Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak in Kansas City’

MoDOT Gets Kansas City PTC Bill Lowered

February 10, 2016

Union Pacific and the Missouri Department of Transportation have reached an agreement about the division of costs for installing positive train control in Kansas City on the route that hosts Amtrak’s Missouri  River Runner trains.

The agreement cuts the cost that MoDOT will have to pay to install the federally-mandated safety system that is expected to cost $32 million in the Kansas City region.

Amtrak Missouri River RunnerMoDOT’s share had been put at $18 million, but officials said that number has been reduced to $7 million.

That occurred after transportation officials conducted a study that found that freight trains carrying hazard materials are heavy users of the track in Kansas City used by Amtrak.

Eric Curtit, the railroads administrator at MoDOT, said freight railroads therefore will pay more of the costs for the PTC system that initially had been assessed to MoDOT and Amtrak.

“We argued that we should not have to bear the full (cost) given the amount of hazardous material moving through the area,” he said.

At one point last year, Amtrak had threatened to cease operating its St. Louis-Kansas City trains because it said it could not afford its share to install PTC in either city.

MoDOT said the agreement on sharing the PTC costs in Kansas City means that the River Runner service will continue uninterrupted.

“We’ve reached a working agreement that’s fair to all parties,” Curtit said.

Missouri state senator David Pearce said the agreement will allow MoDOT to pay its share of the PTC costs over several years.

Curtit noted that federal law requires all rail routes hosting hazardous cargo to have a PTC system in place.

The cost to install PTC in St. Louis is expected to be lower than it is in Kansas City, but cost estimate has not yet been determined.

“They’re not as far along as Kansas City,” Curtit said.

Union Pacific will pay all costs of installing PTC on track that lies outside the Kansas City and St. Louis metropolitan areas.

“There’s a huge cost between Kansas City and St. Louis,” Curtit said, saying that the total cost for PTC installation statewide is estimated at $62 million.

Railroads have until 2018 to install and turn on their PTC systems. UP has said that it expects to meet that deadline.

PTC Payment Dispute Threatening to Disrupt Amtrak’s St. Louis, Kansas City Service

February 4, 2015

A dispute over who should pay for installation of positive train control on two terminal railroads is threatening the future operation of Amtrak in St. Louis and Kansas City.

If the dispute is not resolved by the end of the year, Amtrak may cease serving Missouri’s two largest cities or else other arrangements will need to be made for serving them.

Amtrak and the state of Missouri want PTC installed on the Kansas City Terminal Railway and the Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis As small terminal railroads, neither is required by federal law to install PTC, but Amtrak and the Missouri Department of Transportation say that it should be

Amtrak spokesman Steve Kulm said that Amtrak is working with MoDOT on an “equitable solution.”

“We are hopeful a resolution can be reached to maintain current Amtrak services to Kansas City,” he said.

Amtrak already has received invoices from the two railroads for the installation expenses. But neither Amtrak nor Missouri is willing to pay them.

The Missouri Department of Transportation “will not blindly pay for implementation costs” of Positive Train Control, its director, David Nichols, wrote to Amtrak in December.

Amtrak and the MoDOT say the railroads should bear the burden of installing the system because of their freight operations.

They noted that 250 freight trains a day operate over Kansas City Terminal’s track in addition to six passenger trains. Kansas City is the nation’s second busiest rail hub behind Chicago, and St. Louis ranks third.

The estimated cost of installing PTC is $32 million in Kansas City and $700,000 in St. Louis. That doesn’t include future maintenance expenses.

In 2008, Congress approved legislation mandating the installation of PTC by Dec. 31, 2015, on all routes hosting passenger trains.

There is a move afoot in Congress to extend the deadline by as many as five years. PTC is designed to avoid train collisions, derailments and other mishaps, according to the Federal Railroad Administration.

Amtrak operates two round-trips a day between the St. Louis and Kansas City that are funded by MoDOT. The Missouri River Runner service carried almost 200,000 passengers in 2013.

Also affected are the Chicago-Los Angles Southwest Chief in Kansas City, the Chicago-Antonio Texas Eagle in St. Louis and the Chicago-St. Louis Lincoln Service corridor trains.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said the service suspension could be averted if Congress passes legislation she has co-sponsored to give railroads another five years to install PTC.

“It’s unacceptable that we would disrupt passenger service in Missouri over this issue,” said McCaskill during a hearing of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. “Everyone knows Congress will adjust this deadline.”

Extending the deadline, though, will not resolve the dispute of who will pay for PTC installation in St. Louis and Kansas City.

MoDOT asked the Federal Railroad Administration in December to treat the terminal railroads like the larger ones because of their heavy freight volumes and because such larger railroads as Union Pacific and BNSF have an ownership stake in them.

Michelle Teel, MoDOT’s multimodal operations director, told the Senate committee that Positive Train Control installation requirements “should not be triggered by a small amount of passenger rail traffic, but rather should be based on operation volume, population density, tonnage and commodities moved, especially hazardous materials.”

McCaskill said the Kansas City-St. Louis corridor may not be the busiest passenger rail operation in the country, but provides a vital alternative to highways and air travel.

“It’s not the Northeast Corridor,” she said, “but it’s essential in my state.”