportation program manager, said Ann Arbor remains at the mercy of the FRA.

Cooper said there have been private communications with the FRA over the past few years, but he was not at liberty to share that information publicly.

The grant was actually awarded to the Michigan Department of Transportation which along with the FRA has specific processes with regard to freedom of information.

Both agencies have told the city that they don’t want draft materials being released to the public.

However, Cooper said no final decision has been made about where a new train station should be built.

He said city staff, MDOT and the FRA look forward to receiving public views on the environmental assessment once the FRA authorizes its release.

Lazarus said that if the council failed to approve spending another $130,000, “we’re going to have to put a fork in it [station project] because it’s done.”

New Amtrak Station Opens in Pontiac, Illinois

June 9, 2017

The new Amtrak station in Pontiac, Illinois, has opened along the Chicago-St. Louis corridor.

Served by Amtrak’s Lincoln Service and Texas Eagle trains, the facility cost $2.65 million to build.

The new station has 1,350-square-feet of space and is located a block south of the old station. The design featured a peaked roof, glass facade, and such amenities as pedestrian paths, free Wi-Fi, and parking for vehicles and bikes.

Funding for the station came from a federal grant administered by the Illinois Department of Transportation.

New stations on the Chicago-St. Louis route also are being planned for Lincoln, Carlinville and Alton, Illinois. The stations in Normal and Springfield will be renovated.

Caretaker for Maysville Station Still Open Question

June 7, 2017

Renovations of the Amtrak station in Maysville, Kentucky, are underway, but the question of a caretaker for the depot remains open.

Amtrak is spending more than $500,000 to renovate the station, which is a stop on the route of the Chicago-New York Cardinal.

The improvements will make the station ADA-compliant as well as improve sidewalks, signs, the restrooms and the parking lot.

However, Amtrak wants another organization to take over the task of providing a caretaker and maintaining the station.

Specifically, the passenger carrier wants the city to buy the station, a request that has been spurned by city commissioners. The station is currently owned by CSX.

“We don’t want to [own the building], but if it’s a stipulation of the grant we may have to,” City Manager Matt Wallingford says. Instead, the city is hoping to lease the station rather than buy it.

The city is amendable, though, to working with CSX and Amtrak to provide janitorial services as well as a caretaker service.

Maysville officials are also talking about making other improvements to the station to give it better aesthetic appeal.

That work would use $860,000 in federal grant money with city providing a 20 percent match.

Maysville is located about 65 miles southeast of Cincinnati and is along the former Chesapeake & Ohio mainline.

Red Tape Delaying Fort Madison Station Move

June 2, 2017

Red tape keeps holding back the movement of Amtrak to the former Santa Fe station in Fort Madison, Iowa.

Amtrak said it is waiting for documents from the Fort Madison City Council. The city council in turn has said it is waiting for approval of the documents from the Iowa Department of Transportation.

However, Fort Madison City Manager David Varley, the process may seem bewildering but it will ensure that the move can be made without any problems. He said, though, that it will be a long process.

“The only update we have is that we just asked for an update,” Varley said. “We had to add some wording in a contract and wanted to get it approved by IDOT, because if we approved it and Amtrak approved it and we sent it to IDOT and said the wording wasn’t quite right we would have to work on it again.”

Varley said he has heard from Amtrak officials, who asked when the contracts would be ready.

“I think they are ready and willing to get going as long as IDOT approves it,” Varley said. “So we are just waiting for approval from IDOT. Then we will take the contracts and put them in agreements with Amtrak and BNSF and we will bring them to city council for approval.”

Once all the approvals are given then IDOT place the project on a bidding calendar.

Varley said he has been told this is the last set of documents the city will have to provide before a final bid date is set.

Fort Madison is the only Iowa station served by the Chicago-Los Angeles Southwest Chief.

Master Developer Chosen for CUS Project

May 26, 2017

Amtrak said it has chosen Riverside Investment & Development Company to be the master developer for a planned project at commercial expansion of Chicago Union Station nearby properties that Amtrak owns.

In a news release, Amtrak said that the initial conceptual design proposed by Riverside, in conjunction with co-developer and co-venture partner Convexity Properties, will include three phases that are to be completed in about six years.

This will include improved street entrances and pedestrian traffic flow entering and leaving Union Station, as well as improved pedestrian-friendly landscaping and open spaces.

Key components of the first phase of the project, which will involve 3.1 million square feet in the station’s headhouse and concourse, include:

  • 110,000 square feet of new and reconfigured retail with a new food hall
  • Street level retail to be added to enhance the pedestrian experience
  • Renovation of the headhouse and Great Hall
  • 100,000 square feet of office space and a new proposed hotel above the Great Hall
  • Two new 12-story residential towers above the headhouse

The second phase will involve construction of two new office towers along with retail and parking. This includes:

  • Two new 750,000 square foot office towers with ground floor retail and approximately 800 parking spaces
  • Ample publicly-accessible green spaces including terraces and plazas, including above the current Union Station Transit Center.

The final phase of the project will involve a plaza and tower on southeast corner of Jackson and Canal that will have 500,000 square foot retail and a residential tower developed over active rail lines with open space and plazas at street level

Amtrak said the development of Union Station was made possible through the City of Chicago’s agreement to modernize and transform the transportation infrastructure though the Amtrak Chicago Union Station Master Plan.

The project will not require any federal, state or local funding and is subject to further revision and consideration by the City of Chicago Plan Commission, Landmark Commission, Zoning Committee and City Council.

“This building was envisioned by Daniel Burnham in the 1909 Plan for Chicago as the city’s primary rail station. It is in that spirit, we have big plans for both this Headhouse building and nearby properties owned by Amtrak,” said Amtrak President Charles “Wick” Moorman in a statement. “We have initiated real estate developments such as this to create revenue streams to invest in our core business, to improve facilities, to provide amenities to all users of the station – and to attract new ones. We are certain we will do that here in Chicago.”

New Charlotte Station Still Awaiting Agreements

May 24, 2017

Two years after being awarded a $30 million federal grant to build a new Amtrak station in downtown Charlotte, North Carolina, the city is still waiting for the work to begin.

The proposed Charlotte Gateway Station was lauded with much fanfare in October 2015 by former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx, who was once the mayor of Charlotte.

Foxx said that the groundbreaking could occur within 18 months.

But now the Charlotte Area Transit System doesn’t think it can have a station ready until 2024.

Plans for a temporary station to replace what many in Charlotte describe as the existing small and dingy station off North Tryon Street apparently have been dropped.

Gateway Station is planned for Graham, Fourth and West Trade streets near BB&T Ballpark. The current station is located well north of downtown.

CATS officials recently told the Charlotte City Council that a new agreement and timetable with the state must be negotiated, a process they expect to occur by late June.

But if that agreement is not reached, then the federal funding for the new station could be at risk of being taken back by the federal government.

Charlotte is the southern terminus of the Carolinian, which originated in New York City, and the Piedmont trains that originated in Raleigh, North Carolina. The New York-New Orleans Crescent also serves Charlotte.

CATS still needs to find several million more dollars to fund the Gateway Station in addition to the federal, state and local grants it has lined up thus far. Gateway Station is expected to cost between $150 and $200 million.

The station is envisioned to become a mixed-use project that houses offices and residential units. The CATS rail line to Lake Norman would serve Gateway as well as city buses and the streetcar Gold Line.

CATS has funding pledges of $30 million in federal funds, $48.75 million from the North Carolina Department of Transportation and $33 million from the city of Charlotte.

If funding is lined up, construction would begin in 2018. Track, signal and platform work would be finished in 2021 under the current timeline.

The station itself would be built within three years of the track, signal and platform work being completed. Amtrak won’t begin using Gateway until the station is finished.