Archive for the ‘Amtrak stations’ Category

Springfield Union Station to Reopen in June

March 27, 2017

Springfield (Massachusetts) Union Station will reopen on June 24 to serve Amtrak and offer restaurant and shops.

The depot was closed in 1974 but restored as part of a $95 million project that left many of its original features intact.

The station opened in 1926 and hosts the Boston section of the Lake Shore Limited, the Vermonter and several Northeast Regional trains.

Congressman Richard E. Neal, who help lead the restoration effort, said during a news media tour that the revitalized station should help increase Amtrak ridership and spur further commercial development.

During the restoration, the station’s terrazzo floors were restored, a new roof was installed, period light fixtures were put into place and eight murals depicting Springfield’s history were hung. A clock was placed in the grand concourse.

“I kicked off my political career here 40 years ago, so [the station] still has great meaning to me and the people of Springfield,” said Neal. “Restoring this station can make Springfield a transportation and commercial center, as well as do a lot of good.”

FRA Not Expected to Complete Review of Ann Arbor Station Site Assessment Until Summer

March 25, 2017

The Federal Railroad administration has acknowledged that it is likely to be summer before it completes a review of a draft environmental assessment report pertaining to a new Amtrak station in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Once that is completed, there will be a 30-day public comment period.

Only then will the design and engineering work for the new station begin. That’s a problem for Ann Arbor because the city is set to lose a federal grant if it isn’t used by Sept. 30.

The question city officials are grappling with is whether there will be enough time to use the federal funds for station design.

An FRA spokeswoman, Desiree French, told the Ann Arbor News/Mlive.com that the federal grant will be available for use after its expiration date.

It will be the city’s responsibility to complete preliminary engineering and National Environmental Policy Act compliance work. That will mean paying for it out the city’s own pocket.

“We’re working very closely with them to help them meet that sunset date,” French said.

The Ann Arbor City Council in January approved a contract with Neumann/Smith Architecture to conduct the design and engineering work once the environmental assessment has cleared all of its hurdles.

Officials estimate that the preliminary design and engineering is $2.37 million with another unallocated contingency of $101,131 making the total cost nearly $2.5 million.

Ann Arbor had expected $2 million of that to be covered by federal funding awarded to the city in 2011 and accepted in 2012.

The city had hoped to have the preliminary design and engineering work completed by May 31, which it figured to be enough time for the FRA to review it before the grant expires.

French said the Sept. 30 expiration date is part of the authorizing legislation that approved the funding and the FRA has no authority to extend it.

Eli Cooper, Ann Arbor’s transportation program manager, said he was expecting the FRA review of the environmental assessment to be completed much sooner.

“Summer sure sounds like a lot more time than what information I’m working on,” he said. “The implications on the schedule, as it relates to the grant, is also something that is of interest to me and the city.”

French said the FRA is working with the city and the Michigan Department of Transportation to prepare a draft environmental assessment that complies with the National Environmental Policy Act.

Although Ann Arbor had submitted a draft  environmental assessment to the FRA in December, it sent a revised and more complete document to the agency in February.

At the time, the city expected the FRA would complete its review of it in 30 days. But that now appears unlikely to occur absent some change of heart at the FRA.

The FRA awarded MDOT a $2.8 million grant 2011 that was originally expected to help Ann Arbor plan for a new Amtrak station on Fuller Road in a city-owned parking lot near the University of Michigan Hospital.

But planning for that site was disrupted in 2012 when the FRA asked the city to consider other potential station sites and funding assumptions for the project changed.

The Fuller Road site is still under consideration, but city officials have said they also are looking at sites on Depot Street, where the current Amtrak station is located.

French said the FRA has encouraged the city to advance the preliminary engineering and NEPA compliance tasks simultaneously.

“It was the city’s decision to wait until NEPA and an alternative is selected to complete preliminary engineering,” she said.

Ann Arbor officials have declined thus far to say which site they prefer and the FRA won’t comment on sites, either.

“It would be premature for the FRA to comment on a preferred location for the station until completion of the NEPA process,” French said.

Buffalo Mulls Pros, Cons of New Station Sites

March 23, 2017

The debate over where to place a new Amtrak station in Buffalo continued this week with public hearing held by the committee appointed by the governor to consider a station site.

Brian Higgins, a western New York congressman, has been pushing hard for the choice of Buffalo Central Terminal.

But others favor a downtown location either near the site of the current Exchange Street station or at the site of the former Memorial Auditorium.

Supporters of a downtown site say it would be closer to Metro Rail, bus routes, hotels and other amenities.

“When you invest in the future, the action is always going to be downtown, adjacent to Canalside and the transit system,” said Robert Dingman, president of the New York and Lake Erie Railroad.

But supporters of Central Terminal say that reviving it as a train station would could be the last opportunity to restore the endangered art deco structure that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and in danger of continuing a life of decay.

Placing Amtrak into Central Terminal, they say, could help boost a neighborhood that hasn’t seen significant investment in decades.

“If we can follow through and restore this great historic structure, and give it back to the people of Buffalo and to future generations, we will have done a great public service,” Higgins said.

A 17-member committee established by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and chaired by Mayor Byron W. Brown will decide next month the location of the new station.

Transportation officials have indicated that it is not an either-or situation. Both sites could be tapped to become Amtrak stops with one designated as the main station and the other as a secondary stop.

The committee will also weigh the view of Amtrak and CSX, which owns the tracks used by Amtrak trains.

A desire to link the new train station with city bus service and possibly bus service between cities could also be a factor.

Officials say that Central Terminal, which opened in 1929, would be the best location to serve east-west Amtrak trains, including the Chicago-New York/Boston Lake Shore Limited.

Central Terminal has the infrastructure to handle buses and taxis and offers more than 1,000 parking spaces.

It is not expected that all of Central Terminal would be used by Amtrak, which last stopped there in 1979.

Working against Central Terminal is its location a mile well away downtown Buffalo and a neighborhood filled with abandoned and vacant housing.

Critics also say the structure is too large for eight trains a day and that commercial development of it is not necessarily tied to its being used again as a train station.

“The train station is not the silver bullet for the East Side,” said architect Paul Battaglia. “Amtrak is not big enough, or have enough ridership.”

One drawback of the downtown site is that although it could be served by the Lake Shore Limited, Nos. 48 and 49 would need to make a backup move.

Neither Amtrak nor CSX might be willing to allow that.

Birmingham Station to Open This Summer

March 7, 2017

An intermodal facility in Birmingham, Alabama, is expected to open this summer.

The $32 million Birmingham Intermodal Facility will serve Amtrak, Greyound and the Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority (MAX).

City officials say the three-block long facility between 17th and 19th streets could open as early as May or as late as June.

MAX buses could begin using its share of the facility between 17th and 18th streets in April. However, buses won’t begin using it until construction is completed on Morris Avenue, which is not expected to be until late summer.

The MAX bus terminal facility will feature at least one food vendor and a newsstand is expected to open in the intermodal facility.

Construction of the facility began in 2014. Birmingham is served by Amtrak’s daily New York-New Orleans Crescent.

St. Cloud Station Rehab Gets Underway

February 21, 2017

Work has begun to rehabilitate the Amtrak station in St. Cloud, Minnesota.

The $1.3 million project will include updated restroom facilities, improved wheelchair accessibility and signs that comply with the standards of the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Amtrak 4Also included in the project are a new roof for the depot, a reconfigured parking lot and boarding platforms improvements.

St. Cloud is served by the Chicago-Seattle/Portland Empire Builder, which handled 11,457 passengers there in 2016 compared with 9,950 in 2015.

Overall 2016 ridership of Nos. 7-27 and 8-28 for 2016 was 146,689, an increase of 5.8 percent over 2015.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said the Builder’s operating performance has improved after a period of time when high oil train traffic on host railroad BNSF resulted in severe delays and cancellations.

Lawrence May Take Ownership of Amtrak Station

February 14, 2017

The City of Lawrence, Kansas, is taking steps that may result in its purchase of the town’s Amtrak station.

Lawrence may acquire the former Santa Fe station from BNSF and then launch a $1.5 million restoration project.

Amtrak Southwest Chief 2City officials have said the depot has received limited maintenance and if the city buys the station it could use a $1.2 million state grant to pay for the renovations.

It would not cost the city anything to take ownership of the station, which the city would then lease to Amtrak.

The national passenger carrier would then be able to providing funding to bring the station into compliance with the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act

Although no time frame has been established, the city could take control of the depot this summer.

Lawrence is on the route of the Chicago-Los Angeles Southwest Chief.

Amtrak to Close Columbus WI Ticket Office

February 11, 2017

Citing the usual reasons, Amtrak is poised to close its ticket office at Columbus, Wisconsin.

Amtrak 4Amtrak has pointed to an increased number of passengers buying tickets online as well as Congressional demands for more efficient operations. The office will close on May 1.

Columbus is served by the Chicago-Seattle/Portland Empire Builder.  Other tickets offices on the train’s route that have closed in the two years include Winona, Minnesota; Grand Forks, North Dakota; Glenview, Illinois; and Rugby, North Dakota.

Indiana Passenger Rail Group Pressuring Indianapolis to Fix Up Decrepit Union Station

February 9, 2017

The Indiana Passenger Rail Alliance is trying to pressure city officials into taking action to rehabilitate Indianapolis Union Station.

indianaThe facility, which is used by Amtrak and Greyhound, has been described by some rail advocates as a “civic embarrassment.”

The Rail Alliance has invited city leaders to meet with them to discuss how the station can be improved.

IPRA member Bill Malcolm said that the station is unwelcoming, unsightly and even scary.

“If it’s a turnoff to even go into that facility, people are not going to take advantage of it, [they won’t] take their families up to go shopping  . . . because it’s just kind of a frightening place,” Malcolm said.

The city’s department of Metropolitan Development operates the station, which is served by Amtrak’s Chicago-New York Cardinal and the Chicago-Indianapolis Hoosier State.

NYDOT Pledges to Complete Building New Schenectady Amtrak Station by November 2018

February 9, 2017

A New York transportation official pledged on Wednesday that a new Amtrak station for Schenectady will go out for bid this year and be completed by November 2018. Department of Transportation Commissioner Matthew Driscoll said during a tour of the early 1970s era station that the project will be bid in two stages.

Amtrak 4The construction steel work will be released for bid on Feb. 24 and is expected to cost about $6 million.

The remainder of the project will go to bid this fall and is expected to cost $9 million.

Amtrak has agreed to pay some costs not directly associated with the station building, including track work.

Driscoll said the building alone — without repairs to a 100-year-old viaduct included in the first bid proposal — can be done with a $15 million budget.

Some bridge rehabilitation work will be funded by an Amtrak track rebuilding project that is currently in progress.

Amtrak and NYDOT are still discussing erecting a temporary station that passengers will use while the permanent depot is being built.

Schenectady is served by Amtrak’s Maple Leaf, Ethan Allen Express, Lake Shore Limited and Empire Service trains.

Macomb Leading Way in Amtrak Pilot Program

February 2, 2017

It is not every community that gets personal attention from a member of the Amtrak board of directors.

IllinoisBut then most communities served by Amtrak don’t have a former mayor on the board of directors.

At the urging of Thomas C. Carper, Macomb, Illinois, agreed to become the first city to see its Amtrak station rebuilt to comply with federal ADA standards.

Macomb is participating in a pilot program that may be extended to other stations.

A team from Amtrak inspected the depot last year and offered the city a deal. If the city would hire local companies to do the work, Amtrak would provide reimbursement.

“This pilot is the only one we’re doing,” Carper told Macomb aldermen. “What works in Macomb might be the template for other modifications. We like the idea of local construction rather than hiring one national contractor.”

Carper, who served as Macomb’s mayor between 1991 and 2003, said 511 of Amtrak’s 525 stations need work to become ADA compliant. Amtrak is responsible for the facilities of 380 of those stations.

In Macomb the work will include a new concrete walkway from the parking lot to the platform and to the depot entrances.

Also in the plans are building a sloped concrete walkway and steps to the platform and adding handrails, and then remodeling the train station interior so that entry doors and restrooms are handicapped accessible.

The Macomb city manager has recommend hiring McClure Engineering Associates to draw up construction specifications based on the Amtrak designs for a fee of $4,500.

The Chicago, Burlington & Quincy depot in Macomb was built in 1913 and has been granted historic status.

Therefore, some elements outlined in the plan cannot be altered or must be done so as to appear consistent with the historic look.

Macomb is served by the Chicago-Quincy, Illinois Carl Sandburg and Illinois Zephyr.