Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Grant to Rebuild Bridge Used by Amtrak

June 16, 2019

A federal grant will be used to repair a bridge over the Mississippi River used by Amtrak trains.

The grant of $28.8 million was awarded by the Federal Railroad Administration to the

Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis to rebuild the MacArthur Bridge over the Mississippi River.

Completed in 1917, the bridge carries Amtrak’s Lincoln Service and Texas Eagle trains and it’s the primary rail crossing of the river at St. Louis.

The work will involve replacement of the main span girders on 677-foot structure.

The project cost of $57.3 million project will also be shared by the five Class I railroads serving St. Louis.

The grant will come from the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements program.

The FRA had in 2017 awarded $7.1 million to replace the west approach to the bridge, the Broadway Street Truss.

Officials said the rebuilding will extend the life of the bridge to 2085 and bring the structure up to current standards.

Missouri River Runners Reinstated

June 15, 2019

Amtrak planned to restore full operate of its Missouri River Runner trains this weekend.

The carrier began restoring service on Thursday when it resumed operating Nos. 311 and 314.

Nos. 313 and 316 will be restored today, June 15.

The four trains had been suspended on May 22 after flooding in the Midwest and South led host railroad Union Pacific to increase freight traffic on the route used by the River Runners.

The trains are funded by the Missouri Department of Transportation.

Illinois Funding to Help Amtrak Services

June 13, 2019

Amtrak travelers in Illinois will benefit from a recently enacted capital spending program approved by the Illinois General Assembly and Gov. J. B. Pritzker, but it will be years before those benefits can be seen.

There remains much work to be done on engineering studies and land acquisition. Some of those efforts have been on hold since 2015.

In some cases, negotiations have yet to begin between the Illinois Department of Transportation and a host railroad.

That includes a project to improve on-time performance and reliability of Amtrak service using Canadian National tracks between Chicago and Carbondale, Illinois.

An IDOT spokesman told Trains magazine that his agency needs to agree on the details with CN, but the project is expected to include some sidings, universal crossovers and other unspecified improvements.

The capital project has earmarked $100 million to improve service on the route used by the City of New Orleans and the state-funded Saluki and Illini.

Amtrak sued CN in 2012 over poor on-time performances of its trains in the Chicago-Carbondale corridor, but that litigation has become bogged down in the courts.

Trains reported that IDOT and CN have already held talks about how to alleviate some sources of delay to Amtrak trains.

IDOT and Union Pacific also need to agree on the nuts and bolts of what it will take to implement a long-discussed plan to reroute Amtrak and UP freight trains onto a grade-separated double-track line in Springfield.

Amtrak’s Lincoln Service and Texas Eagle trains now use a former Gulf Mobile & Ohio route that runs parallel to Third Street and which has numerous grade crossings.

The Illinois capital program has set aside $122 million to move Amtrak and its Springfield station to a corridor along 10th Street that will also be used by Norfolk Southern.

One downside of the move is that the Amtrak station would be further from the heart of downtown Springfield and the statehouse complex.

The capital funding program is expected to give a boost to two proposed new Amtrak routes.

One involves service between Chicago and Rockford using Metra’s Milwaukee West District to Big Timber Road west of downtown Elgin and thence over a UP line via Belvedere to Rockford.

A connection needs to be built at Big Timber to connect the Metra and UP routes.

The IDOT spokesman told Trains that there is no federal funding or service frequency plan for the service.

“The new infusion of funding will require us to re-engage with UP, Amtrak, and the local communities on scope, budget, and schedule after the hiatus,” the spokesman said, making reference to a decision by former Gov. Bruce Rauner to revoke funding approved earlier for development of the route.

Another new Amtrak route would link Chicago and the Quad Cities region of Illinois and Iowa.

The City of Moline, Illinois, has created a station for the service, but engineering and property acquisition needs to be done on a connection near Wyanet, Illinois.

The plan is to use the BNSF route now used by Amtrak’s Illinois Zephyr, Carl Sandburg and California Zephyr, to Wyanet and then switch to the Iowa Interstate for the remainder of the trip into Moline.

“Negotiations with the railroad will proceed on the construction, operating, and maintenance agreements,” the IDOT spokesman said, noting that IDOT and Iowa Interstate have yet to discuss “scope, budget, and timelines” that must precede an environmental assessment and preliminary engineering.
The capital funding program allocated $225 million to match a route-specific federal stimulus grant that is set to expire on June 30, 2019,

However, IDOT is talking with the FRA about extending the deadline for the grant.

IDOT had not given a timeline for when the service to Rockford or Moline would begin.

Rockford was once served by Amtrak’s Chicago-Dubuque, Iowa, Black Hawk, before it was discontinued on Oct. 1, 1981.

Although Amtrak has never served Moline, the former Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific offered intercity rail passenger service between Chicago and nearby Rock Island, Illinois, until Jan. 1, 1979.

Amtrak Marks 90th Anniversary of Empire Builder

June 13, 2019

Amtrak this week observed the 90th anniversary of is Chicago-Seattle/Portland Empire Builder.

The train was created by the Great Northern Railway with the first westbound train departing Chicago on June 10, 1929.

The train was named for James Hill, the “empire builder,” who in the late 19th century founded what became the GN.

GN and three railroads merged in 1970 to form Burlington Northern, which continued to operate the Empire Builder until May 1, 1971, when Amtrak took it over and changed the route to include Milwaukee by using what is now Canadian Pacific between Chicago and St. Paul.

In October 1979, the Empire Builder became the first overnight train to be assigned bi-level Superliner rail cars.

Amtrak said that last year 428,854 passengers rode the Empire Builder.

Missouri River Runners Remain Suspended

May 28, 2019

Passengers booked aboard Amtrak’s Missouri River Runner trains between St. Louis and Kansas City will continue to ride chartered buses through at least Wednesday (May 29).

Amtrak said in a service advisory that host railroad Union Pacific continues to divert freight trains to the route used by the River Runners.

Nos. 311, 313, 314 and 316 had been suspended last week after flooding occurred near Kansas City.

Originally, the suspension of the River Runners was to last through Saturday, but was extended.

Amtrak said the substitute buses will operate as close as possible to the train schedules and will pick up and drop off passengers at all stations served by the train.

LSL Cafe Car Tables Removed for Bike Racks

April 13, 2019

Amtrak has removed two of the six café car tables from the Boston section of the Lake Shore Limited in order to accommodate bicycles.

The space where the tables had been located in the Amfleet I café cars has been replaced by four bike racks.

Bicycles on the train had been stored in baggage car, but that car was removed earlier this year.

The café car operates between Chicago and Boston. The New York section of the Lake Shore continues to have a baggage car.

A report on the website of the Rail Passengers Association reported that one table was being used for a condiment display while another was reserved for the operating crew.

That left just eight seats for the six coach car passengers.

Track Work to Affect Empire Corridor Trains

April 13, 2019

Track work being undertaken by Metro North will result in schedule changes for Amtrak trains using the Empire Corridor.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said Trains 64, 252, 254, 260, 280, 284 and 290 will arrive between three to five minutes later into New York. Train No. 48 will arrive 12 minutes later into New York while No. 244 will arrive 15 minutes later into New York.

Trains 69, 233, 281, 283 and 295 will arrive between two to five minutes later into Albany-Rensselaer, New York.

No. 49 will arrive 8 minutes later into Albany. No. 253 will depart eight minutes earlier from of New York and arrive 10 minutes earlier into Albany-Rensselaer.

Train 259 will operate 10 minutes later between New York and Albany-Rensselaer.

Calif. Selling Bonds for High-Speed Rail

March 27, 2019

The State of California plans to sell $842.8 million in general obligation bonds to benefit the state’s high-speed rail project.

The project, which earlier this year was scaled back by Gov. Gavin Newsom, would receive $600 million from the bond sale to be used to built 170-miles of high-speed rail in the Central Valley. Work on that segment is already underway.

The bond sale comes in the wake of efforts by the federal government to cancel a grant to the project and to claw back money the project has already received.

In an unrelated move, Virgin Trains USA is also planning a $1.5 billion bond sale to raise money for its planned extension to Orlando, Florida, and to retire nearly $600 million in debt.

Virgin, formerly known as Brightline, currently operates between Miami and West Palm Beach, Florida.

Downeasters To Skip Woburn on Weekends

March 22, 2019

Amtrak Downeaster service to Woburn, Massachusetts, will be suspended on Saturdays and Sunday between March 23 and June 23 due to track work being performed by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.

Southbound Trains 690, 692, 694, 696 and 698 and northbound Trains 691, 693, 695, 697 and 699/1689 will detour between Boston North Station and Haverhill, Massachusetts, and will not stop at Woburn. Alternate transportation will not be provided to or from Woburn.

On May 4 and 5 all Downeaster trains will be replaced by bus service between Haverhill and Boston North Station.

Buses will operate with normal train numbers and schedules but will not stop at Woburn.

Flooding Disrupts Amtrak’s Missouri Trains

March 22, 2019

Flooding in Missouri and Iowa has prompted Amtrak to continue a service suspension of its Missouri River Runner trains between St. Louis and Kansas City.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said it will provide chartered buses service as alternative transportation through Sunday, March 24.

Amtrak said the route used by the River Runners has seen an increase in freight traffic due to trains being diverted to the because of the flooding.

The service advisory said the additional freight train volume was prompted by historic flooding in the Central United States.

Although the chartered buses will cover the Amtrak route and stop at all stations as close to the train schedules as possible, delays are to be expected, Amtrak said in the service advisory.

Operations of Amtrak’s Southwest Chief, which also crosses Missouri, have not been affected by the flooding.