Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak in Illinois’

Track Work to Disrupt Carl Sandberg

January 23, 2019

Track work being performed on Jan. 29 will disrupt operations of Amtrak’s Carl Sandburg between Galesburg and Quincy, Illinois.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said that Train No. 381 will operate between Chicago and Galesburg on that date, but passengers bound for Macomb and Quincy will ride a bus to their destination.

Train 382 will originate in Galesburg with passengers riding a bus to there from Quincy and Macomb. That bus, numbered 3382, will depart Quincy at 4:30 p.m. and operate 60 minutes earlier than the train.

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Amtrak Still Willing to Serve Rockford

January 19, 2019

An Amtrak spokesman recently told an audience in Rockford, Illinois, that the carrier wants to return to their city, but there are no firms plans to do that at this time.

Marc Magliari, who is based in Chicago, said the State of Illinois needs to decide what type of rail service it wants in Rockford, whether it be Amtrak or commuter rail.

“This is an area that’s unserved. We’d like to connect this part of the network to the rest of the network,” Magliari at a meeting of T.R.A.I.N. Illinois, a passenger advocacy group.

Amtrak service to Rockford ended in 1981 when the state ended its funding of the Chicago-Dubuque, Iowa, Black Hawk.

In recent years the Illinois Department of Transportation has studied reinstating intercity rail service to Rockford, but those efforts slowed during the administration of Gov. Bruce Rauner, who was defeated in November in his re-election bid.

Magliari said Illinois transportation policy makers will meet next month to discuss the future of passenger rail in the state.

The Illinois Department of Transportation funds corridor service from Chicago to Milwaukee, St. Louis, Quincy and Carbondale.

As for returning service to Rockford, Magliari said, “The route hasn’t been chosen, there’s been discussion about various routes, there’s been discussion about extending commuter rail service here but in the end if this many people get together to say they want service, we’ll come out and talk and that’s what we’re doing tonight.”

It’s The Turboliner Era All Over Again

January 16, 2019

I posted earlier this month about how the promised “high speeds” on the Chicago-St. Louis corridor have yet to materialize despite $1.95 million having been spent to rebuild the route to allow for 110-mile per hour operation.

Instead, the top speed for Lincoln Service trains and the Texas Eagle is 79 mph, which means that Chicago-St. Louis trains go no faster than, say, Chicago-Carbondale trains.

Trains in the Chicago-St. Louis corridor did travel 110 mph for a time in what Amtrak spokesman Marc Magilari later described as a demonstration project.

So when are higher speeds finally going to become routine for Lincoln Service trains?

The latest word from the Illinois Department of Transportation is that we might see 90 mph speeds this year.

But 110 mph? IDOT won’t go there anymore in predicting when that will happen.

The explanation being given for the delay is the positive train control system that will make higher speeds possible is still being tested.

There is probably a lot of truth to that given that PTC is a relatively new form of technology.

But even when the PTC is ready to go, it will hardly make the Chicago-St. Louis corridor a high-speed operation.

IDOT has said 90 mph speeds will shave 15 minutes off the travel time from the Windy City to the Gateway City.

That doesn’t like seem like much given how much money has been spent on this project.

But then again this was never intended to result in a high-speed rail project even if it might have been framed that way.

The term high-speed rail gets thrown out a lot in this country and when it does many people think of super trains such as the Japanese Shinkansen, the German ICE or maybe even Amtrak’s Acela Express.

Some of those overseas trains have taken on mythical stature in American minds and when I give presentations on transportation history I’m often asked when the United States will have such trains outside the Northeast Corridor.

My standard answer is not in your lifetime because there is too much political opposition and not enough money to make it happen.

Even in Europe where transportation policy makers look more favorable on intercity rail transportation it can take at least a decade to develop a new rail line.

It is hardly news that even in a best-case scenario the efforts to develop the Chicago-St. Louis were never going to result in a high-speed rail line the length of the corridor.

At best it could result in a corridor with high-speed rail in some places but many other places where even 79 mph would be a dramatic improvement.

There is slower going in the Chicago and St. Louis terminals, but also in en route cities such as Springfield where city officials have been talking about putting all of the rail lines into a single corridor for as long as I can remember.

Every so often I run across a news story reporting some progress in those efforts, but it has been incremental.

No one has come up with a viable plan to boost speeds in metropolitan Chicago and St. Louis, only through the corn and soybean fields of the hinterlands.

All of this reminds me of when Amtrak introduced French-built Turboliners to the Chicago-St. Louis corridor in October 1973.

They were capable of traveling 125 mph but couldn’t go any faster than – you guessed it – 79 mph on track then owned by the Illinois Central Gulf.

Super fast running, though, was not the point of introducing the Turboliners an Amtrak official confided to the late David P. Morgan, the editor of Trains magazine.

The purpose of the Turboliners was to show Amtrak was doing something to improve intercity rail passenger service other than making cosmetic changes to equipment that had been built before, during or shortly after World War II.

Come to think of it, the same could be said about the money spent to rebuild the Chicago-St. Louis corridor.

It is a way of showing that something is being done to improve intercity rail service between two cities that if they were located in Europe or Asia would already have had frequent high-speed rail service.

Presumably, Amtrak and host railroad Union Pacific will get the kinks worked out and someday trains will cruise at 90 mph and, maybe, 110 mph.

The Turboliners would have been right at home there. But they were removed from service more than two decades ago and are now just a footnote in the history of a corridor still looking to become something better than what it has been since Amtrak started 47 years ago.

Saluki Route to be Shortened for Track Work

January 12, 2019

Canadian National track work will result in Amtrak’s Saluki being canceled between Carbondale and Champaign, Illinois, on Jan. 22

Train 390 will originate in Champaign, departing at 10:45 am, which is 31 minutes later than the normal schedule

Arrival and departure times at Rantoul, Gilman, Kankakee and Homewood will be 31 minutes later than normal.

Alternate service is being provided by bus from Carbondale to Champaign at the intermediate stations of DuQuoin, Centralia, Effingham and Mattoon.

Train 391 will run on its normal schedule from Chicago but will terminate at Champaign and its equipment used to makeup that day’s No. 390.

Alternate bus service will be provided to stations from Champaign to Carbondale.

Higher Speeds Continue to Elude Chicago-St. Louis Line

January 4, 2019

Although some $1.95 million has been spent to rebuild the Chicago-St. Louis corridor for speeds of 110 miles per hour operation, the route still has a top speed of 79 mph.

The Illinois Department of Transportation, which oversaw the rebuilding, had said 90 mph top speeds would be allowed in 2018, but that didn’t happen.

The agency is no longer willing to say when 110 mph running will be possible.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch recently reported that higher speeds have been kept at bay due to delays in installing and testing new GPS-related safety technology.

IDOT now says that a top speed of 90 mph will go into effect between Alton and Springfield next summer with those speeds being implemented on the rest of the route by the end of 2019.

A top speed of 90 mph would cut the 5.5 hour Chicago-St. Louis travel time by about 15 minutes.

Although IDOT had predicted at one point that the corridor would see 110 mph speeds by 2019, an agency spokesperson said host railroad Union Pacific is still working with the state to test and place into service a positive train control system that will allow those speeds.

UP owns 25 miles of the 285-mile Chicago-St. Louis route. Amtrak is also working with other carriers that own segments of the corridor to achieve higher speeds.

The spokesperson said it was difficult at the present time to estimate when 110-mph speeds will be permitted because further work is needed on the PTC systems.

The spokesperson also said Amtrak continues to upgrade software on its locomotives to communicate with the PTC system and IDOT is committed to working toward 110 mph speeds as soon as possible.

She said it also hinges on such other factors as how soon a second track is built in a national prairie area south of Joliet.

UP spokeswoman Hannah Bolte said her railroad is “100 percent committed” to doing what’s necessary to achieve 110 mph on the route, but added that the Federal Railroad Administration must approve the PTC systems.

Rick Harnish, executive director of the Midwest High Speed Rail Association, called the delays “incredibly frustrating,” but acknowledged that PTC testing will take time because the technology is new.

Even when the PTC systems are up and running the higher speeds on the route will be limited to rural areas outside the St. Louis and Chicago metro areas.

IDOT Survey to Ask About Amtrak Service

December 13, 2018

The Illinois Department of Transportation is conducting an online survey that will seek public views on various topics, including Amtrak service in the state.

IDOT funds Amtrak corridor trains linking Chicago with Milwaukee, St. Louis and the Illinois cities of Quincy and Carbondale.

Responses to the Illinois Traveler Opinion Survey are being accepted through Dec. 31 at http://www.idot.illinois.gov.

The survey is being conducted in a partnership with the University of Illinois Springfield and covered such other areas as road conditions, ice-and-snow removal, commuting habits and driving behaviors.

The survey has been conducted annually since 2001. A copy of the 2017 survey and results, along with data collected from past years, can be viewed at bit.ly/2Uu4DnF.

Proposed Bar Next to Amtrak Station Raises Concerns

November 26, 2018

Plans to establish a bar with a limited restaurant menu next to the Amtrak station in Effingham, Illinois, have raised a few eyebrows.

The proposed bar, which would be known as Jennie’s Place, would be located in a former Illinois Central baggage and express building that is also used by Amtrak.

The bar would be located in the south half of the building. Amtrak uses the north half.

Plans for the establishment sparked a lively conversation at a recent Effingham City Council meeting. The council, though, has not yet acted on a request for a liquor license that was filed by Jennifer and Robert Howell

The bar would have live entertainment and, possibly, a few video gaming machines.

It would be open late at night but closed on Sunday. Jennifer Howell told the council that she expects to draw business from Amtrak patrons or those waiting to pick up passengers coming to town by rail.

“We want to have a place for the people who are waiting for the Amtrak train, or those getting off the train, so they can have some place warm to go and sit – or wait and eat, while they are waiting on their loved ones to get off the train,” she said.

The bar would have seating for 30 inside and seating for 12 in an outdoor area that would be fenced off with the only entrance and exit being through the business.

Effingham Mayor Jeff Bloemker said the city wanst to see economic development in the area near the station, but expressed concern about the bar’s close proximity to active rail lines of Canadian National and CSX.

“There has been hope that someone would come along and invest in that area,” Bloemker said. “It is admirable, but it is a tricky area.”

Commissioner Don Althoff asked about parking because, he said, it is his understanding that Amtrak passengers take up most parking in the area.

But the Howells said there should be enough parking in a nearby gravel lot.

Effingham Police Chief Jeff Fuesting called for additional signs being placed in the area to warn bar patrons about oncoming trains.

“I would want to ask about the lighting and the height of the fence and proximity to the tracks,” Fuesting said. “I would just want to ensure that nobody accidentally steps out in front a train, or gets confused where the parking lot is located, and something of that nature.”

Effingham is served by Amtrak’s City of New Orleans and two pairs of Chicago-Carbondale, Illinois trains, the Illini and Saluki.

The latter two trains are funded by the Illinois Department of Transportation.

SB Illini To Run Later on Weekdays

August 29, 2018

Train work being conducted by Canadian National will result in the southbound Illini operating 1 hour and 15 minutes later on weekdays between Sept. 4 and 21.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said the schedule change will be in effect for the length of the train’s route from Chicago to Carbondale, Illinois.

The schedule for Train 393 will not change on Saturdays and Sundays.

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 Platforms in Use in Carlinville

August 13, 2018

New platforms at the Amtrak station in Carlinville, Illinois, are now in use.

In a service advisory Amtrak said its trains can arrive and depart on the west or east platform so passengers should check the station information displays and listen for announcements to know where their train will be arriving or departing.

Passengers are urged to use caution when crossing between platforms on the north ends where the sidewalk and Illinois Route 108 (West Main Street) cross the tracks.

Carlinville is served by Chicago-St. Louis Lincoln Service trains and the Chicago-San Antonio Texas Eagle.