Archive for the ‘Amtrak stations’ Category

Harrisburg Station Renovation in the Works

March 16, 2018

Plans are in the works to renovate the Harrisburg (Pennsylvania) Transportation Center, but no timeline for the project has been set.

Officials with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation said work inside the station can begin soon, but other work will not proceed until a flooding alleviation project is completed.

PennDOT said it is creating a master plan for the station, which is the western terminus of Amtrak’s Keystone Service from New York and Philadelphia and an intermediate stop for the New York-Pittsburgh Pennsylvanian.

Officials said 90 percent of the design of the $15 million station renovation is complete and PennDOT is working with Amtrak on a construction schedule.

A public hearing has been set for March 22 at 4 p.m. at the station to discuss the proposed project.

PennDOT and the Harrisburg Redevelopment Authority want to transform the transportation center and adjacent area into a new transit-oriented, mixed-use development that they say could help revitalize the city.

The plans call for improvements to Market and Cameron streets and a direct connection between the station and parking areas east of it.

However, flooding issues involving Paxton Creek need to be addressed first, including how to fund them.

By one estimate, the flood control work will cost between $60 million to $90 million with the source of that funding yet to be decided.

Some suggested sources have included the state’s Multimodal Fund and the departments of Community and Economic Development and Conservation and Natural Resources.

Once funding is secured the flood control project will require at least four or five years to complete.

Among the plans for the Harrisburg station  development project are an open-space cafe in the main lobby, new seating in the concourse area, removal of trees on Aberdeen Street to open sightlines and increase safety, a restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating at the station, and a new entry plaza from the lower-level Market Street entrance.

Also being planned are new office space in the upper floors and removal of offices in the lobby, a pedestrian bridge over the tracks to the station, streetscaping and improvements, and relocating the intercity bus facility.


Albuquerque Waiting Room Moved

March 13, 2018

The waiting room of the Amtrak station in Albuquerque was moved temporarily due to floor replacement construction work that began on March 6.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said the work has meant moving the ticketing, baggage check and waiting area.

The ticket window and baggage check areas were moved by the door north of the main waiting room. After the first week of construction is complete they were moved back to their original location.

The waiting has relocated to the south end of the building to the Greyhound waiting room.

Albuquerque is served daily by Amtrak’s Chicago-Los Angeles Southwest Chief.

Special Counsel Recommends Discipline for Lake Forest City Manager in Amtrak Lobbying

February 27, 2018

The city manager of Lake Forest, Illinois, should be disciplined, but not fired, for an unauthorized spending of money on a lobbying efforts to land a stop on the route of Amtrak’s Hiawatha Service.

That recommendation was made by a special counsel appointed to investigate how City Manager Bob Kiely, former Mayor Don Schoenheider and current Mayor Rob Lansing spent $192,000 on the lobbying effort without the knowledge or approval of the city council.

Special Counsel Leigh Jeter did not specify what discipline that Kiely should receive other than it should be short of termination and that it should be appropriate.

Jeter’s 11-page report said the payments were made to a Washington law firm by city attorney Vic Filippinni in increments of $9,500.

This was in violation of the city code that requires payments of $20,000 or more to have city council approval. The payments were brought to the council’s attention by a group of citizens.

Lake Forest has been seeking the Amtrak stop since 2012. The north Chicago suburb is served by commuter rail agency Metra.

The report by the special counsel said the payments were channeled through Filippini’s law firm in Evanston, Illinois, to keep the lobbying activities “as close to the vest,” Filippini said.

Jeter’s report said none of the city officials involved in the payments profited from the arrangement or intentionally misled aldermen or the public.

Lake Forest has since changed its financial procedures.

The report said Finance Director Elizabeth Holleb knew that the lobbyist payments were coming out of the general fund contingency account.

Although she had concerns about the practice, Holleb said she never questioned the directive from the city manager or reported it to the finance committee of the council.

Holleb told the special counsel that she “did not feel it was her place to question” the mayor, city manager and city attorney, who she knew to be in agreement about the arrangement, according to the report.

In response to the special counsel’s report, Kiely said in a statement that he was sorry for what he termed a purchasing procedure oversight and the disruption that it has caused.

“But I want to assure you, and I’d like to assure the community, that this is not reflective of who I am or who this organization is. I’d like to underscore that my oversight should not reflect poorly on our finance department or our city employees.”

Mayor Lansing declined to comment on the report other than to tell the Lake Forester it “speaks for itself.”

Marfa Seeks to be Sunset Limited Stop

February 12, 2018

Amtrak is considering establishing a stop in Marfa, Texas, for its New Orleans-Los Angeles Sunset Limited that would supplant a long-time station in Sanderson.

The move, if done, would be the culmination of a campaign by San Antonio resident Bruce Flohr.

Flohr, a former Southern Pacific manager, has been pushing for the stop in Marfa because he said the station in Sanderson is underused.

He said that Amtrak Vice President Bob Dorsch told him in a letter that the passenger carrier would look into the proposal in its long-term plan but would make no decision in the next two to five years.

In a follow-up letter, Dorsch said the decision will now be made by the end of this summer.

“After we looked at the info from [Flohr], we’ve started an analysis of the stop. It seems to make sense and is something we’ll definitely look into,” Dorsch said. “It’s one of the things we have in deep discussion.”

Flohr became interested in the matter after taking Amtrak No. 1 from San Antonio to Alpine, Texas.

He actually was traveling to Marfa.  “Nobody got on or off in Sanderson. The stop lasted for around 28 seconds,” Flohr said. “There’s also no platform, no building, no outdoor lighting, nor is it in compliance with the [Americans With Disabilities Act]. There would definitely be a demand for a stop in Marfa. It’s not that complex of an issue.”

The former SP depot in Sanderson was razed in October 2012.

Creating a stop in Marfa will need local financial backing to build a platform that meets ADA and other federal requirements.

Flohr said Marfa residents need to write letters to Amtrak, Union Pacific and elected officials to lobby for the stop.

“Now is the time for you all in Marfa to take action. I encourage everyone to write to [congressman] Will Hurd. Government agencies tend to react a whole lot more if they hear from elected officials,” he said.

Marfa has sought an Amtrak stop before with no success. In 2011, former Marfa Tourism director Terry “Tex” Toler led a campaign to get Amtrak to stop there.

Birmingham Amtrak Station Opens

February 5, 2018

Amtrak’s Crescent is now using the Birmingham (Alabama) Intermodal Facility with Greyhound bus lines expected to begin using it on Feb. 21.

The station opened on Jan. 30  at the Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority’s downtown central station.

The facility also includes Olivia’s Transit Café and is located on three blocks along Morris Avenue between 17th and 19th streets.

Eventually, the facility will have a 300-space parking lot for travelers between 16th and 17th streets. Construction of the $32 million facility began in early 2014.

“This is such an exciting time. We know the community has waited a long time to see this day and the best is yet to come,” BJCTA Executive Director Barbara Murdock said in a statement.

BJCTA will conduct a grand opening ceremony on Feb. 23.

4th Maine Town Backs Downeaster Extension

February 5, 2018

A fourth Maine city has agreed to help pay for an extension of Amtrak Downeastern service to the Midcoast region

Wiscasset has agreed to help the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority expand the Downeaster service beyond its current northern terminus in Brunswick.

The town’s select board unanimously agreed to fund construction of a boarding platform if NNEPRA is able to extend Downeaster service north, which originates in Boston.

Known as the “Coastal Connection,” the service would operate on weekends and serve Bath, Wiscasset, Newcastle, and Rockland.

NNERPA Executive Director Patricia Quinn said the service is expected to cost about $200,000. She estimated it would have potential ticket sales of $100,000.

Bath, Newcastle and Rockland have existing boarding platforms owned by the Maine Department of Transportation that could be adapted for Amtrak use.

The Wiscasset platform is expected to be built south of Route 1 near a public boat launch. The platform is projected to cost $20,000.

“I think this would be a great thing for Wiscasset,” said Board Chair Judith Colby. “If we could make it happen, I think it would be fantastic.”

Board Member Robert Blagden said the town should be “more than capable” of building a simple platform for the train.

Super Bowl to Affect Amtrak’s St. Paul Station

January 30, 2018

Amtrak has advised that some restrictions are in place at its station in St. Paul, Minnesota, due to the Twin Cities hosting the 2018 Super Bowl.

Passengers going to and from the station are advised to allow extra time due to the added security surrounding the game and its festivities.

The game will be played on Feb. 4 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

On Thursday (Feb. 1) a private party is being held at St. Paul Union Depot and only ticketed passengers will be allowed inside.

Passengers will be escorted to a secure seating area and there will be an alternate boarding route.

For passengers who need assistance, Amtrak personnel will be available to escort them to their train. St. Paul is served by Amtrak’s Chicago-Seattle/Portland Empire Builder.

Amtrak to Pull Ticket Agents from Niles, Jackson

January 24, 2018

Amtrak ticket agents will be removed on March 1 from stations in Jackson and Niles, Michigan.

Marc Magliari, an Amtrak spokesman in Chicago, said the move is being made to save money.

He said an overwhelming majority of passengers no longer purchase tickets from station agents.

As a result of the change, Amtrak might keep the Jackson station open later in the afternoon.

The waiting room is now open 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. but three of the six Wolverine Service trains that serve Jackson depart after 2:30 p.m.

Amtrak plans to hire a part-time caretaker to open and close the station and Magliari said that worker could work a split shift and close the waiting area later in the day.

Passengers and those waiting on trains must wait outside the former Michigan Central depot when the waiting room is closed.

Staffing of the Jackson ticket office was reduced last August from daily to five days a week. No agent is on duty on Tuesdays and Wednesday.

Amtrak to Renovate Latrobe Station

January 24, 2018

Amtrak will renovate the station in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, to improve accessibility for passengers with disabilities.

The passenger carrier will be designing the improvements this year with construction to begin in 2019.

Amtrak will replace the existing boarding platform with one that rises eight inches above the top of the rail.

Also planned are modifications to the parking lot, the stairs to the platform and the passenger waiting area. Signs will be installed that comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Latrobe is a stop for the New York-Pittsburgh Pennsylvanian and served 4,246 passengers and generated $247,569 in fiscal year 2017.

Project Manager Being Sought for Elyria Station Project

January 18, 2018

Commissioners in Lorain County, Ohio, are seeking proposals for a construction manager of the long stalled plan to create a new platform in Elyria for Amtrak passengers.

The platform will be located in the former New York Central passenger station, which serves as a public transportation center for local buses.

County Administrator Jim Cordes expects the proposal will go to bid soon.

“It’s been progressing along fairly slowly, but it’s been progressing,” Cordes said. “We’re at the point now where I’m bringing a project manager to get ready to build something.”

Amtrak currently uses a shelter at 410 East River Street. A modular station at that site was destroyed by fire in 2013.

The existing station also has limited accessibility for those with disabilities and Amtrak must use Track No. 2 of the Chicago Line of Norfolk Southern.

The new platform, which is expected to cost between $8 million and $10 million, will feature a bridge spanning the two NS tracks.

It also will include elevators and stairways to provide access to two partially enclosed platforms for passengers.

Lorain County will pay 5 percent to 8 percent of the project cost, with the rest of the money coming from federal, state and Amtrak funding.

Cordes said no start of construction date has yet been set, but expects that to change once the project had been awarded.

He said although work on the project has been slow, it never was in danger of ending. Much of the slow pace was due to reviews of the proposal by the county, NS and Amtrak.

“We’d exchange paperwork, then there’d be tweaks, more paperwork and then more tweaks,” Cordes said. “It was easy to lose focus. It had been a slow project to begin with, and the complicated relationships made it even more so.”

Elyria is service by Amtrak’s Chicago-Washington Capitol Limited and Chicago-New York/Boston Lake Shore Limited.