Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak stations’

Endangered Transit Projects Listed

March 27, 2017

News media accounts indicate that the “skinny budget” recently released by the Trump administration would put at risk 16 transit projects in the United States.

The projects include: Phoenix Light Rail; Los Angeles Westside Subway Extension (Section 3); San Jose and Santa Clara BART Silicon Valley extension (Phase 2); Santa Ana/Garden Grove Streetcar; Fort Lauderdale Streetcar; Lake County, Indiana Commuter Rail; Maryland Purple Line; Minneapolis Light Rail (Blue Line); Minneapolis Light Rail (Southwest); Durham-Chapel Hill Light Rail; New York – New Jersey Hudson Tunnel; New Jersey Portal North Bridge; New York Second Avenue Subway (Phase 2); New York Bus Rapid Transit (Woodhaven Boulevard); Seattle Light Rail (Federal Way); and Seattle Light Rail (Lynnwood Link Extension).

The projects are at risk because they lack “full funding grant agreements,” which are needed in order to receive a New Starts grant from the Federal Transit Administration.

The National Association of Railroad Passengers said if the funding rule proposed in the budget is enacted, these projects would either have to seek other funding sources or they would not be built.

NARP noted that the budget’s call for end federal funding for Amtrak long-distance passenger trains would end rail service to 220 communities nationwide. Those trains last year carried 4.6 million passengers.

Alton Amtrak Outings Set for April 22, 23

March 25, 2017

Two excursions are being planned by the American Association of Railroaders to celebrate the end of Amtrak service to the railroad station in Alton, Illinois, on April 22 and 23.

Passengers will board a Lincoln Service Amtrak train at the Alton depot on both days and spend two hours at a yet to be named site in Missouri for about two hours before turning to Alton late that afternoon.

Capacity is limited and passengers will receive a boxed lunch and beverage. During the trips Rich Eichhorst of the St. Louis-based non-profit educational and historical organization will provide commentary about the railroad and sights along the way.

Ticket are $29 for adults and $24 for children age 11 or younger and can be ordered from AAR, 9600 Tesson Ferry Road, St. Louis MO 63123.

All requests must include the legal name and age of each passenger; choice of travel date; home address and telephone number; and a self-addressed, stamped envelope. For more information, go to: http://www.aarstl.org.

The Alton station, located at 3400 College Ave., was built about 1928 by the Alton Road, later the Gulf Mobile & Ohio.

It is set to be replaced in late June or early July when the Alton Regional Multi-Modal Transportation Center opens.

Depot owner Union Pacific Railroad has indicated the station will be razed unless a non-profit agency takes possession of the station and move it to another location.

Buffalo Mulls Pros, Cons of New Station Sites

March 23, 2017

The debate over where to place a new Amtrak station in Buffalo continued this week with public hearing held by the committee appointed by the governor to consider a station site.

Brian Higgins, a western New York congressman, has been pushing hard for the choice of Buffalo Central Terminal.

But others favor a downtown location either near the site of the current Exchange Street station or at the site of the former Memorial Auditorium.

Supporters of a downtown site say it would be closer to Metro Rail, bus routes, hotels and other amenities.

“When you invest in the future, the action is always going to be downtown, adjacent to Canalside and the transit system,” said Robert Dingman, president of the New York and Lake Erie Railroad.

But supporters of Central Terminal say that reviving it as a train station would could be the last opportunity to restore the endangered art deco structure that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and in danger of continuing a life of decay.

Placing Amtrak into Central Terminal, they say, could help boost a neighborhood that hasn’t seen significant investment in decades.

“If we can follow through and restore this great historic structure, and give it back to the people of Buffalo and to future generations, we will have done a great public service,” Higgins said.

A 17-member committee established by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and chaired by Mayor Byron W. Brown will decide next month the location of the new station.

Transportation officials have indicated that it is not an either-or situation. Both sites could be tapped to become Amtrak stops with one designated as the main station and the other as a secondary stop.

The committee will also weigh the view of Amtrak and CSX, which owns the tracks used by Amtrak trains.

A desire to link the new train station with city bus service and possibly bus service between cities could also be a factor.

Officials say that Central Terminal, which opened in 1929, would be the best location to serve east-west Amtrak trains, including the Chicago-New York/Boston Lake Shore Limited.

Central Terminal has the infrastructure to handle buses and taxis and offers more than 1,000 parking spaces.

It is not expected that all of Central Terminal would be used by Amtrak, which last stopped there in 1979.

Working against Central Terminal is its location a mile well away downtown Buffalo and a neighborhood filled with abandoned and vacant housing.

Critics also say the structure is too large for eight trains a day and that commercial development of it is not necessarily tied to its being used again as a train station.

“The train station is not the silver bullet for the East Side,” said architect Paul Battaglia. “Amtrak is not big enough, or have enough ridership.”

One drawback of the downtown site is that although it could be served by the Lake Shore Limited, Nos. 48 and 49 would need to make a backup move.

Neither Amtrak nor CSX might be willing to allow that.

Ann Arbor Station Project Delayed by FRA

March 22, 2017

The clock is starting to tick louder in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where the city is racing against a deadline to spend a federal grant to develop a new Amtrak station.

But the city has yet to get the Federal Railroad Administration to approve a draft environmental assessment, which it needs to get done before preliminary station design can begin.

The draft has been at the FRA since December but the agency has yet to act on it.

The Ann Arbor City Council in January approved a $2.14 million contract with Neumann/Smith Architecture for preliminary design and engineering services.

But the consultants can’t do much until the FRA signs off on the draft.

The draft report identifies a preferred location for the new station and a 30-day public review period is expected to follow the release of the report.

City officials have declined for months to say what site they prefer for the station.

One proposal is to build the station in Fuller Park in front of the University of Michigan Hospital while other sites are being considered along Depot Street, where the current station is located.

City officials told the city council this week that they are working with several parties to try to prod the FRA to move along its review process due to the looming deadline to spend the grant money.

One of those parties is U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, who represents Ann Arbor.

Eli Cooper, Ann Arbor’s transportation program manager, said a revised draft was sent to the FRA in early February when the FRA said the review would be completed in 30 days.

But last week, the FRA told the city the review has been delayed and did not indicate for how long although Cooper said, “I would expect their review comments, if any, imminently.”

Cooper said the city will release to the public the environmental assessment identifying the preferred station location once the FRA authorizes its release.

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.

One Morning in Grand Rapids

March 21, 2017

It is a Saturday morning in June 1995 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. A crowd has gathered on the platform of the Amtrak station to await the arrival of the Pere Maquette, which originates here and travels to Chicago.

The equipment had laid overnight in a nearby CSX yard and is shown deadheading into the station.

The train is led by an F40PH, which will not be working much longer at Amtrak in providing motive power.

This moment came amid Amtrak’s last major route restructuring era. In April 1995 some trains, including the Detroit-Toledo, Ohio, leg of the Lake Cities had been discontinued. Amtrak wanted to terminate its Chicago-Detroit trains in Detroit rather than Pontiac, but the cost of that proved to be too high.

More cuts and route changes would follow in September. At the time, the Pere Marquette did not offer food and beverage service.

Since this image was made, Amtrak has begun using a new station in Grand Rapids.

Capital Region Track To Be Done by Summer

March 20, 2017

Amtrak expects to finish a massive rail improvement project in New York’s Capital Region this summer.

The $163 million program is adding a second track between Albany and Schenectady, New York, in order to eliminate a bottleneck on the single-track route used by the Lake Shore Limited, Empire Service trains, the Adirondack, the Ethan Allen Express and the Maple Leaf.

The work also includes upgrading the signal system and improving grade crossings.

An earlier stage of the project involved lengthening two passenger platforms at the Albany-Rensselaer station, primarily for the benefit of passengers boarding and disembarking from the Lake Shore Limited.

Amtrak officials said the work is nearly finished south of the Capital Region and that the second track between Albany and Schenectady should go into service in late spring or early summer.

A NYDOT spokesman said contractors are still placing ballast on the new track, as well as making deck repairs on the Union Street and Erie Boulevard bridges in Schenectady, cleaning and improving culverts, and removing poles, now that the new signal system is underground.

However, officials say that earlier ides to increase the level of service west and north of the region are uncertain at best.

Michael Franchini, who heads the Capital District Transportation Committee, a government planning organization that oversees the disbursement of federal transportation funds, said there are no serious proposals to extend Empire Service trains now terminating at Albany-Rensselaer to Schenectady or Saratoga Springs.

The New York Department of Transportation will say only that it continues to consider increased service.

Saratoga County residents who are now served by the New York-Montreal Adirondack said that they need additional service to provide them more flexibility in their travel plans.

Some now drive an hour to the Albany-Rensselaer station to take advantage of its higher level of service to New York City.

In a related development, NYDOT officials have been asked to replace the locomotives used between Albany-Rensselaer and New York Penn Station.

The dual model locomotives are able to run on diesel fuel or electric current, but use electric power in the Manhattan tunnels that bring trains into Penn Station.

Replacing the fleet with 25 new locomotives would cost an estimated $250 million.

The current locomotives are old and prone to breakdowns that delay trains.

Birmingham Station to Open This Summer

March 7, 2017

An intermodal facility in Birmingham, Alabama, is expected to open this summer.

The $32 million Birmingham Intermodal Facility will serve Amtrak, Greyound and the Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority (MAX).

City officials say the three-block long facility between 17th and 19th streets could open as early as May or as late as June.

MAX buses could begin using its share of the facility between 17th and 18th streets in April. However, buses won’t begin using it until construction is completed on Morris Avenue, which is not expected to be until late summer.

The MAX bus terminal facility will feature at least one food vendor and a newsstand is expected to open in the intermodal facility.

Construction of the facility began in 2014. Birmingham is served by Amtrak’s daily New York-New Orleans Crescent.

One Morning in Crawfordsville, Indiana

March 6, 2017
Amtrak train No. 851 approaches the Crawfordsville station in August 2011.

Amtrak train No. 851 approaches the Crawfordsville station in August 2011.

When I lived in Indiana between 1983 and 1991, Amtrak’s Hoosier State was a part of my life for periodic day trips from Indianapolis to Chicago.

I actually preferred to ride the Cardinal because it had a full-service dining car and slumber coaches, which offered a reasonable fare for a return trip to Indy.

But the Cardinal only ran three days a week so more often than not I wound up going to Chicago on the Hoosier State.

After leaving Indiana for Pennsylvania and, later, Ohio, I rarely saw the Hoosier State again.

I followed its story from afar, including how it was discontinued in 1995 only to be brought back because operating a hospital train to and from Beech Grove shops in suburban Indianapolis didn’t work out so well.

In August 2011 I was on my way to Illinois. I stayed overnight in Indianapolis and got up early the next morning to get to Crawfordsville before No. 851 did.

The sun wasn’t yet above the tree line when the Hoosier State arrived, but there was enough light to document the coming and going of the train.

Since making these images, the Hoosier State has had a rough ride at times with the latest development being the takeover of the train by Iowa Pacific Holdings in July 2015.

IP won high marks for its on-board service, but the Indiana Department of Transportation declined IP’s request for more money.

So IP pulled out and Amtrak has resumed operation of the Hoosier State. Actually, Amtrak was never completely out of the picture with Nos. 850 and 851 because it provided the operating crews and handled relationships with the host railroads.

So now what was the usual state of affairs in Crawfordsville is back again. Here is a look back at a morning not too long ago when the Hoosier State came calling.

A typical Amshack that is so typical in smaller cities served by Amtrak.

A typical Amshack that is so typical in smaller cities served by Amtrak.

The old Monon station is no longer used by Amtrak.

The old Monon station is no longer used by Amtrak.

All aboard for Chicago and all intermediate stops.

All aboard for Chicago and all intermediate stops.

And away it goes to its next stop in Lafayette.

And away it goes to its next stop in Lafayette.

A ;l;ast look at the train, which has two cars being ferried from Beech Grove to Chicago.

A ;l;ast look at the train, which has two cars being ferried from Beech Grove to Chicago.

Fire Forces Evacuation of Wolverine Train

March 2, 2017

An electrical fire forced the evacuation of Wolverine Service No. 352 last Monday in Jackson, Michigan.

Amtrak logoFirefighters arrived at the station about 6 p.m. after a small fire began beneath a passenger car.

The cause of the small fire was determined to have been mechanical failure in its batteries.

The firefighters extinguished the blaze and removed the smoldering batteries from their  compartment.

No injuries were reported. The train, en route from Chicago to Pontiac, Michigan, had 153 passengers and crew members onboard.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said the train was delayed by 39 minutes before it continued eastward.

Magliari said the car in question will be repaired.