Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak Blue Water’

Track, Signal Work Delaying Michigan Trains

April 10, 2019

Track and signal work being conducted are delaying Wolverine Service and Blue Water trains this week.

Amtrak said Trains 350, 352, 354 and 364 are expected to encounter delays of 15 to 20 minutes while operating between Hammond-Whiting, Indiana, and Kalamazoo, Michigan. Delays also can be expected through Pontiac or Port Huron.

Trains 351, 353, 355 and 365 are expected to encounter delays of 15 to 20 minutes while operating between Kalamazoo and Hammond-Whiting. Delays can be expected through Chicago.

Port Huron Area Officials Debate Where to Put a New Amtrak Station

October 30, 2017

Officials in Port Huron, Michigan, are at odds over what to do about the town’s Amtrak station. Some want a new station, but where to place it has triggered disagreements.

The current station is located in an out-of-the-way location in the southern part of town, is not lighted well and is easy to miss.

Other gripes include lack of adequate parking, no room for a bus turnaround or access to other travel options, and no nearby restaurants or overnight amenities.

However, there is wide disagreement about what to do about that, including whether to renovate the current depot or build a new station closer to freeways or downtown Port Huron.

And the City of Port Huron thinks that some government entities are conspiring to move the station outside the city.

For now, a $125,000 study is underway to evaluate the current station and potential locations for a new one.

The station is the eastern terminus of the Blue Water from Chicago, a service funded by the State of Michigan.

Heading the station study is the Blue Water Area Transit, which hired Bergmann Associates to do the study.

Dave McElroy, assistant general manager and finance director for BWAT, said resolving the station situation will take time and it will not be inexpensive. As for what is likely to happen, he is not sure.

“It just depends on what the study comes up with,” he said. “Where it is, what the community decides they’d really like to see.”

Talks about a new Port Huron station have been going since at least 2011.

Former Port Huron City Manager Bruce Brown spoke with Amtrak, the Michigan Department of Transportation and Canadian National Railroad about new station sites.

One was the Thomas Edison Depot Museum while the other was near the former Thomas Edison Inn property. But those proposals went nowhere.

Various the agencies got involved, including Port Huron Township.

After Amtrak said it had talked with the township about relocating its Port Huron station, Port Huron City Manager James Freed objected.

“I think they’re trying to move our train station outside the city without talking with our city residents, let alone those around that neighborhood,” he said.

Freed expressed similar sentiments during the first of two public hearings led by Bergmann Associations on Oct. 19.

Freed noted that property owned by CN was mentioned by station study project manager Jeremy Hedden in a presentation as a potential site candidate.

“My concern with the guy doing the study is he shows up, (says) that no decision has been made yet, that they want an open and fair conversation,” he said. “Yet, he starts the conversation off with several statements like this spot’s closer to the highway than this spot.”

The site in question is along Griswold Road between 24th Street and Michigan Road near Interstate 69.

Port Huron Township Supervisor Bob Lewandowski said that just because that site was at a hearing discussed doesn’t mean it’s a guarantee to be the location of a new station.

Lewandowski would like to see the township get the station. Some have argued that the station site selection process needs to take into account the greater needs of the region.

“For us right now, we’re advocating we would like to see it out here,” Lewandowski said. “We think we’ve got a better space to be able to provide more for a station as far as if we can’t get them to do the maintenance on the train here. (We could) have a few more jobs here. The space is there to have a platform to move (the train) to some sort of maintenance facility.”

Lewandowski said there’s also more space to accommodate other amenities for travelers — which could jump-start economic growth, such as a small hotel or restaurant nearby.

Freed is concerned about economic development as well, saying Port Huron uses its status as a city serviced by Amtrak “to the fullest of its capabilities” — both keeping the city a destination and making an transportation travel option available to a local population who needs it.

He said he thinks passenger rail is going to grow and that will bolster hotels and restaurants.

If the station were to remain in Port Huron, Freed said the current station on 16th Street could be upgraded, the original Grand Trunk Western station could be used or a new site could host a depot

Some have even advocated establishing a station in a location that would attract passengers from Sarnia, Ontario.

Mabel Higgins, vice president for Rail Advocacy in Lambton, said at the Oct. 19 hearing that a station in Port Huron Township would be accessible to Canadians coming by highway for travel to Chicago.

The station study underway is expected to be completed by February or March. The next step would be to conduct an environmental assessment of various station options.

In a best case scenario, construction on a new or renovated station is no closer than two years and it may be five years before completion.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said station renovations and replacements are almost always locally-driven projects.

He said Amtrak has many ongoing discussions with various communities, including Port Huron, about station renovation or replacement.

Magliari said transit agencies are often the “perfect group” to lead Amtrak station projects.

“They already have the transportation focus and willing people,” he said. “In some cases, it’s led by community groups who have an idea. That can work too. (Or it can be) a regional planning organization or council of governments.”

McElroy said BWAT expects to continue to lead the station project and that the two public hearing held thus far won’t be the public’s last opportunity to comment.

“Any input that Bergmann gets that is meaningful, there will be follow up, I’m sure,” McElroy said. “And like they tried to point out, if anything transpires from this study, there’s a lot more input that takes place. A lot more in depth, a lot more detail.”

Freed agreed that having BWAT take the lead makes sense. CN and MDOT are also expected to play a role in the process.

CN spokesman Patrick Waldron said he was familiar with discussion of a new station previously but wasn’t up to date if anything has resurfaced more recently.

Regional MDOT spokeswoman Jocelyn Hall said frequency, passenger boards, and community size are among the “many considerations when building a station.”

One of those is ridership history. MDOT said ridership at Port Huron rose from 13,162 in 2009 to 29,792 in 2013, a 125 percent plus increase.

However, Amtrak patronage has declined since then to 22,682 in 2015, 20,205 in 2016 and 15,850 through September of this year. The lowest ridership in the last decade was at 12,619 in 2007.

Another factor is where the money to pay for a new station will come.

“That’s a great question because funding for that has not been identified yet,” McElroy said. “The community, I’m sure we’ll go out and try to receive some federal and state grants. To be competitive, sometimes you have to throw in local money as well.”

Amtrak to Repave Kalamazoo Crossings

February 28, 2017

Amtrak will be repaving four railroad crossings in Kalamazoo this summer.

michiganAlthough the work is not expected to affect operations of Amtrak trains, when combined with another road construction project planned for downtown Kalamazoo, it will create challenges getting to and from the station.

The crossing are located at West Main Street, West Kalamazoo Avenue, North Westnedge Avenue and North Park Street. Detours will be posted for the four crossing.

The Michigan Department of Transportation will also launch a rebuilding of a four-mile stretch of  M-43.

During that project, M-43 will be reduced to a single lane for most of 2017.

MDOT plans to mill and replace pavement on a section of M-43, also known as West Michigan Avenue, from US-131 east to Michikal Street, and a section of M-43, also known as West Kalamazoo Avenue, from Pitcher Street east to Douglas Avenue.

Kalamazoo is served by Amtrak’ Wolverine Service and Blue Water.

Amtrak Set to Use E. Lansing Intermodal Terminal

January 22, 2016

Amtrak will begin using a new East Lansing, Michigan, intermodal terminal on Jan. 25.

The Chicago-bound Blue Water will still use the current Amtrak station, but when the train returns that evening it will stop at the $6.3 million Capital Area Multimodal Gateway facility.

Amtrak 4Local and intercity bus routes have been using the facility since late last year.

Once Amtrak vacates its existing East Lansing station the building will be razed to make way for a parking lot for the intermodal terminal.

The intermodal terminal, built in large part with federal funds, is located at Harrison and Trowbridge roads.

It is three times larger than the nearby Amtrak station.

“We are so pleased to finally have Amtrak move into our new state-of-the-art facility,” CATA CEO Sandy Draggoo said in a statement. “The Gateway has been ready and waiting for Amtrak’s occupancy, which will complement intercity bus operations, provided by MegaBus, Greyhound and Indian Trails, along with taxi service.”

Amtrak ticket agents will be on duty daily in the intermodal terminal between 7 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.

East Lansing is the fifth busiest station among the 28 that Amtrak serves in Michigan and handled more than 66,000 passengers in 2013.

Transfer of Telephone Lines Holding up Amtrak’s Move into East Lansing’s New Multimodal Hub

January 11, 2016

A new intermodal station in East Lansing, Michigan, is open for business, but Amtrak continues to stop at its previous station site.

The Capital Area Multimodal Gateway, which is operated by the Capital Area Transportation Authority, opened last November and local and intercity buses are using it.

Even though Amtrak about two weeks ago signed a lease to use the facility, CATA said it can’t raze the current Amtrak station until the passenger carrier moves into the new intermodal terminal.

And that is not going to be for a few more weeks, an Amtrak spokesman said because it will take that long to move ts telephones, computers and other data capabilities to the new building.

“We can’t move the ticket agent without moving the telephone,” said Marc Magliari, adding that that work involves several companies.

The new intermodal station, located at Harrison and Trowbridge roads, is three times larger than the current Amtrak station.

The new facility has bus bays with canopies and storage space for luggage and bicycles. There also is an overflow area for taxis and buses and parking for 150 vehicles.

The parking lot, though, has yet to be paved. CATA officials are waiting for the Amtrak station to be razed and then plan to do paving in one project.

The East Lansing intermodal station was funded with a $6.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

It is built on the site of the former Michigan State University Surplus Store and Printing Services buildings. Those were demolished in August 2014.

“We are eager to have the relocation take place in order to better accommodate Amtrak customers — as we have our intercity bus customers — and complete all phases of this project,” said CATA spokeswoman Laurie Robison. “The timing decision rests solely with Amtrak.”

Amtrak’s Chicago-Port Huron, Michigan, Blue Water serves East Lansing, which is the fifth busiest Amtrak station in Michigan serving more than 66,000 passengers annually.

Only Ann Arbor, Kalamazoo, Dearborn and Detroit board more Amtrak passengers and all of those stations are served by six daily Wolverine Service trains between Chicago and Detroit (Pontiac)

Also using the Capital Area Multimodal Gateway are MegaBus, Greyhound and Indian Trails bus companies.

November Trial Set for Michigan Man Charged in Assault Aboard Amtrak Train Last December

August 18, 2015

A Michigan man charged with assaulting four people aboard an Amtrak train last December will go on trial in mid-November.

Michael Darnell Williams, 44, of Saginaw, Michigan, appeared in court on Tuesday for a preliminary hearing on 12 felony charges related to the Dec. 5 incident on the train as it stopped at the Niles, Michigan, station.

Williams pleaded not guilty to the 12 charges he faces and demanded a trial by jury. His next court dates are Sept. 16 for a case conference, Nov. 10 for a status conference and a jury trial starting Nov. 17 or 18.

Although Williams waived the preliminary hearing, the court heard testimony from the train’s conductor, who was stabbed during the incident.

Dontrel Bankhead, 40, was the conductor of the Chicago to Port Huron, Michigan, Blue Water, and the first person to be attacked.

Bankhead said he spoke with Williams after he came back to the cafe car, the last car on the train.

“The person caught my attention,” Bankhead said. “He asked how many people were on the train and how much money was on the train. I was under the impression he was going to rob the train. He also spoke about how much money a conductor made.”

Assistant Prosecutor Amy Byrd wanted Bankhead’s testimony to be put on the record because he had traveled from out of town to testify.

Bankhead said Williams also talked about knowing that people had been killed the week before.

When Bankhead asked Williams to return to his seat, he refused, instead spending five minutes between the café car and a coach.

“He stood between the two cars and then came into the car I was in but again refused to sit down,” Bankhead said. “He had his hands in his pockets since coming out of the cafe car.

“We decided to ask him to be escorted off the train at the next stop. We were 15 minutes past the New Buffalo stop and coming into Niles.”

When the train arrived in Niles, Bankhead said he continued to talk with Williams who at one point said he wanted to say a prayer.

Williams heard a radio transmission about him and saw police officers on the platform at the Niles station.

“I took one step forward and he did not move,” Bankhead said. “Then I saw his hands come out of his pockets and he was holding a knife. He struck me in the neck, in the back of my shoulder, in the rib cage, in my face and in my ear.”

Bankhead said his wounds required surgery and he was hospitalized for three weeks, including one week in South Bend, Indiana, and two weeks in Chicago.

He told the court that he is still recovering and being treated for physical and psychological injuries.

Williams faces five counts of assault with intent to murder, five counts of assault with a dangerous weapon, one count of carrying a concealed weapon and one count of resisting and obstructing police.

The assault with intent to murder charges carry maximum penalties of life in prison, while the assault with a dangerous weapon charges carry maximum penalties and four years in prison.

The carrying a concealed weapon charge has a maximum penalty of five years in prison and the resisting police charge carries a maximum penalty of two years in prison.

Williams was found competent to stand trial earlier this month after receiving medications and treatment for his psychological problems, including paranoia and schizophrenia.

The court has yet to rule whether he can be held criminally responsible for his actions. He remains in jail on $1 million cash or surety bond.

Amtrak Stabbing Suspect Faces 8 New Charges

August 12, 2015

A Michigan man who has been charged with stabbing four people aboard an Amtrak train last December was arraigned on Wednesday on eight new charges.

Michael Darnell Williams, 44, of Saginaw, now faces four charges of assault with intent to murder, as well as one additional charge of assault with intent to murder, five counts of assault with a dangerous weapon, one count of carrying a concealed weapon (knife) and one count of resisting and obstructing police.

The incident happened last Dec. 5 aboard the eastbound Blue Water as it neared a scheduled stop in Niles, Michigan. The train was en route from Chicago to Port Huron, Michigan.

Williams faces a preliminary hearing next Tuesday on the new charges, as well as the four initial charges against him.

No determination has been made as to whether he can be found criminally responsible for the acts.

At the time of the attack, Williams told police he acted after someone he had been talking to “turned into a demon.”

Niles police met the train at the station and arrested Williams, who police said was armed with a knife.

Amtrak conductor Dontrel Bankhead, 40, was stabbed two times in the head, two times in the neck and several other times in the body; passenger Bonnie Cleasby, 59, was stabbed in the abdomen; passenger Dan Stewart, 56, was stabbed once in the check; and passenger Gail Vanhorst, 47, was stabbed in the chest.

The latest charge of assault with intent to murder charge stems from an alleged assault on a Nile police officer

Williams underwent a forensic examination after his arrest and was found to suffer from visual hallucinations, delusions, paranoia and schizophrenia.

He subsequently received treatment and last week was found to be competent to stand trial in a court hearing before Berrien County Trial Judge Dennis Wiley.

Defense attorney Shannon Sible asked to delay the hearing until the court receives a report on whether Williams can be held criminally responsible for his actions.

“He shouldn’t have to make a decision on how to proceed until we get the report on criminal responsibility,” Sible said.

Assistant Prosecutor Amy Byrd said that being held criminally responsible differs from competency to stand trial .

If Williams is found to be not criminally responsible, his attorney could use that as a defense.

Sible said that Williams is frustrated with the time that has elapsed since his arraignment in December.

 

Amtrak Adds Wolverine Service, Adjust Schedules of All Michigan Routes for the Summer

April 27, 2015

Amtrak has added service to the Wolverine route between Chicago and Detroit (Pontiac) for the summer while making adjustments to the route’s schedules.

The new schedules went into effect on April 20 and will extend through Oct. 30. The additional service is a Sunday-only train from Chicago to Pontiac and a Monday-only train from Dearborn to Chicago.

Here is a summary of the schedule changes:

Eastbound

No. 350 now departs Chicago 10 minutes earlier at 7:10 a.m. daily, but is still scheduled to arrive in Pontiac at 3:03 p.m.

No. 352, the former mid-day train to Pontiac will now operate on Sundays only, departing Chicago at 12:45 p.m. and arriving in Pontiac at 7:42 p.m. This train will stop only at Kalamazoo, Battle Creek, Ann Arbor, Dearborn, Detroit, Royal Oak and Troy.

No. 358 will assume the role previously served by No. 352. It will depart Chicago at 3:10 p.m. daily and arrive in Pontiac at 10:44 p.m.

No. 354 will continue to depart Chicago at 6 p.m. daily, but is now scheduled to arrive in Pontiac at 1:29 a.m., 10 minutes later than the previous schedule. It will not operate east of Detroit on Sundays.

Westbound

No. 351 will now depart Pontiac at 5 a.m. daily, which is 45 minutes earlier than the previous schedule. It is scheduled to reach Chicago at 10:12 a.m.

No. 353 will depart Pontiac at 10:35 a.m. on Sunday only and is scheduled to arrive in Chicago at 4:08 p.m.

No. 359 will depart Pontiac at 2:30 p.m. daily except Sunday and arrive in Chicago at 8:03 p.m.

No. 355 will depart Pontiac at 5:35 p.m. daily, which is five minutes earlier than its previous schedule. It is scheduled to arrive in Chicago at 11:02 p.m.

No. 349 will depart Dearborn on Mondays only at 3:38 a.m. and arrive in Chicago at 7:59 a.m.

Blue Water

The schedule of eastbound train No. 364 from Chicago to Port Huron remains unchanged, but westbound No. 365 will now depart Port Huron 40 minutes earlier at 5:40 a.m. The scheduled arrival time in Chicago is now 11:05 a.m.

Pere Marquette

Effective May 4, westbound No. 371 will begin departing Grand Rapids at 6 a.m. and is scheduled to arrive in Chicago at 9:11 a.m. Eastbound No. 370 will depart Chicago at 6:30 p.m. and arrive in Grand Rapids at 11:39 p.m.

Bagging 5 Amtrak Trains in Northwest Indiana

March 25, 2015
First train of the day. The Detroit (Pontiac) bound Wolverine Service No. 350 crosses the swing bridge over Trail Creek in Michigan City, Ind.

First train of the day. The Detroit (Pontiac) bound Wolverine Service No. 350 crosses the swing bridge over Trail Creek in Michigan City, Ind.

Not since last October have I seen, let alone photographed, an Amtrak train. Considering that the Capitol Limited and Lake Shore Limited had numerous days this past winter when they were running hours behind schedule, to say that I’ve been shut out might seem odd.

But the opportunity never came about for me to get trackside to photograph those late running trains.

So recently when a friend asked me to accompany him on a trip to Michigan City, Ind., to deliver some garden railway equipment to a guy from Wisconsin who bought it, I eagerly said yes.

All of Amtrak’s 10 Michigan service trains pass through Michigan City and as I studied the schedules I saw that we would have a shot at getting five of them.

Not since the last time I was in Chicago have I see that many Amtrak trains in a single day.

We wound up photographing three of the trains in Michigan City and two more at Porter, where the line from Detroit joins the Chicago Line of Norfolk Southern. Here is a gallery of what I was able to capture on that day.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

Wolverine Service No. 351 for Chicago approaches the old Michigan Central coaling tower that still stands astride the tracks in Michigan City.

Wolverine Service No. 351 for Chicago approaches the old Michigan Central coaling tower that still stands astride the tracks in Michigan City.

Amtrak MC 05e

P42 No. 29 brings up the rear of Wolverine No. 351. Think of the thousands of New York Central passenger trains and steam locomotives that have passed beneath this massive coaling tower over the years.

P42 No. 29 brings up the rear of Wolverine No. 351. Think of the thousands of New York Central passenger trains and steam locomotives that have passed beneath this massive coaling tower over the years.

The Blue Water from Port Huron, Mich., has a typical Michigan service consist of a mixture of Horizon and Amfleet equipment with a P42 locomotive on each end. All five of the trains that we say had a P42 on each end.

The Blue Water from Port Huron, Mich., has a typical Michigan service consist of a mixture of Horizon and Amfleet equipment with a P42 locomotive on each end. All five of the trains that we say had a P42 on each end.

The Chicago-bound Blue Water has a clear signal at Drawbridge in Michigan City. The view was made by the Center Street grade crossing.

The Chicago-bound Blue Water has a clear signal at Drawbridge in Michigan City. The view was made by the Center Street grade crossing.

Crossing the swing bridge over Trail Creek in Michigan City. I was later told that the bridge is now operated by the Amtrak control center in Chicago and that operators are no longer stationed in the tower next to the bridge. In the background is a Northern Indiana Public Service Company power generating plant that receives shipments o coal by rail.

Crossing the swing bridge over Trail Creek in Michigan City. I was later told that the bridge is now operated by the Amtrak control center in Chicago and that operators are no longer stationed in the tower next to the bridge. In the background is a Northern Indiana Public Service Company power generating plant that receives shipments o coal by rail.

A Wolverine Service train twists its way off the NS Chicago Line at Porter and enters the longest stretch of Amtrak-owned rails outside of the Northeast Corridor.

A Wolverine Service train twists its way off the NS Chicago Line at Porter and enters the longest stretch of Amtrak-owned rails outside of the Northeast Corridor.

Think there are enough signs greeting train crews going from NS to Amtrak ownership in Porter? Shown is the rear of the mid-day Wolverine Service train to Detroit (Pontiac).

Think there are enough signs greeting train crews going from NS to Amtrak ownership in Porter? Shown is the rear of the mid-day Wolverine Service train to Detroit (Pontiac).

The last train of the day was the Chicago-bound Wolverine Service mid-day train. The consist had but one Amfleet car amid a sea of Horizon equipment.

The last train of the day was the Chicago-bound Wolverine Service mid-day train. The consist had but one Amfleet car amid a sea of Horizon equipment.

Stabbing Suspect to Undergo Mental Evaluation

December 16, 2014

A judge in Michigan has ordered the suspect charged with stabbing four aboard an Amtrak train to undergo a psychiatric evaluation.

The evaluation will determine if Michael Darnell Williams is mentally fit to stand trial on four counts of assault with intent to murder.

Williams has been charged in connection with an incident aboard the eastbound Blue Water in Niles, Mich., on Dec. 5 in which an Amtrak conductor and three passengers were stabbed.

Williams is being held in the Berrien County Jail on a $1 million bond. Each charge carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.

Niles police used a stun gun to subdue Williams as the train sat in the Niles station.

Several of Williams’ family members have told reporters that Williams, a Saginaw native who was employed as a truck driver, is suffering from paranoid hallucinations that made him fear for his life.

All four of the stabbing victims have since been released from Niles area hospitals.