Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak Illinois service’

New Governor Raises Hopes for Reviving Illinois Service

November 20, 2018

Northern Illinois rail passenger advocates are looking to a new governor to help jump start efforts to reinstate intercity rail passenger service between Chicago and the Quad Cities region of Illinois and Iowa, and between Chicago and Rockford, Illinois.

J.B. Pritzker recently ousted incumbent Governor Bruce Rauner whose administration had not been supportive of the proposed services, which were announced in 2014.

Also giving supporters hope is a favorable vote on an advisory referendum to create a station in Rockford for the proposed service.

A Rockford area state lawmaker, though, still sees a struggle to get the service going.

“It’s gonna be expensive – it’s gonna be a major effort, and if there’s not the political will to do it locally, then we should not head down that path,” said State Senator Steve Stadelman.

Stadelman, though, called the election of Pritzker a new opportunity.

He said he plans to meet with local leaders to gauge their support for the rail service.

Stadelman noted that the new governor has talked about the importance of transportation infrastructure. “I hope he’s willing to take a look at the idea,” Stadelman said.

During the Nov. 6 election, voters in Rockford and Boone and Winnebago counties gave 79 percent approval to the referendum question.

During the administration of former Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, the estimated cost of the proposed service was put at $230 million.

The service would serve a region that has lacked intercity rail service for several decades.

Until 1978, the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific operated a train known as the Quad City Rocket between Chicago and Rock Island, Illinois. That train ran for the final time on Dec. 31.

Amtrak operated the Black Hawk between Chicago and Dubuque, Iowa, between Feb. 17, 1974, and Sept. 30, 1981.

The Black Hawk served Rockford and Freeport and ended during a state budget crunch.

In recent years, the Illinois Department of Transportation has studied reviving Amtrak service to Northwest Illinois using portions of the former Black Hawk and Quad City Rocket routes.

A new station was built in Moline, Illinois, which includes a hotel and shops.

“We’re hoping with the new administration that they’ll put a higher emphasis on passenger rail and keep it moving,” said Ray Forsythe, planning and development director with the City of Moline. We’re pretty excited.”

Funding for the revival of Northwest Illinois intercity rail service was included in the 2009 capital bill, the last one adopted by the Illinois General Assembly.

Lawmakers earmarked $150 million for Amtrak expansion for both the Quad Cities route and service to Dubuque via Rockford, along with money for rail upgrades for the existing line between Chicago and St. Louis.

Initially, the state planned to launch service to Rockford and extend it later to Dubuque.

Service to the Quad Cities was to use a BNSF route already used by other Amtrak trains to Wyanet, Illinois, and then switch to the Iowa Interstate, which owns the former CRI&P tracks.

The Federal Railroad Administration awarded $177.3 million in 2011 to IDOT to complete planning, environmental review, design and construction of the Quad Cities line, with the goal of having two round trips daily.

But Rauner’s inauguration in 2015 resulted in the Northwest Illinois rail service projects being put on hold.

In late 2016, IDOT resumed talks with the Iowa Interstate about using its tracks.

The two parties are discussing track upgrades, including installation of positive train control.

Also on the docket is the connection between the BNSF and Iowa Interstate lines.

However, negotiations with Union Pacific to use its tracks for the Rockford service have not resumed.

IDOT officials have not given a timeline as to when the services might be launched.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said the carrier is interested in operating the Rockford and the Quad Cities routes because studies have found both have high potential for passengers.

Officials say that key to getting the routes started will be passage of another capital bill in the legislature.

A spokeswoman for Pritzker said he is committed to “working across the aisle” to get that done so that it can be used to attract federal grant money.

However, rail advocate will be competing for funding with such other infrastructure needs as roads, water systems and transit agencies.

Union Pacific Track Work to Put Some Lincoln Service Passengers on Buses

August 13, 2018

Track work being performed by Union Pacific between Aug. 28 and 30 will affect some Lincoln Service trains.

Amtrak said in a service advisory that Trains 301 and 303 will be cancelled with alternate transportation will be provided as outlined below:

Bus 3301 will operate limited service as Train 301 between Chicago and St. Louis to the missed stops at Chicago, Joliet, Bloomington-Normal, Springfield, Alton and St. Louis.

Bus 3303 will operate as Train 303 between Chicago and St. Louis to all missed stops including Chicago, Summit, Joliet, Dwight, Pontiac, Bloomington-Normal, Lincoln, Springfield, Carlinville, Alton and St. Louis.

Bus 5003 will operate as Train 303 between Chicago and St. Louis making limited stops at Joliet, Bloomington-Normal, Springfield and Alton.

Trains 300 and 302 also will be cancelled with alternate transportation  provided as outlined below:

Bus 3300 will operate limited service between Springfield and Chicago as Train 300 making stops at Springfield, Lincoln, Bloomington-Normal, Pontiac, Dwight, Joliet, Summit and Chicago.

Bus 5000 will operate as Train 300 between Springfield and Chicago making limited stops at Springfield, Bloomington-Normal and Joliet.

Bus 3302 will operate between St. Louis and Chicago as Train 302 to all missed stops including Alton, Carlinville, Springfield, Lincoln, Bloomington-Normal, Pontiac, Dwight, Joliet and Summit.

Bus 5002 will operate will operate as Train 302 between St. Louis and Chicago making limited stops at Alton, Springfield, Bloomington-Normal and Joliet, only.

The buses will earlier than the respective trains they are replacing.

New Carlinville Station Close to Opening

October 6, 2017

A new Amtrak station in Carlinville, Illinois, is expected to open soon.

A least lease agreement between the city of Carlinville, which owns the building, and Union Pacific, which owns the ground, has been reached.

But the city must work out a lease agreement with Amtrak, but the negotiations have snagged over liability insurance.

“We’re still dilly dallying with the Amtrak lease of the station and the platforms,” said City attorney Rick Bertinetti.” Everything is pretty well getting ironed out in that agreement except for one significant major item that pertains to liability and insurance.”

Bertinetti said he placed language in the lease stating Amtrak would indemnify the city over anything that happens with regard to Amtrak’s use of the platform, its agents, its employees and its passengers.

“We do have a good clause in there as far as indemnity that they have approved,” he said. “Now, we’re just trying to put together what insurances we do have to carry and maintain in effect because of our other agreement to lease the property — the platform in particular — from Union Pacific Railroad.”

Mayor Deanna Demuzio said a meeting has been scheduled with an attorney from Amtrak.

“We hope to get everything finalized very, very soon. This is something we’ve been working on for over a year.”

The Carlinville City Council recently approved a stipulation by the Illinois Department of Transportation for a passenger information display system that will provide passengers with infromation regarding arriving and departing trains.

Bertinetti said the PIDS agreement had to be approved by the council since the displays are improvements to the property and included a grant received by the city.

“We don’t have any monetary obligation here, other than we are the owner,” he said. “We have to carry insurance on it and we’re basically responsible if it gets damaged, vandalized, stolen, something like that. We’ll carry insurance on it, just as we have to carry insurance on the station itself.

Carlinville is served by Amtrak’s Lincoln Service trains and the Chicago-San Antonio Texas Eagle.

Illinois Trains Making Detour in Galesburg

July 13, 2017

Amtrak’s Illinois Zephyr and Carl Sandburg are making a 5.7 mile detour in Galesburg, Illinois, due to work on the new Main Street underpass.

As part of that project, a bridge is being built under the BNSF mainline for Main Street and tracks 2 and 3 are removed until at least noon on Friday.

The regular route for Nos. 380, 381, 382 and 383, uses Track No. 2 through the Galesburg Amtrak station, thus making a detour necessary through the Galesburg yard even it is never more than a half-mile away from the normal route.

Using an eastbound train as an example, the detour route begins at Saluda, the south end of the Galesburg yard complex, and takes the lead to the Graham Cut-off Line.

At the Graham Cut-off connection, Amtrak trains continue compass north, passing beneath the Waterman lead to the Graham Cut-off.
North of the underpass, Amtrak stays on the westernmost (compass direction) track, passing west of the hump and immediately east of the locomotive tracks at the Galesburg shops.

Amtrak trains then stay to the west, pass the Prospect Street switch under the West Third Street overpass, and turns northeast to enter the Ottumwa Subdivision mainline at the west end of A-Plant.

At that point, the trains cross over from Track 3 to Track 1 to serve the Amtrak station, which is unusual for these trains. Track 1 is currently the only open track through town on the former Chicago, Burlington & Quincy mainline.

Illini to Run an Hour Later on Weekdays

April 19, 2017

Amtrak’s Carbondale, Illinois, to Chicago Illini will operate an hour later between April 24 and May 12 due to Canadian National track work.

The schedule change affects only trains operating on Monday through Friday. The Saturday and Sunday schedule of No. 392 remains unchanged.

Arrival times at all intermediate stations will be an hour later.

The Illini is funded largely by the Illinois Department of Transportation.

 

Some Lincoln Service Trains, Texas Eagle to be Disrupted on Dec. 12 by Track Work

December 5, 2016

Amtrak’s Lincoln Service and Texas Eagle will be disrupted on Dec. 12, 2016, due to track work.

300px-Lincoln_Service_map.svgSome Lincoln Service passengers will ride chartered buses while the Eagle will be detoured.

The track work is related to the program to upgrade the Chicago-St. Louis route to allow a top speed of 110 miles per hour in some places.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said that Trains 300, 301, 302 and 303 will be canceled with bus service replacing all trains (except Train 300) at all stations on the route.

The buses will depart earlier than their respective trains. Trains 304, 305, 306 and 307 will run on their normal schedules.

Passengers ticketed on the Texas Eagle to all intermediate stops between Chicago and St. Louis will have the option of riding on a Lincoln Service train or a chartered bus.

This affects passengers at the Illinois cities of Joliet, Pontiac, Bloomington-Normal, Lincoln, Springfield, Carlinville and Alton.

Texas Eagle passengers bound for Chicago or St. Louis will remain aboard the train. Amtrak advises that the Eagle might encounter delays of up to 45 minutes traveling on the detour route.

Moment in Time on the Panama Limited

October 19, 2016

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Amtrak dropped the Panama Limited name from its timetables in early 1981. It was time. Amtrak trains 58 and 59 hardly came close to offering the level of service that the Illinois Central had offered aboard its flagship Chicago-New Orleans passenger train.

Amtrak’s Chicago-New Orleans trains have never come close to offering the elite level of service that the IC offered. Then again, Amtrak didn’t need to offer that type of service, which it is ill suited to provide.

Shown is the northbound Panama Limited arriving in Mattoon, Illinois, in September 1977.

It is a low point in the train’s Amtrak history. Sleeping cars were removed in January 1977 when the train received Amfleet equipment. Also removed was the full-service diner. Passengers on this day had to be content with an Amcafe offering.

But the train had checked baggage service and sleepers would return in a few months.

It was common in the late 1970s for Nos. 58 and 59 to be pulled by a lone P30CH. Class unit No. 700 is doing the honors today as the baggage man watches the platform.

Some Lincoln Service Passengers to be Bused

March 2, 2016

Track work will result in some Lincoln Service passengers being transported by bus in mid-March.

Amtrak said the affected trains are Nos. 302, 303, 306 and 307 between St. Louis and Springfield.

Amtrak logoOn March 12, Train No. 307 will operate normally from Chicago to Springfield, but passengers will be bused to St. Louis and all intermediate stations.

On March 13, Trains 302 and 306 will be replaced with bus service at all stations from St. Louis to Springfield. At Springfield, passengers will board their respective train to their destination.

The buses are expected to leave earlier than the published times for the trains in order to allow for adequate connection time in Springfield.

Trains 303 and 307 will operate normally from Chicago to Springfield where passengers will board buses for St. Louis and all intermediate stations.

On March 14, Trains 302 and 306 will be replaced with bus service at all stations from St. Louis to Springfield. At Springfield, passengers will board the respective train to their destination.

The buses will depart earlier than the published times for the trains.

Train No. 303 will operate normally from Chicago to Springfield with passengers bused to St. Louis and all intermediate stations.

Amtrak said in a service advisory that the track work is being undertaken by Union Pacific to perform track and signal upgrades in preparation for 110 mph speeds to the Lincoln Service route.

IDOT Intends to Finish High-Speed Rail Project

February 10, 2016

Despite a budget stalemate and the desire of the governor to reduce spending on Amtrak service, the Illinois Department of Transportation expects to spend all of the $1.1 billion in federal funds it has been awarded to upgrade the Chicago-St. Louis corridor to higher speed rail.

IDOT faces a Sept. 30, 2017, deadline to spend the money or else return to the federal government what it has not spent.

IDOTDuring a meeting in Lockport, Illinois, this week, IDOT officials said the budget standoff between Gov. Bruce Rauner and the General Assembly won’t affect work on the high-speed rail project.

Scott Speegle, IDOT’s passenger rail marketing manager, said the department continues to work with the Federal Railroad Administration on the project and intends to meet the 2017 deadline.

Speegle spoke at the Gladys Fox Museum at the invitation of the Blackhawk Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society.

The high-speed rail program began in 2010 and involves upgrading the corridor in some places to a 110 mph top speed.

Illinois is providing $850 million of the cost of the $1.95 million project, which includes $637 million for track and structure improvements; $194 million for grade crossings, fencing and bridge improvements; and $609 million for rolling stock and equipment.

“I don’t think it’s a secret, certainly not to most folks, but right now we’re in some respects in a holding pattern primarily due to the [state’s] budget and financial situation,” Speegle said in reference to the budget fight.

Also in limbo are other rail and station improvement projects, including an extension of Amtrak service from Chicago to Rockford and the Quad Cities region.

“None have been canceled, but until funding is identified, they probably won’t be moving forward at this point any time soon,” Speegle said.

The Chicago-St. Louis corridor has 11 stations and is served by four daily Lincoln Service roundtrips and the Chicago-San Antonio Texas Eagle.

Ground Broken for New Amtrak Station in Dwight

August 11, 2015

Groundbreaking was held today in Dwight, Illinois, for a new $3.77 million station to serve Amtrak.

The 800-square-foot depot will provide shelter and restrooms for Lincoln Service passengers. Seven trains stop in Dwight, which is located 92 miles southwest of Chicago Union Station.

“We believe that it’s an economic development grower,” said Village Administrator Kevin McNamara.

The original Dwight station still stands and is the home of the Dwight Main Street Program office. Built for the Chicago & Alton in 1891, the station features the stone architecture of its era.

The new Amtrak station in Dwight will be paid for with federal money meant to improve high-speed rail across the country.

Local officials hope that the new facility will encourage an increase in the number of people who commute to work in Chicago by rail.