Archive for the ‘Amtrak stations’ Category

Signs Point to Shift to Grand Central for Amtrak

May 22, 2017

Amtrak has yet to comment on reports that it plans to shift some Empire Corridor trains this summer to New York City’s Grand Central Terminal, but there are increasing signs that it will happen.

Gary Prophet of the Empire State Passengers Association told New York radio station WCBS that he has spoken with Amtrak train crews who said they are being trained to operate on the route to Grand Central Terminal.

A New York state legislator who represent the Albany, New York, area, said Amtrak using Grand Central is a real possibility.

“The fact that there’s ongoing discussion and communication . . . indicates that it’s still very much in play,” he said.

Amtrak President Charles “Wick” Moorman didn’t address using Grand Central in speaking to a state legislative panel last week, but said that “for perspective on this, Grand Central Terminal handles only roughly two-thirds the number of daily trains on double the number of train tracks, compared to Penn Station.”

Amtrak has announced that it plans to conduct a track repair project at New York’s Penn Station this summer and that during that work 25 percent of the station’s track capacity will be out of service. That project will begin on July 7.

Penn Station handles 1,300 passenger trains a day. Amtrak has not used Grand Central Terminal since 1991.

Amtrak Might Return to Grand Central Terminal

May 15, 2017

Amtrak is considering terminating some of its Empire Corridor trains at New York Grand Central Terminal this summer as one way to deal with limited track capacity as an emergency repair program is undertaken at Penn Station.

It is not clear if the move would affect all trains operating via Albany, New York, including such long-distance and medium-distance trains as the Lake Shore Limited, Maple Leaf and Ethan Allen Express.

Amtrak used Grand Central until 1991 when it opened a line to feed trains using the former New York Central Water Level Route into Penn Station.

The Penn Station track and switch replacement project is expected to reduce that station’s train capacity by as much as 25 percent when it gets underway on July 7 and lasts for 44 days.

A news report in the Times-Union of Albany, New York, indicated that at least some Empire Corridor trains would use Grand Central, suggesting that some trains would continue to originate and terminate at Penn Station.

The newspaper quoted an unnamed source as saying that Amtrak crews are being offered the opportunity to bid for job operating trains running to Grand Central.

Grand Central is used by Metro North Commuter Railroad trains.

Amtrak President Charles “Wick” Moorman has noted that Penn Station serves 1,300-plus weekday train movements using an infrastructure network designed in 1910 to accommodate less than half of its current volume.

Also using Penn Station are New Jersey Transit and the Long Island Railroad.

Grand Central serves about two-thirds the volume of Penn Station.

One advantage of using Grand Central for Amtrak is that the terminal has a loop track that can be used to turn inbound trains after they have unloaded their passengers.

Kirkwood Taking Lead on Station Renovation

May 8, 2017

Kirkwood, Missouri, officials say the city plans to take an active role in infrastructure improvements planned for the Amtrak station.

The work include a storm water drainage project and renovation of the former Missouri Pacific depot, which dates from 1893.

The city has asked the Kirkwood Train Station Foundation to delay its fundraising activities on behalf of the station until planning is finished.

The group is comprised of volunteers who work at the station, which is the third busiest Amtrak stop in Missouri.

Aside from serving four Missouri River Runner trains a day between St. Louis and Kansas City, the station is rented about 250 times a year for private parties and events. The city acquired the station in 2003.

Kirkwood Chief Administrative Officer Russell Hawes said the storm water project is expected to cost $2 million while station rehabilitation will cost an estimated $3.5 million.

The renovation will include tuckpointing; converting the current baggage room to bathrooms; adding a platform on the east side of the building; replacing flooring, roofing, paneling and lighting; and soundproofing the ceiling.

Amtrak plans to fund installation of a new handicapped-accessible station platform and some new exterior and interior electronic arrival and departure signs, as well as other customer amenities.

Hawes said the design work will take about six months and construction is expected to begin in the next year or so.

The station will remain open during the renovation work.

Lawrence Expects to Take Ownership of Station

May 2, 2017

The Lawrence, Kansas, city commission will review today an agreement with BNSF that would give the city ownership and control of the Amtrak station later this year.

City officials said BNSF has decided to give up its stake in the former Santa Fe depot and property on which it sits.

The commission had earlier approved a pace with the railroad regarding station ownership.

“It’s very good for us, because we will have significant investment in the building itself and also in the site,” said Assistant City Manager Diane Stoddard. “And for us to be able to control it at the local level long term will be to our advantage.”

The station, which is served by the Chicago-Los Angeles Southwest Chief, was built in the 1950s and has received minimal maintenance in recent years.

Lawrence will use a $1.2 million state transportation grant to renovate the building. The city’s contribution is expected to be $160,000.

Under the agreement being considered by the city, BNSF will donate the depot and land to the city. An earlier agreement by which BNSF would lease back or repurchase the station has been dropped.

BNSF officials said that they dropped their demands for a lease back or repurchase clause in order to simply the negotiations.

However, Stoddard said those changes in BNSF’s stance came from the CEO-level of the railroad.

“Donating the land with the building allowed us to streamline the transfer process,” said BNSF Public Affairs Director Andy Williams, adding that the railroad doesn’t anticipate needing the station in the future.

Stoddard also said the elimination of the lease-back provision means the station will be able to be used for various uses during daytime hours when Amtrak is not using it.

“With that no longer in play, it does provide a host of options for the city to consider with regard to the use of the building into the future,” Stoddard said. “Those things will need to be determined over time.”

City Might Take Over Jackson Union Station

April 28, 2017

Plagued by security issues and a deteriorating physical structure, the Amtrak station in Jackson, Mississippi, may be getting a new owner.

The Jackson Redevelopment Authority Board of Commissioners, which owns Union Station, has asked the City of Jackson to consider taking over the downtown transit hub, which serves Amtrak’s City of New Orleans, and Greyhound and local buses.

The Redevelopment Authority said that among the problems at Union Station are criminal activity, burglaries, leaking roofs, security issues and financial concerns.

City Councilman Kenneth Stokes cited these issues in saying that the future of Union Station is in jeopardy.

“We cannot wait until Union Station completely falls down before we do something,” Stokes said. “We’re still on some solid ground. Let’s take it over now, let’s make the necessary repairs and bring Union Station back up.”

Stokes said the police department might have to establish a substation at the depot to ensure that it is safe.

He said he will put the matter of a possible transfer of ownership and title of Union Station to the city on the next city council agenda for discussion.

Downtown Station Site Favored in Buffalo

April 24, 2017

The committee studying sites for a new Amtrak station in Buffalo, New York, has recommended building the station downtown rather than renovating Buffalo Central Terminal.

The exact site will be chosen by the New York Department of Transportation, although it is expected to be along Exchange Street.

The new station is expected to cost at least $35 million, of which the state is contributing $25 million.

Currently, Buffalo is served by two stations, one at Exchange Street and the other in suburban Depew.

Exchange Street serves all trains passing through Buffalo except the Chicago-New York/Boston Lake Shore Limited.

Eleven of the 17 members of the station site committee favored a downtown location while four voted against downtown. One member abstained.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz voted against the downtown recommendation because he opposed the “arbitrary timeline” given the committee to make a decision this month.

“Not all the issues were taken into account,” Poloncarz said. “The process was flawed but not rigged. And, no, this is not the death knell for the [Buffalo] Central Terminal.”

But Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown defended the timeline. “The governor clearly wants it to be a fast-track process, and I think the same kind of time constraints we had as a committee will be placed on the Department of Transportation,” said Brown, who voted for a downtown location.

A downtown location had been favored by WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff, an engineering consulting firm hired by the state.

Howard Zemsky, a Buffalo businessman and head of Empire State Development, the state’s development arm, voted for downtown.

“This is really a transportation decision first and foremost, and from that standpoint downtown is a clear winner,” he said.

Zemsky said it was not a case of either or in terms of development of the long-dormant Central Terminal.

The Amtrak representative on the committee favored a downtown location. CSX, which owns the tracks in the vicinity of Central Terminal, said it doesn’t want passenger trains at Central Terminal because that might interfere with a nearby freight yard.

Intercity bus companies also favored a downtown site because they fear that clearance issues could prevent them from serving Central Terminal.

Also working against Central Terminal was the estimated $68 million to $149 million cost of renovating the structure. A downtown location is estimated to cost between $33 million and $86 million.

The Buffalo congressman who had championed Central Terminal was disappointed at the committee’s decision.

“This is a generational opportunity lost, said Brian Higgins said. “Obviously, the Central Terminal was not going to win out in an apples-to-apples cost comparison. It’s the vision you have for the property and what you do with the opportunity.”

Higgins said the downtown location will preclude passengers being able to board there if they are bound for Cleveland or Chicago.

He noted that Amtrak opposes having the Lake Shore Limited backing up for more than a mile to serve downtown Buffalo.

Higgins vowed to work to funnel state and federal funding toward development of Central Terminal.

State Sen. Tim Kennedy supported the Central Terminal and believes that although it lost out in the vote to become an Amtrak station there remains hope that the iconic structure will have a new life.

“There has been more attention paid to the Central Terminal than probably in the last 50 years,” Kennedy said. “I think this is going to be at the end of the day a win-win because of the renewed focus on transforming the Central Terminal into a historic building we can all be proud of once again.”

In the meantime, Canadian developer Harry Stinson said he is close to closing on deal to acquire the 523,000-square-foot Central Terminal, which includes a 17-story tower, concourse building, baggage building and ample underground and street-level parking.

“We’re days away from the final version of the agreement,” Stinson said. “It will have to go through a process, but the agreement is essentially done. There is nothing we see as collectively insurmountable.”

Stinson wants to develop the tower into office space, use the concourse for entertainment, dining and special events and transform the baggage building into a hotel.

Eventually, he will develop new housing at the site, which is now considered a brownfield.

Fort Madison Station Upgrades Put on Hold

April 19, 2017

Officials in Fort Madison, Iowa, say that plans for Amtrak to use a different station are on hold.

“We can’t spend tax money on this or the funds we have unless we have a good assurance that it’s going to [go] forward and stay in,” said City Manager David Varley.

He was referring to the lack of a state budget in Iowa and federal budget cuts proposed by the Trump administration that would end all funding for Amtrak long-distance trains.

Fort Madison will pony up 25 percent of the $1.2 million needed to upgrade the Santa Fe Depot for Amtrak’s use.

“We are going to do what we can on our part but at the same time we have to be responsible,” Varley said.

Fort Madison is the only stop in Iowa for Amtrak’s Chicago-Los Angeles Southwest Chief.

Sturtevent Sues Amtrak over Unpaid Bill

April 19, 2017

Sturtevent, Wisconsin, officials have launched litigation against Amtrak over what the village describes as unpaid fees for repair work done on the station last year.

The village owns the station and is seeking $45,780.56 plus interest, costs, disbursements and attorney fees.

The work involved replacement of the steel bottoms of four glass shelter buildings at the train station, which had rusted over the years

Village Engineer Jeff Seitz said Amtrak leases the depot from Sturtevent and is responsible for 85 percent of its maintenance costs but not for capital improvements.

Amtrak contends the repair work was a capital improvement not a maintenance matter and has declined to pay for the repairs.

“Despite repeated demands, defendants have failed and refused to pay the remaining balance due,” the lawsuit says.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said that the rail passenger carrier is aware of the lawsuit and will respond in court.

Seitz said the lawsuit was expected because the village and Amtrak had been talking about the project, including price quotes, for about a year before the Village Board directed him to get the work performed and then file a claim.

He said it is the first such dispute the village has ever had with Amtrak. Sturtevent officials hopes that a judge will be able to come up with a better definition of what is maintenance and what is a capital improvement at the depot.

The Wisconsin city near Racine is served by Amtrak’s Hiawatha Service trains.

Columbus WI Ticket Office to Close April 28

April 3, 2017

The Amtrak ticket agent will be removed from the station in Columbus, Wisconsin, effective April 28.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said passengers will continue to have access to the station waiting area for all train arrivals and departures during normal station hours from 10:30 a.m. until 6:30 p.m.

Boarding assistance will be provided by Amtrak on-board personnel while a station caretaker will be available at the station approximately 30 minutes before and after train departures to answer questions about Amtrak service.

Trainside checked baggage and bike service will be available in Columbus, but Amtrak Express Service is being discontinued.

Baggage tags will be available inside the station and passengers will check and retrieve their baggage and bike from an Amtrak on-board crew member at the baggage car.

Amtrak said that passengers using cash can pay for tickets on the train, but tickets paid for in cash on the train will be priced at the highest fare and subject to availability.

Unaccompanied minors will not be permitted to travel to or from Columbus.

The closest Amtrak station to Columbus that will continue to provide agent service will be Milwaukee, 64 miles to the east.

Columbus is served by the daily Empire Builder between Chicago and Seattle/Portland.

3 Bids Received for Schenectady Station Work

March 31, 2017

Three bids have been submitted for the proposed new Amtrak station in Schenectady, New York.

All of the bids appear to be within the $6 budget for the station.

The bidders were seeking to perform the first phase of the project, which includes razing the current station and doing concrete and structural work around the station platform.

That work is expected to begin this spring once a winning bidder is chosen by the New York State Department of Transportation.

It is the second time that bids have been submitted for the station work.

Last year one bid for the project came in $10 million over budget. State officials decided to break the station project into two phases.

The budget for the project is $15 million, most of which is from federal funding.

The project timeline calls for demolition of the station to be completed this year. Amtrak is constructing a temporary boarding platform at Liberty Street.

The contract for construction of the permanent station is expected to go out for bid this fall with construction starting in 2018.

The new station is expected to resembled the former Union Station, which was razed years ago. The current Amtrak station opened in 1979.

About 60,000 passengers per year board Amtrak at Schenectady, but city officials believe the station could become busier after the opening of the Rivers Casino and Resort.