Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak in Illinois’

Review Puts Illinois Amtrak Expansion on Hold

February 4, 2015

Expansion of Amtrak service to Rockford, Ill., and to the Quad Cities region of Illinois and Iowa is on hold by order of  Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner while his administration reviews them.

Rauner, who defeated incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn last November, had pledged to review all spending by the state. Service to Rockford had been projected to begin in late 2015.

The announcement prompted Rockford area officials to proclaim their continued support for the service.

“I would argue that anything you can do to improve transportation infrastructure economically benefits the Rockford region and the state,” said state Senator Steve Stadelman. “So it’s something that needs to go ahead no matter what our financial situation is.”

Rockford Settles on Site for Amtrak Station

January 7, 2015

Rockford, Ill., officials have decided on a site for a station for a proposed Amtrak service to Chicago.

The city is reported to be interested in a combination train station and parking deck at the site of the former Tapco building downtown.

The site, one of three that was considered, is south of a planned $53 million hotel-conference center by Gorman & Co. in the former Amerock building.

That project will cost $10 million to $12 million and include 300 to 400 parking spaces.

“What we’re trying to do is combine the train station with a parking structure to reduce that cost,” said City Administrator Jim Ryan to the Rockford City Council, The Amtrak service, which would be funded in part by the Illinois Department of Transportation,  is expected to begin between in late 2015 with one daily round trip.

IDOT plans to spend $223 million to upgrade Union Pacific tracks between Rockford and Elgin. Amtrak has said it would expand service in 2016 and eventually hopes to extend the route to Dubuque, Iowa. Funding of the track upgrade is part of a six-year $31 billion capital plan that outgoing Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn approved in 2009.

It is not known yet if Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner will support the rail project.

 

Illini, Saluki to Have Shorter Trips on Dec. 15

December 15, 2014

Amtrak’s Saluki and Illini will operate today (Dec. 15) between Chicago and Champaign, Ill., due to track work being performed by host railroad Canadian National.

Passengers bound for or originating at points south of Champaign will complete their journey by bus.

Amtrak said that the southbound buses will operate on slightly later schedules than the trains due to the longer travel times between stations while the northbound buses will operate on earlier schedules.

Consequently, No. 390, the northbound Saluki will operate 30 minutes later than the normal train schedule, departing Champaign at 10:44 a.m.

The Saluki and Illini normally operate between Chicago and Carbondale, Ill., and are funded by the Illinois Department of Transportation.

Amtrak Adds Service in Illinois for Holiday Travel

November 13, 2014

Amtrak announced that it will operate additional service for the Thanksgiving travel period on the Lincoln Service and Chicago-Quincy, Ill., routes.

Trains will operate on Nov. 30 between Chicago and Bloomington/Normal, Ill., and between Chicago and Quincy corridor, via Galesburg and Macomb.

In order to accommodate the additional round-trip on Nov. 30, train No. 300 will depart St. Louis 35 minutes earlier than usual and train No. 301 will depart Chicago 30 minutes earlier than usual, with both trains operating on a modified schedule that day only.

To accommodate an additional round-trip on Nov. 30, train No. 383 (Illinois Zephyr) will depart Chicago 20 minutes later than usual and operate on a modified timetable to Quincy that day only.

For the full holiday schedule, go to www.amtrak.com.

Amtrak Renews Dispute with CN Over Dispatching

September 3, 2014

Seeking to force Canadian National to provide better handling of its Chicago-Carbondale, Ill., Saluki and Illini, Amtrak lodged an amended complaint with the Surface Transportation Board seeking an investigation of CN’s dispatching practices. Amtrak claims that these have caused unacceptable train delays on the Chicago to Carbondale corridor.

The complaint said that on-time performance of the State of Illinois supported Illini and Saluki service was 49 percent for the quarter ending June 30 and 42 percent for the prior quarter.

The on-time performance of the four trains has been less than 80 percent for three years and less than 60 percent for most of that time. Amtrak cited Section 213 of the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act which mandates that the STB initiate an investigation upon the filing of a complaint by Amtrak if the on-time performance of an intercity passenger train falls below 80 percent for two consecutive quarters.

Under federal law, Amtrak has a statutory right to preference in the dispatching of intercity passenger trains before freight trains. The amended complaint is part of the same case that Amtrak filed with the STB regarding CN’s performance in January 2012.

Those proceedings were stayed while Amtrak and CN attempted to address the issue of delays informally.

Amtrak said the recent poor performance of the Saluki and Illini prompted it to ask the STB to investigate the causes of delay and to award damages and other relief if violations of Amtrak’s right to preference are found.

CN spokesman Mark Hallman told Trains magazine that the railroad will respond to Amtrak’s investigation request to the STB. The City of New Orleans between Chicago and New Orleans also uses the same CN tracks as the Saluki and Illini.

Illinois Seeking Increase in Amtrak Service

August 22, 2014
The southbound Illini is about to make its stop at Mattoon, Ill., as a northbound Canadian National freight train clears the station in August 2014.

The southbound Illini is about to make its stop at Mattoon, Ill., as a northbound Canadian National freight train clears the station in August 2014.

The state of Illinois is talking about expanding Amtrak service on the Chicago-Carbondale, Ill., corridor, which already sees six daily trains, four of them funded by the state.

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin recently wrote to Amtrak to suggest that it offer additional service. Their letter noted that ridership has grown 117 percent since 2006 to nearly 400,000 passengers a year.

“Expanding service on this corridor will continue the great progress Illinois has made to improve passenger rail service throughout the state,” the letter said.

Amtrak’s Illinois service is funded by $10.5 million provided by the state. The Carbondale route is particularly popular with students attending University of Illinois and Southern Illinois University. Adding another round trip would help ease overcrowding and expand Illinois service. Quinn and Durbin requested that Amtrak start a formal feasibility study “as soon as possible,” though it is not clear where the additional subsidy funding would come from.

Scheduling of trains over the busy former Illinois Central main line could be an issue. “We do have some issues with the folks who own the tracks, CN” Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said. “And we do have some issues with how they’re handling our trains.” Amtrak has set no deadline for when it will schedule the feasibility study for the expansion of service.

State-funded trains on the corridor include the Saluki, which operates in both directions in the morning and the Illini, which operates in the evening. Also service the route is the City of New Orleans between Chicago and New Orleans.

CN Called Out for on Amtrak Delays in Illinois

August 22, 2014

During a public hearing this week Illinois Senator Dick Durbin said Amtrak’s on-time performance is threatening the success of passenger rail in that state.

“Ridership and revenue are at all-time highs for Amtrak, and unfortunately so are delays. Late trains and unnecessary delays turn passengers away from Amtrak and can slow the incredible growth we have seen so far,” Durbin said.

Amtrak’s on-time performance has suffered the most along the Chicago-Champaign-Carbondale route owned and operated by CN, according to Durbin. The Illini and Saluki trains are arriving on time only 49 percent of the time, he said.

The route is also served by the Chicago-New Orleans long-distance train the City of New Orleans. Also attending the meeting in Champaign were Surface Transportation Board Chairman Dan Elliott and Amtrak board member Tom Carper. Elliott is meeting with community leaders throughout Illinois to discuss the delays along routes operated by Canadian National.

“We’re investing almost $2 billion in federal funds into our passenger rail infrastructure in the state,” Durbin said. “These funds are building new locomotives and train cars that will be used here in Champaign and across the Midwest. We cannot let these investments go to waste due to unnecessary freight train interference. Canadian National’s lack of cooperation with the State of Illinois and Amtrak is disappointing and I encourage them to step up and make the changes necessary to improve Amtrak service.”

In January 2012, Amtrak filed a complaint with the STB about CN’s interference of Amtrak trains on the Chicago-Champaign-Carbondale corridor.

Amtrak and CN have tried to mediate the issue through the STB, but Amtrak’s on-time performance has continued to decline and CN has been more “recalcitrant” since a recent D.C. Circuit Court decision that invalidated Amtrak’s on-time performance metrics, according to Durbin’s press release.

Amtrak has indicated it will seek to reopen the case and the STB to rule on it.

Under its contact, CN’s on-time performance is measured based on whether the train moves across the Class I’s route in the pre-set number of minutes. Since winter ended, on-time performance of the Illini and Saluki has improved significantly as fluidity across CN’s North American rail network has slowly improved, said CN spokesman Patrick Waldron.

“Amtrak’s on-time performance figures recently published in the press incorporate delays not attributable to or involving CN, such as delays at stations, delays as the result of Amtrak equipment problems, or delays as the result of trains not coming to CN at the scheduled times,” said Waldron. “CN has provided the state of Illinois and Amtrak several proposals for infrastructure investments to add capacity and reduce passenger delays, particularly for the Illini train, on this busy and congested passenger and freight corridor.”

In 2008, Durbin helped pass legislation that gave STB the authority to enforce Amtrak’s rights to the rails. Last month, Durbin called on the STB to exercise its authority to investigate the causes of Amtrak delays and enforce on-time performance standards.

Earlier this month, Durbin wrote to Amtrak’s president and CEO Joe Boardman and its board chairman, Anthony Coscia, asking for a study to increase the number of trains along the Chicago-Carbondale line.

Quad Cities Amtrak Service Start Delayed Again

May 19, 2014

Amtrak service between Chicago and the Quad Cities region of Illinois and Iowa will be delayed until after 2015 due to additional time being needed for track rehabilitation.

Jae Miller, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Transportation, said that a section of Iowa Interstate Railroad track between a BNSF Railway connection at Wyanet and Moline, Ill., needs more work to make it ready for passenger service than was considered when the application for federal money was made in 2010.

“This additional work also means that the start of service has been delayed; a public construction and operational start-up schedule will be announced later this year,” Miller said.

IDOT had expected the service to begin in late 2015.

Paul Rumler, a Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce executive who has been the area’s top advocate for passenger rail service, says the delay isn’t surprising. “It’s not too surprising that they’ve hit new issues that will take a little more time,” he says. “I’m not discouraged.”

The delay is the latest since the federal government announced in late 2010 that $230 million had been awarded for a link between Chicago and Iowa City, Iowa.

Work Underway to Build Moline Amtrak Station

May 14, 2014

Although Amtrak service is a good two years away, work is going ahead on establishing a station in Moline, Ill., a city that has never had Amtrak service.

The depot will be housed in a vacant warehouse on 4th Avenue and 12th Street. Workers recently began stripping lead paint and prepping the soon-to-be train station for construction. City officials expect to have the station open in late 2015, before the train service begins in 2016.

“Things are going slow, but progress is being made,” said City Administrator Lew Steinbrecher.

Although the station is still being designed, the complex will include a new 85-unit hotel, restaurant and retail businesses.

“This is also being designed as multi-modal station because you do have direct connection to the bus service, directly tracks at the Metrolink facility,” Steinbrecher said.”There will be service directly out to the airport from here.”

Steinbrecher said it’ll also connect pedestrian and bike paths to the riverfront trail. The project will more than $20 million with half being provided by federal funding, $5 million from state funding and $1 million from the city.

“This really helps define the Quad Cities, not just Moline but the entire Quad Cities really as a suburb of Chicago, if you will,” Steinbrecher said.

The Bi-State Regional Commission has been eying Chicago-Quad Cities rail service for more than a decade.

“This one will go from Quad Cities to Geneseo, to an area where they will have to build new track called Wyanet and then connect into the Chicago area,” said Gena McCullough planning director of the Bi-State Regional Commission. The route will be 162 miles.

Illinois Town Upset About Being Bypassed

April 17, 2014

Recently announced plans to launch Amtrak service between Chicago and Rockford, Ill., have upset officials in a town that is being bypassed. In fact, you could say that city officials in Genoa are downright angry about it.

“The whole way this was handled was disgraceful,” Genoa Mayor Mark Vicary said. “We just found out about this [Thursday] night. It’s a travesty, and it was taken away from us in the darkness of the night.”

Genoa officials had expected the train to use Canadian National tracks that pass through their town. Illinois Department of Transportation officials has expected that to be the case, too.

But negotiations with CN to use the former Illinois Central route failed to conclude in an agreement, so IDOT struck a deal with Union Pacific, which agreed to allow the train to use a former Chicago & North Western route via Huntley and Belvidere.

The Chicago-Rockford service, which IDOT hopes to launch in 2015, is expected to eventually be extended to Dubuque, Iowa. That would involve having to use the CN route. Until 1981, the former IC route hosted Amtrak’s Black Hawk between Chicago and Dubuque. That service ended following budget cuts that reduced the money available to IDOT to pay for Amtrak service.

The Genoa Area Chamber of Commerce is sending letters to its members asking them to reach out to Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn to voice their support for the city stop.

“We had no idea this was something that was going to happen,” says Cortney Strohacker, the chamber’s executive director. “We were looking forward to the economic development opportunities it would bring, and were looking forward to not only having Amtrak available for us, but for others who wanted to come to Genoa.”


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