Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Missouri Lawmakers Mull Cutting Amtrak Service

March 25, 2021

Missouri lawmakers are considering making Missouri River Runner Service just one roundtrip a day, which is what it has been since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic last year.

Before the pandemic Missouri funded two daily roundtrips between St. Louis and Kansas City.

But a proposal before the House Budget Committee would only pay for one roundtrip even though the Missouri Department of Transportation is seeking funding for double daily service.

MoDOT said the River Runners handled 172,000 passengers annually before two years of service disruptions.

These included flooding that led Amtrak to transport passengers by bus rather than the train.

The route itself was unaffected by the flooding but host railroad Union Pacific routed freight trains off other route that were closed by high water.

Ridership also has fallen during the pandemic transportation officials said.

Amtrak, Vermont Talking About Service Revival

March 25, 2021

Vermont transportation officials are talking to Amtrak about reviving the Vermonter and the Ethan Allen Express.

Both trains were suspended last year during the CVOID-19 pandemic.

During a briefing about the pandemic, Vermont Gov. Phil Scott said the state has had has had “preliminary discussions” with Amtrak about restoring both trains.

“We just don’t know exactly when it’s going to be,” Scott said.

Vermont Agency of Transportation spokeswoman Amy Taiko said her agency hopes to make an announcement within the next several weeks as to when the service might return.

Before being suspended, the Vermonter operated between St. Albans and Washington while the Ethan Allen Express ran between Rutland and New York.

State officials said that Amtrak has made non revenue runs in Vermont to keep the operating crews qualified.

New Capitol Corridor Sked Set to Roll Out

March 25, 2021

The Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority will introduce a new schedule on March 29 for Amtrak’s Capitols Service.

The agency said the new schedule “better reflects current ridership demand.”

Restoration of pre-COVID-19 levels of service are not expected until sometime in 2022.

Before the pandemic, the corridor hosted up to 30 trains per day. During the pandemic service fell to 10 trains a day.

Service rose last June to 16 weekday trains with 10 on weekends. The corridor has 18 stations on its 170-mile route.

Among the changes in the new schedule will be inauguration of a direct round-trip train on weekdays between Auburn and San Jose, thus allowing riders to travel the entire corridor without a change of trains.

A sixth round-trip between San Jose and Oakland will also return.

CCJPA in a news release described the new timetable as a “pulse schedule” because it features adjustments to departure times so they are “more consistent and predictable,” and “a better distribution of trips throughout the day with smaller gaps between morning and midday trains.”

Judge Says Amtrak Liable for 2017 Cascades Derailment

March 25, 2021

A judge has ruled that Amtrak is strictly liable for a December 2017 derailment of a Cascades Service train in DuPont, Washington that left three dead.

The ruling came in a lawsuit filed by Amtrak engineer Steven Brown, who was at the controls at the time that Cascades No. 501 derailed.

The National Transportation Safety Board later ruled that the train was exceeding the posted speed limit on a curve when it derailed.

Brown claimed in his suit that he was not properly trained and that a positive train control system could have prevented the derailment.

The ruling by Superior Court Judge Karena Kirkendall means that when Brown’s suit goes to trial later this year the only issue to be decided will be that of damages.

Amtrak had argued in court that Brown’s negligence caused the derailment.

But Judge Kirkendall granted Brown’s motion for partial summary judgment, which asked the judge to find Amtrak “strictly liable” and that the only defense to Amtrak’s absolute liability would be to prove that Brown “was the sole cause of his own injuries.”

SRC Touts Endorsements of Gulf Coast Service

March 25, 2021

The Southern Rail Commission said recently that it has gained support from several Gulf Coast organizations and mayors from cities across the region in support of Amtrak’s plans to begin rail passenger service between New Orleans and Mobile, Alabama.

Amtrak wants to begin the service in 2022 but is locked in a dispute with host railroads CSX and Norfolk Southern over what rail infrastructures improvements are needed to host the service.

The intercity passenger carrier recently took its case to the U.S. Surface Transportation Board.

The Gulf Coast has lacked Amtrak service since August 2005 when Hurricane Katrina damaged the route used by the Sunset Limited between New Orleans and Jacksonville, Florida.

The SRC has been trying since then to get intercity rail service reinstated and has landed federal and state grants to be used for that purpose.

“Restoring passenger service between New Orleans and Mobile is a critical economic driver for our region,” said New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said in A prepared statement. “I pledge to work with Amtrak and the railroads to help make the service a reality. We know that to grow, we have to think regionally, and this is a step in connecting New Orleanians with destinations along the Gulf Coast.”

California, USDOT in Talks to Settle Suit

March 25, 2021

California and the U.S. Department of Justice are talking about a settlement in a lawsuit the state filed against USDOT after it canceled a $929 million grant for the state’s high speed rail project.

That action was taken during the Trump administration. In its lawsuit, filed in 2019, California argued that USDOT lacked the legal authority to withhold the funds, which had been granted during the Obama administration.

During the Trump presidency, the Federal Railroad Administration contended that the state “failed to make reasonable progress on the project.”

California officials countered that the cancellation of the grant stemmed from Trump’s “overt hostility” toward the state.

Baltimore Station Development to Begin This Spring

March 25, 2021

Development of a mixed use project at Baltimore Penn Station  is expected to get underway this spring.

The $90 million project envisions transforming the station into a mixed-use local hub that will spur neighborhood development.

As part of the project, the station head house will be renovated and a modern passenger concourse will be constructed north of the current site.

The head house, which was built in 1911 by the Pennsylvania Railroad, will become office and retail space.

The passenger carrier is reviewing bids on the platform work. Amtrak announced the project in 2019 and is working with a development partner.

Pa. City Revives Effort to Become Amtrak Stop

March 24, 2021

Officials in Rockwood, Pennsylvania, are seeking to have Amtrak create a flag stop in their town for the Chicago-Washington Capitol Limited.

Amtrak 4 City officials have hired two lobbying groups to help them pursue creating a station.

Located in Somerset County, Rockwood has sought an Amtrak station in the past.

When the idea surfaced about a decade ago, Amtrak estimated creating a station in Rockwood would cost $3.9 million and would generate 2,100 passengers annually.

Official hope agreeing to become a flag stop will cost less than establishing a full station stop.

The Amtrak lobbying effort will be an add on to a $5,000 a month contract the city has with Washington-based lobbyist Pendulum Strategies and South Carolina-based Nelson Mullins to pursue a highway project.

Host railroad CSX has expressed concern about the Rockwood stop, saying it might cause possible freight-train delays.

Downeaster Detour to Miss Woburn

January 28, 2021

Track work being performed by the performed by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority will result in Amtrak Downeaster trains bypasing Woburn, Massachusetts, on Saturdays and Sundays between Jan. 30 and  March 28.

Affected are Trains 690, 692, 694, 698, 691, 693, 695 and 699/1689, which will detour between Boston North Station and Haverhill, Massachusetts.

In a service advisory Amtrak said alternate transportation will not be provided to or from Woburn on the affected dates.

Montana Rail Agency Has 12 Member Counties

November 27, 2020

The agency seeking a return of Amtrak service to southern Montana now has 12 counties as members.

The Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority could hold its first meeting next July at which it will appoint officers and begin strategic planning.

Half of the 12 counties that comprise the Authority are located along the route of Amtrak’s former North Coast Hiawatha, which operated between Chicago and Seattle until being discontinued in early October 1979.

The agency needed 10 member counties to qualify as a government entity under Montana law.

Missoula County Commissioner Dave Strohmaier said the agency will work with Montana State University’s local government center.