Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak in Illinois’

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.

NB Saluki to Operate 2 Hours Earlier

June 29, 2017

Amtrak’s northbound Saluki will operate two hours earlier on weekdays between July 19 and Aug. 4.

The schedule change is due to Canadian National track work. The schedule change will not affect the operation of No. 390 on weekends when it will depart its originating station in Carbondale, Illinois, at 7:30 a.m.

The weekday schedule of the Saluki during the affected time period will put it two hours behind the scheduled times of the northbound City of New Orleans.

The Saluki makes stops in Du Quoin, Rantoul and Gilman, Illinois, that are skipped by No. 58.

Future of Alton Amtrak Station Remains Murky

June 14, 2017

The future of the soon-to-be former Amtrak station in Alton, Illinois, remains murky and city officials say there is little they can do about it.

“The city is out of the loop, the inquiries are to go to Union Pacific,” said Greg Caffey, Alton’s director of development and housing.

UP owns the former Gulf, Mobile & Ohio depot and has said it will have it razed if no one comes forward with a plan to move the 89-year-old structure away from its current site at 3400 College Avenue.

The city has been trying to find a new owner for the station, but Caffey said UP has not informed him of any solid offer from a group wanting to buy and move the station.

Calli Hite, director of corporate communications for UP said in a statement that the railroad continues to evaluate options for the depot. “We do not have a timeline for a decision,” she said.

Amtrak leases the station from UP but plans to move this year to the under construction Alton Regional Multi-Modal Transportation Center.

The facility is expected to be completed this month although Amtrak and the city have yet to agree on a lease for the national passenger carrier to use it.

Under terms of the $13.85 million federal grant being used to fund development of the new station, it must be completed by June 30.

It is located at the former Robert P. Wadlow Municipal Golf Course, Golf Road at Homer Adams Parkway.

The grant also include money to raze the existing station, but UP would have to pay for that work on it own if it is not completed by Sept. 30.

Caffey said Amtrak would not likely move to the new station until mid or late July.

Terry Sharp, president of Alton Area Landmarks Association, said this week that although his organization has sought to generate interest in saving the College Avenue depot, time appears to be running out.

“We don’t have anything lined up; the last three to four months, myself and the group from Facebook (Save the Alton Train Station) have explored different ways in how to do it,” he said.

A St. Louis company that specializes in moving structures estimates it would cost $150,000 to move the 1,602-square-foot brick station to Gordon F. Moore Community Park or Rock Spring Park.

However, the city has said it doesn’t have any use for the station and therefore doesn’t want to be responsible for it.

UP has said it would sell the station for $1 and take a tax write off, but whoever buys it must pay to move it to a location off railroad property.

Sharp said it is hard to plan to move a building when no one has determined a destination.

“It is kind of a circular problem, trying to find a place to go and figure out a use for it,” he said. “I didn’t want to dump it on the city. They could work out a use for it, maybe it could be a concession stand, maybe they could put it at the entrance to Gordon Moore Park. Maybe they could use it as a clubhouse at Rock Springs Golf Course. I am trying to find a use for it. I am trying to find a place for it. I am going around in circles. I have talked to developers, businessmen and (an attorney) trying to get some interest, trying to pick their brains,” he said.

Sharp said another challenge is overcoming the lack of interest in the community toward saving the depot. “People talk about how great old train stations are that are still around, but we haven’t gotten a lot of public sentiment,” he said. “Maybe when it gets closer to the deadline. I was hoping this would be part of the (April 4) election, but none of the candidates brought it up. We’ve tried, I said I would try, but nothing has clicked.”

Texas Eagle Delayed 10 Hours En route to St. Louis

May 24, 2017

A detouring Texas Eagle this week got stuck behind a disabled freight train on Monday in Tuscola, Illinois, and wound up being delayed 10 hours.

The westbound Eagle had departed Chicago on time and was detouring over the former Chicago & Eastern Illinois route of Union Pacific due to track work being done on its regular route via Springfield, Illinois.

No. 21 did not arrive in St. Louis until 3:30 a.m. An Amtrak spokesperson said that a two-hour delay was expected, but not a 10-hour one.

“We were alerted by Amtrak that there might be some delays because apparently there is work on the track,” said passenger Janelle Jones. “Our first delay was about a three-hour standstill. They kept us pretty apprised of what was going on, they let people off the train for a smoke break and what not.

“Then we traveled for about an hour and then we stopped for another three hours. There was a lot of communication at that point that we were gonna get started as soon as possible. We rolled for about five minutes and then the communication stopped and we were at a standstill for another three hours. No one would tell us why we weren’t moving. Apparently, the crew had to switch out because they had been on board for 12 hours, so they were tired.”

Amtrak officials could not say when crew change occurred.

Jones said the café car was open until about 10 p.m.. “There were some hungry people on the train,” Jones said.

 

Texas Eagle to Detour in Texas May 24-June 21

May 16, 2017

The detours just keep coming for Amtrak’s Texas Eagle. Nos. 21 and 22 will detour in in Texas between Longview and Taylor starting May 24 and extending through June 21.

Passengers at intermediate stations will begin or end their journey on a chartered bus.

The buses will travel southbound from Longview and northbound from Austin.

The Eagle will not be serving Dallas or Fort Worth, but will be using a freight-only route that will be faster than the train’s normal route.

No. 21 will use a former Cotton Belt route between Big Sandy and Tyler, then a former Southern Pacific route to Corsicana, then the former Texas & New Orleans to Hearne, Texas, before getting on the former Missouri Pacific west to Taylor.

No. 22 will use the ex-MoPac from Taylor to Longview via Hearne, Buffalo, Palestine and Jacksonville.

“This detour will provide the opportunity for some unusual mileage for rare mileage fans,” Amtrak said in an email sent to ticketed passengers affected by the Texas detour.

No. 21 will depart all stations between Chicago and Longview one hour later than scheduled, but is expected to resume its regular schedule at Taylor.

No. 22 will operate on its regular schedule from San Antonio to Taylor, but run an hour earlier from Longview to Chicago.

The detour has been prompted by extensive track work by Union Pacific between Longview and Dallas.

The Texas detour will come on the heels of a detour between Chicago and St. Louis between May 16 and May 23, although No. 22 will use the detour route through May 24.

That rerouting involves the former Chicago & Eastern Illinois passenger route via Pana and Villa Grove, Illinois.

Springfield Wants to Close Grade Crossings

May 8, 2017

Four grade crossings in Springfield, Illinois, on Amtrak’s Chicago-St. Louis corridor may be closed and others improved, which will lead to faster speeds through the capital city of Illinois.

Springfield Mayor Jim Langfelder said the city plans to ask the Illinois Commerce Commission for authority to close crossings at Allen, Canedy, Cedar, Jackson and Union streets.

The remaining crossing of the Union Pacific crossings used by Amtrak trains will receive safety upgrades.

When the crossings work is completed, Amtrak trains will be allowed to travel at 40 mph in Springfield compared with the current 25 mph speed limit.

Longer term, rail traffic through downtown Springfield will be placed along the 10th Street rail corridor.

The city is served by Lincoln Service trains and the Texas Eagle. Those trains operate on former Gulf, Mobile & Ohio tracks along Third Street.

Work is expected to begin soon on improvements at the South Grand Avenue crossing, and $575,000 in land acquisition and demolition costs for improvements at the Fourth Street and North Grand Avenue crossings.

“The state will be installing new traffic controllers and traffic-signal interconnects along South Grand Avenue from Second to Fourth streets,” said city engineer Nate Bottom.

Bottom said similar work is planned at the remaining Third Street crossings.

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.

 

Macomb Approves Contract for Station Work

March 22, 2017

The City of Macomb, Illinois, has agreed to a sublease and reimbursement agreement with Amtrak for handicapped accessibility improvements at the Macomb depot. The city council has authorized solicitation of construction bids.

In response to a question from an alderman as to why a $4,500 design contract was necessary if Amtrak had provided construction specifications, a city official said that the federal plans were too detailed for local work.

“This is a pilot project to see if costs can be reduced,” said a representative of the consulting firm doing the work. “The front-end documents are very complicated and geared toward projects in large cities.”

Macomb Mayor Mike Inman said that former mayor and current Amtrak board member Tom Carper sold the passenger carrier on Macomb as the pilot project site with the idea to reduce costs.

“He knew we could probably simplify the process,” Inman said.

NB CONO Operating 4 Hours Later untill April 1

March 9, 2017

The northbound City of New Orleans is being rescheduled to operate four hours later between March 6 and April 1 due to Canadian National track work.

No. 58 will during that time frame depart from New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal at 5:45 p.m., and operate four hours later at all stations from New Orleans to Carbondale, Illinois.

North of Cardonable, No. 58 will operate on the schedule of No. 390, the northbound Saluki, and make all station stops served by No. 390.

That means that No. 58 will be stopping in Illinois at DuQuoin, Rantoul and Gillman, stations that it normally does not serve.

In order to provide three daily trains from Carbondale to Chicago, Amtrak will operate an extra train, No. 1158.

Passengers who hold tickets for travel on No. 58 between March 6 and April 1 will instead travel on No. 1158.

That train will operate on the schedule of No. 58 and serve all of its stations. It will use the equipment normally assigned to No. 390.

The northbound schedule for Train 392 (Illini) and the southbound schedules for Trains 59 (City of New Orleans), 391 (Saluki) and 393 (Illini) are unchanged for this period.

Can NIMBYs Kill the Hiawatha Expansion?

February 10, 2017

If Amtrak had just put on the three additional Hiawatha Service roundtrips that Illinois and Wisconsin want, no one except passengers and rail passenger advocates would have been the wiser.

But the proposed expansion of Amtrak’s Hiawatha Service isn’t going to work that way and as a result there has been a NIMBY uprising in suburban Chicago that threatens to scuttle the expansion.

Hiawatha 2The Wisconsin Department of Transportation and Illinois Department of Transportation, which fund the existing service, want to expand the number of Chicago-Milwaukee trains from seven to 10.

As part of that expansion, a holding track for Canadian Pacific freight trains would be built in suburban Chicago.

Because public money is involved an environmental assessment, which examines various facets of the proposed expansion, was conducted.

Once that became public last October, the NIMBY opposition began, citing the usual arguments that opponents of new or expanded rail passenger service make everywhere, e.g., noise, pollution, increased traffic congestion, vibration and diminished property values.

What makes the suburban Chicago dispute different is that it involves a rail line that already has a high level of passenger service.

It is likely that many of the NIMBYs are regular or occasional Metra users. The property owners along the Chicago-Milwaukee route are accustomed to train traffic passing their neighborhoods. They may not like it, but they know they can’t stop it.

The news media coverage largely has failed to explain the particulars of why the holding track is part of the expansion plan. It is the result of operating constraints affecting three railroads and ordinary people don’t have much interest in such matters.

Freight trains bound for CP’s Bensenville Yard near Chicago O’Hare International Airport sometimes hold on the mainline north of Rondout in Lake Forest as they wait for permission to enter in Northbrook a Union Pacific route that CP trains use to access Bensenville Yard.

As early as 2007, WisDOT began studying traffic patterns on the Chicago-Milwaukee Route in preparation for expanded Hiawatha Service.

Computer modeling exercises and meetings of operating officials of the three railroads using the corridor – Amtrak, CP and Metra – identified choke points and operating challenges.

The proposed capital improvements that came out of those meetings – including the holding track – were designed to minimize the need for trains of all three railroads to wait on the mainline for other traffic to clear.

The holding track was a way of shifting where CP freights would sit as they waited for the UP to give permission to enter its territory.

Had the railroads agreed to host the expanded Hiawatha Service within the existing infrastructure, the NIMBY opposition would never have materialized because they would not have noticed the increase in Amtrak traffic.

The NIMBYs want the FRA to order that a full environmental impact statement be conducted, probably in the hope that it will confirm their point of view. They also are playing for time, hoping that the holding track idea will go away or that the railroads will build it somewhere else.

Some of the public officials who have jumped on the NIMBY train might be playing for federal and state money to make infrastructure improvements their cities could not afford otherwise.

In the end the Hiawatha expansion may never come about, but not necessarily because of the NIMBYs.

Additional passenger equipment is needed and it is unclear when that will become available. The new locomotives expected to be used on Amtrak Midwest corridor routes are being built, but new passenger cars have been delayed and there is a looming September deadline to spend the federal grant awarded to pay for those cars.

It also is unclear if Illinois and Wisconsin are committed to paying the operating costs of the additional Hiawathas. Keeping the funding level high enough to afford the existing corridor service of the two states is a challenge as it is.

Many of the arguments being made by the NIMBYs are unsubstantiated and emotionally overwrought. The FRA won’t take those seriously.

And some of the opposition by public officials is opportunistic. It doesn’t cost them to side with the NIMBYs and might gain them a few political brownie points. The FRA knows that, too.

What remains to be seen is whether this political posturing eventually will result in the political clout that could be brought to bear to kill the public funding needed to pay for the expanded service. This risk is just one of the prices today, of intercity passenger service.