Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak’

Master Developer Chosen for CUS Project

May 26, 2017

Amtrak said it has chosen Riverside Investment & Development Company to be the master developer for a planned project at commercial expansion of Chicago Union Station nearby properties that Amtrak owns.

In a news release, Amtrak said that the initial conceptual design proposed by Riverside, in conjunction with co-developer and co-venture partner Convexity Properties, will include three phases that are to be completed in about six years.

This will include improved street entrances and pedestrian traffic flow entering and leaving Union Station, as well as improved pedestrian-friendly landscaping and open spaces.

Key components of the first phase of the project, which will involve 3.1 million square feet in the station’s headhouse and concourse, include:

  • 110,000 square feet of new and reconfigured retail with a new food hall
  • Street level retail to be added to enhance the pedestrian experience
  • Renovation of the headhouse and Great Hall
  • 100,000 square feet of office space and a new proposed hotel above the Great Hall
  • Two new 12-story residential towers above the headhouse

The second phase will involve construction of two new office towers along with retail and parking. This includes:

  • Two new 750,000 square foot office towers with ground floor retail and approximately 800 parking spaces
  • Ample publicly-accessible green spaces including terraces and plazas, including above the current Union Station Transit Center.

The final phase of the project will involve a plaza and tower on southeast corner of Jackson and Canal that will have 500,000 square foot retail and a residential tower developed over active rail lines with open space and plazas at street level

Amtrak said the development of Union Station was made possible through the City of Chicago’s agreement to modernize and transform the transportation infrastructure though the Amtrak Chicago Union Station Master Plan.

The project will not require any federal, state or local funding and is subject to further revision and consideration by the City of Chicago Plan Commission, Landmark Commission, Zoning Committee and City Council.

“This building was envisioned by Daniel Burnham in the 1909 Plan for Chicago as the city’s primary rail station. It is in that spirit, we have big plans for both this Headhouse building and nearby properties owned by Amtrak,” said Amtrak President Charles “Wick” Moorman in a statement. “We have initiated real estate developments such as this to create revenue streams to invest in our core business, to improve facilities, to provide amenities to all users of the station – and to attract new ones. We are certain we will do that here in Chicago.”

Illinois Judge Orders Mental Health Evaluation of Suspect Charged in Shooting of Amtrak Conductor in Naperville

May 26, 2017

An Illinois judge on Thursday ordered a suspect in the shooting of an Amtrak conductor to receive a mental health evaluation.

DuPage County judge Daniel Guerin made the ruling in granting a motion from a defense attorney representing Edward Klein, who is charged with attempted murder and aggravated assault.

Klein, 79, of West Allis, Wisconsin, is charged in connection with the shooting of Michael Case of Homewood, Illinois, as he worked on the platform at Naperville, Illinois, after the eastbound Southwest Chief came to a halt there.

Case, who remains hospitalized, was shot once in the abdomen during the May 16 shooting.

Prosecutors have said in court filings that Klein became angry when he was denied permission to disembark from the train in Naperville rather than continue to Chicago Union Station as he was ticketed.

Amtrak personnel kept the door of the car in which Klein was riding closed to prevent him from disembarking because they were concerned about his welfare.

Some passengers have told reporters that Klein was exhibiting disturbing behavior before the train reached Naperville and that he had caused a disturbance in Kansas City, when Train No. 4 was late in arriving at the station there.

A news report indicated that during a May 19 court hearing, Klein seemed unable to grasp the severity of the situation.

He said several times that he was leaving the next day and said he would not need the public defender to represent him because he would soon be leaving.

During the Thursday hearing, Klein spoke several times, telling the judge at one point that he had an appointment.

Judge Guerin, though, ordered the public defender’s office to represent Klein, who is being held in lieu of $1.5 million bail.

“After meeting with our client, we had immediate concerns about his fitness to stand trial,” said Assistant Public Defender Jennifer Maples.

Klein could be sent to a security facility if he is found mentally unfit. He might be sent to Elgin Mental Health Center, to receive treatment.

If doctors later determine that he is mentally fit, the criminal court proceedings against Klein would continue.

Klein is a former officer with the Federal Protective Service, which is overseen by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. His next court date has been set for late June.

Locomotive Failures Raise Concerns in N.Y.

May 26, 2017

Deteriorating track conditions at New York Penn Station isn’t the only source of frustration with Amtrak these days in New York State.

New York State Department of Transportation officials are noting that the locomotives used to haul Empire Corridor trains from upstate New York are breaking down, stranding passengers on some trips.

Two locomotives have malfunctioned this spring in the tunnels leading out of Penn Station, marooning hundreds of passengers on Empire Service trains. The locomotive of a third train broke down in the Mohawk Valley.

NYDOT officials wants new locomotives ordered before the breakdowns become chronic, but have been rebuffed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

The locomotives in question are P42DMAC units, most of which were built in 1995 but some of which were constructed in 1998.

The locomotives were designed to be dual mode, meaning they could operate as diesel-electrics or as straight electrics in third-rail territory.

The locomotives pull some Empire Service trains as far as Niagara Falls, New York.

“GE [Transportation] has … stopped manufacturing new replacement components, which combined with age and intense use makes it difficult and costly for Amtrak’s Rensselaer Maintenance Facility to keep these locomotives in service,” said Jack Madden, a retired engineer at the NYDOT’s rail division, who argued for replacing them in an opinion piece in The Daily Gazette of Schenectady. “The average failure rate in service for the (dual-mode) fleet is increasing, leading to more frustrating delays to passengers.”

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.

 

Amtrak Conductor’s Condition Upgraded to Serious

May 24, 2017

The condition of the Amtrak conductor who was shot last week in Naperville, Illinois, has been upgraded from critical to serious.

Doctors said that Michael Case, 45, of Homewood, Illinois, remains in Edward Hospital in Naperville after being shot in the abdomen and suffering what they described as “very significant intestinal injuries.”

Case was shot with a single bullet from a .38-caliber revolver and faces a long recovery time. He was working on the eastbound Southwest Chief at the time.

The doctors said Case suffered injuries to his pancreas and a region of the intestines called the duodenum, but many of the major blood vessels in the area were not harmed, which should aid his recovery.

Edward Klein, 79, of West Allis, Wisconsin, has been charged with attempted murder and aggravated battery in connection with the shooting.

Klein will next appear in DuPage County court on June 12.

A Late Lake Shore Limited

May 24, 2017

Sometimes you are just not in the right position to get a good photograph. Such was the case when I “caught” Amtrak’s eastbound Lake Shore Limited passing through Willoughby, Ohio.

I didn’t know it had not come through yet, that it was running 1 hours, 28 minutes late. I might have known that had I checked on its status with Amtrak. But I didn’t.

The appearance of No. 48 caught me by surprise and the best I could do was get this image looking down Erie Street.

Trump Budget Slashes Amtrak Funding by 45%

May 24, 2017

The Trump administration wants to slash Amtrak funding by 45 percent in fiscal year 2018.

The detailed budget proposed released this week proposed giving Amtrak $744 million.

In the current fiscal year, Amtrak received $1.4 billion. The cuts for next year include ending $289 for Amtrak’s long-distance train routes.

The budget document described long-distance trains as “a vestige of when train service was the only viable transcontinental transportation option. Today, communities are served by an expansive aviation, interstate highway, and intercity bus network.”

The document said Amtrak’s long-distance trains represent the greatest amount of Amtrak’s operating losses, serve relatively small populations, and have the worst on-time record.

The Trump administration would instead appropriate $1.5 billion for the Northeast Corridor between Boston and Washington.

[The Northeast Corridor] “faces many challenges, and the 2018 Budget proposal would allow Amtrak to right-size itself and more adequately focus on these pressing issues,” the budget document said.

Nonetheless, the Trump administration has proposed cutting funding for the development of New York’s Penn Station by 64 percent from $14 million to $5 million.

The Amtrak funding cuts make up the lion’s share of the 37 percent cut proposed by the Trump administration for the Federal Railroad Administration.

The agency’s parent organization, the U.S. Department of Transportation, would receive $16.2-billion in FY 2018, a decline of 12.7 percent over what it received in FY 2017.

The Federal Railroad Administration’s budget would drop by 37 percent from $1.7 billion to $1.05 billion while Federal Transit Administration will decline by 5 percent from its FY 2017 appropriation of $11.8 billion.

The FTA would receive $11.2 billion, which includes $9.7 billion for transit formula grants. The FTA’s Capital Investment Grant program for new starts would be cut by 43 percent from $2.16 billion to $1.2.

Funding would be continued only for programs that FTA is legally bound to support through full-funding grant agreements.

Funding for the Transportation Generating Economic Recovery grant program would be eliminated.

The budget document said projects that are attempting to receive TIGER funding could still earn grants through the Nationally Significant Freight and Highways Projects fund managed by DOT’s Build America Bureau.

The Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing and Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation programs would remain in place, but receive no additional funding.

The National Transportation Safety Board would receive $106 million, which is no change from FY 2017.

The Surface Transportation Board would receive a $5 million boost to $37 million in order to implement regulatory changes under the STB reauthorization law of 2015.

The Trump administration budget proposal is likely to undergo numerous changes as Congress considers federal funding priorities for FY 2018.

Amtrak, Ann Arbor Agree on Tunnel Project

May 24, 2017

While Ann Arbor officials await action on the city’s bid to build a new Amtrak station, it has reached an agreement with the passenger carrier about the first steps in being allowed to build a tunnel beneath the tracks.

The Allen Creek Railroad Berm Opening Project will enable storm water to more easily reach the Huron River and therefore reduce flooding.

The project is also expected to allow pedestrians and cyclists to reach riverfront recreation areas.

The tracks used by Amtrak are owned by the Michigan Department of Transportation, but Amtrak is the primary approval agency.

Amtrak is requiring the city to enter into a design-phase agreement and to reimburse the railroad Amtrak for its costs.

By its estimate, Amtrak said work in the design phase of the project will cost $71,940. The Ann Arbor City Council has authorized a reimbursement of up to $97,020.

“The amount being paid to Amtrak at this time is $71,940,” said City Engineer Nick Hutchinson. “As a contingency, we obtained authorization from council for a total amount of $97,000 should more be needed.”

Any unused money for design work will be returned by Amtrak to the city.

“This action by the city of Ann Arbor is another example of our close working relationship with the city, Michigan DOT and Amtrak for improvements to facilities and service at the busiest Amtrak station in the state,” said Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari.

Ann Arbor officials have said that pedestrians and cyclists will be able to use the tunnel beneath the railroad tracks used by Amtrak’s Chicago-Detroit (Pontiac) Wolverine Service.

Federal Emergency Management Agency grants are expected to cover 75 percent of the storm water portion of the project. Construction is expected to begin in summer 2018.

New Charlotte Station Still Awaiting Agreements

May 24, 2017

Two years after being awarded a $30 million federal grant to build a new Amtrak station in downtown Charlotte, North Carolina, the city is still waiting for the work to begin.

The proposed Charlotte Gateway Station was lauded with much fanfare in October 2015 by former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx, who was once the mayor of Charlotte.

Foxx said that the groundbreaking could occur within 18 months.

But now the Charlotte Area Transit System doesn’t think it can have a station ready until 2024.

Plans for a temporary station to replace what many in Charlotte describe as the existing small and dingy station off North Tryon Street apparently have been dropped.

Gateway Station is planned for Graham, Fourth and West Trade streets near BB&T Ballpark. The current station is located well north of downtown.

CATS officials recently told the Charlotte City Council that a new agreement and timetable with the state must be negotiated, a process they expect to occur by late June.

But if that agreement is not reached, then the federal funding for the new station could be at risk of being taken back by the federal government.

Charlotte is the southern terminus of the Carolinian, which originated in New York City, and the Piedmont trains that originated in Raleigh, North Carolina. The New York-New Orleans Crescent also serves Charlotte.

CATS still needs to find several million more dollars to fund the Gateway Station in addition to the federal, state and local grants it has lined up thus far. Gateway Station is expected to cost between $150 and $200 million.

The station is envisioned to become a mixed-use project that houses offices and residential units. The CATS rail line to Lake Norman would serve Gateway as well as city buses and the streetcar Gold Line.

CATS has funding pledges of $30 million in federal funds, $48.75 million from the North Carolina Department of Transportation and $33 million from the city of Charlotte.

If funding is lined up, construction would begin in 2018. Track, signal and platform work would be finished in 2021 under the current timeline.

The station itself would be built within three years of the track, signal and platform work being completed. Amtrak won’t begin using Gateway until the station is finished.

Amtrak to Allow All to Get Late Alerts

May 23, 2017

Amtrak said this week that it will allow anyone to subscribe to automated email or text message notifications sent out when Amtrak trains are behind schedule at specific stations.

Until now, only passengers holding holding reservations or tickets could use this service.

In a news release, Amtrak said the messages will be sent out at no charge although data and message charges might be imposed by cellular carriers.

“This useful new tool allows anyone – whether you’re traveling on one of our trains, monitoring travel options or just picking up someone from a station – to stay informed,” Amtrak said in the news release.

The alerts will be of particular use to passengers who buy multi-ride tickets because they are not linked to specific train numbers.

Notifications will be provided for up to six trains and stations by either text or email and delivered on a single day, every day, or just certain days of the week.

The notifications schedule can be modified or deleted at any time by creating a subscription at Amtrak.com/delayalerts.