Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak’

In Its Customary Position

May 21, 2019

An Amtrak Viewliner baggage car brings up the rear of the westbound Lake Shore Limited as it cruises through Olmsted Fall, Ohio, en route to Chicago.

The next stop for Train 49 will be Elyria, Ohio.

The typical operation of Nos. 48 and 49 has the Boston section at the front of the train. Only the New York section still has a baggage car and it is always on the rear.

And that’s for good reason, too. You would not want passengers walking through a baggage going to and from the Boston and New York sections.

Ahead of the baggage cars are a pair of Viewliner sleepers and Viewliner dining car Dover.

Agencies Still Seeking Additional Hiawatha Service

May 21, 2019

Officials of the departments of transportation of Illinois and Wisconsin are still pursuing an expansion of Amtrak’s Hiawatha Service.

Both made that point in the wake of the decision by the Illinois Department of Transportation not to support construction of new tracks in the north Chicago suburbs that an earlier study said was an key component to making the expansion feasible.

A 3-mile siding has been proposed to be built in Lake Forest and a 2-mile holding track would be built in Glenview and Lake Forest.

The tracks would enable Canadian Pacific freight trains to get out of the way of Amtrak and Metra trains as the CP trains awaited permission to enter a Union Pacific line used by CP to reach its yard in Bensonville.

The siding had been opposed by residents of the two suburban communities.

Arun Rao, passenger rail program manager of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, said his agency met with their Illinois counterparts who reiterated their commitment to expanding service in the Chicago-Milwaukee corridor.

“We need a few more conversations with the railroads to see what direction we’re going and have a better idea of an [implementation] timetable,” he said.

IDOT spokesman Guy Tridgell said his agency will continue to work with WisDOT in its efforts to seek federal infrastructure grants for the expansion and added that IDOT “is a strong supporter of service on this line.”

Hiawatha ridership rose 11 percent in April and is poised to carry 900,000 passengers in fiscal year 2019. The route saw a record  858,000 passengers in FY 2018.

The expansion proposal would increase Hiawatha service from seven to 10 daily roundtrips.

Rao said the equipment needed for the expansion will include a six car trainset for Hiawatha service that will come from an 88-car order for new cars placed with Siemens by the Midwest states that fund Amtrak corridor service.

WisDOT is seeking a federal grant to be used to pay for two other consists.

Rao said there weren’t any details yet on what an alternative plan for the expansion might involved.

He said there is no timeline for the project and there is no danger of losing out on federal money or losing federal approvals.

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers included $45 million in bonding authority for the Hiawatha expansion project as part of its 2019-2021 budget plan,

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said the growing ridership of the Hiawathas means the current service level cannot sufficiently meet current demand.

Virginia City to Buy Land for Amtrak Station

May 21, 2019

The town council of Christiansburg, Virginia, has agreed to buy nearly 7 acres of land for a proposed Amtrak station.

The land is located between Mill Lane and the Norfolk Southern tracks and is being purchased from Community Housing Partners.

The city is seeking to become a stop for a Northeast Regional train that now terminates and originates in Roanoke, Virginia.

It has sponsored a study that found establishing an Amtrak station in Christiansburg would attract 40,000 new passengers a year.

“We’re hopeful of economic development impacts and tourism impacts in Christiansburg and the whole New River Valley region,” said Town Manager Randy Wingfield. “I think we are very hopeful, otherwise we wouldn’t be buying the property.”

Bound for Miami

May 19, 2019

Amtrak’s Silver Meteor rushes past the Newark Liberty Airport station without even slowing down.

No. 97 is bound for Miami and assuming it doesn’t lose any significant time en route will be halting at its destination in more than 24 hours.

Summer Discount Fares Announced

May 19, 2019

Amtrak has announced two summer fare programs, including a buy one get one free sale seeking to boost off-peak ridership on Saturdays in the Northeast Corridor.

The special fares will be available on both Acela Express (in business class) and Northeast Regional (in coach class) trains between May 18 and Sept. 7.

Reservations must be made by June 5th and require a three day advance purchase.

In partnership with New York State, Amtrak will offer 15 percent discounts on regular coach fares for travel across New York State on Empire Service trains on the Maple Leaf, Ethan Allen Express and Adirondack.

Travel on the Maple Leaf and Ethan Allen Express must be within New York State, but the fares on the Adirondack apply to travel to and from Montreal

A five-day advance purchase is required and black-out dates will apply.

IDOT Drops Support of Controversial Siding Plan

May 18, 2019

The Illinois Department of Transportation said it will no longer push for construction of a 2-mile long siding in the Chicago suburbs that is part of a proposal to expand Hiawatha Service.

The announcement was a victory for north suburban Chicago residents, particularly in Glenview and Lake Forest, who have fought the proposed siding.

The siding was intended to be a holding track for Canadian Pacific freight trains waiting for permission to enter a Union Pacific line that enabled CP trains to take a shorter route to the CP yard in Bensonville, Illinois.

In a letter to those communities from acting IDOT Secretary Omer Osman, the agency said it would not agree to the freight holding tracks in either Glenview or Lake Forest, and you have my commitment that IDOT will not be moving forward seeking federal support for this project.”

The Hiawatha expansion plan, which was announced in 2016, would increase the daily frequency of Chicago-Milwaukee trains from seven to 10.

The expansion was a joint project or IDOT and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. Both agencies currently fund Hiawatha Service.

Many of the opponents of the siding own homes next to the tracks used by Amtrak, CP and Metra and said idling freight trains would create noise and air pollution that would depress the value of the property as well as hinder the quality of their lives.

IDOT spokesman Guy Tridgell said he agency is seeking other options that would allow the expansion of Hiawatha Service.

“The department is a strong supporter of passenger rail service on this line and will be working with the lead agency on the project, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, on other possible solutions to improve service,” Tidgell said in an emailed statement sent by Tridgell.

He also said IDOT will not oppose any federal grant applications that WisDOT submits related to the Hiawatha expansion.

Arun Rao, passenger rail manager at WisDOT, said the agency is aware of IDOT’s concerns about the proposed siding.

“We are continuing to proceed with plans to increase frequencies with the Hiawatha service and are working with IDOT and the railroads to continue to do that,” he said.

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers has proposed $45 million in bonding to move Hiawatha expansion ahead.

Those funds would be used as matching funds for federal grants that would cover the remaining project costs.

Trails and Rails Schedule Set for 2019

May 18, 2019

Amtrak and the National Park Service have reached a five-year agreement that will extend operation of the Trails and Rails program.

The program, which began in 2000, had been curtailed within the past year after Amtrak ceased to provide meals and lodging for the personnel who provided commentary aboard select Amtrak trains.

The agreement has redefined the program, which involves volunteers who provide commentary about the history and culture of regions through which Amtrak trains pass.

“It seems like we now have a steady source of contact folks at Amtrak in Washington, D.C., to serve as liaisons that can help move the program along,” said Trails and Rails National Director Jim Miculka.

Volunteers participating in the program will come from national parks and their itineraries have been reset so that they will cover portions of many routes in a manner to make a roundtrip in one day.

“When Amtrak dropped the onboard meals and the National Park Service expense allotments didn’t change, the parks needed to prioritize how they use the same limited funds – varying from $500 to $2,500 annually – now that meals had to be covered,” Miculka said. “There was never enough money for overnight lodging.”

Most of the commentary provided by the volunteers is given in a café car. However, the volunteers will also walk through the train to answer questions and carry props to use as conversation starters.

Trains and routes slated to participate in the Trails and Rails include the Capitol Limited (Washington and Cumberland, Maryland); Crescent (Atlanta and Birmingham, Alabama); Heartland Flyer (entire route); Southwest Chief (La Junta, Colorado, and Las Vegas, New Mexico); Empire Builder (Seattle and Wenatchee, Washington); Coast Starlight (Seattle and Portland, Oregon; and San Jose and Santa Barbara, California); Pacific Surfliner (Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo, California, and Los Angeles and San Diego); Lincoln Service (St. Louis and Springfield, Illinois, and Springfield and Chicago); Texas Eagle (Chicago and Springfield);

Wolverine Service and Blue Water (Chicago and Niles, Michigan; and Chicago and New Buffalo, Michigan); and Adirondack (various segments between New York and Westport, New York).

Select Northeast Regional trains will also have Trails and Rails commentators between Washington and New York on Saturdays.

The frequency of commentary will vary from Saturday only to daily. In most cases the commentary appears primarily on weekends.

Amtrak, NJT to Rebuild NEC in New Jersey

May 18, 2019

New Jersey Transit and Amtrak have announced plans to spend $31 million this year on infrastructure projects in the Northeast Corridor in New Jersey.

The work, which will get underway this spring and extend into the summer, is a result of an agreement reached between Amtrak and NJT in February whereby NJT agreed to pay Amtrak all withheld funds owed.

Projects to be under taken include a block tie replacement project that starts May 20 at Newark Penn Station.

The initial work will affect Tracks 1 and 4, which are the most used inbound and outbound track. Workers will replace wood ties with concrete ties on 95 feet on Track 1 and 1,100 feet on Track 4.

Also slated for rebuilding is the Portal Bridge over the Hackensack River. Amtrak workers will replace timber decks on Tracks 2 and 3 this summer with more than 500 timbers per track being replaced.

A project to rebuild the Fair Interlocking north of the Trenton Transit Center Station will get underway on Aug. 5.

Workers will replace timbers and switch equipment, including total switch replacement for six switches.

Other work will include upgrading switch machines from air to electric, adding new electric switch heaters and replacing more than 700 ties and 350 switch timbers.

Catenary rebuilding will be undertaken on all four tracks between County Interlocking in New Brunswick and Ham, a distance of 20 miles.

This work is being done in preparation for high speeds as new Acela Express equipment enters service in 2021.

The work will include equipment removal, replacement, and new installation of constant tension catenary.

San Joaquin Schedules to Change May 20

May 18, 2019

Amtrak will release a new schedule for its San Joaquin service on May 20 that will return service to seven roundtrips operating every two hours.

Five trains will operate between Bakersfield and Oakland, and two will run between Bakersfield and Sacramento.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said the new schedule is as follows:

Train 701 will depart Bakersfield 4 hours and 3 minutes earlier than Train 1701’s original time. Train 1701 is cancelled.

Train 703 will depart 12 hours and 12 minutes later from Bakersfield. Train 711 will depart 8 minutes earlier from Bakersfield.

Train 713 and 717 will depart 48 minutes earlier from Bakersfield. Train 719 will depart 58 minutes earlier from Bakersfield.

Train 702 will depart 6 hours and 15 minutes earlier from Sacramento. Train 704 will depart 1 hour and 4 minutes earlier from Sacramento.

Train 710, 712 and 714 will depart 2 hours and 1 minute later from Oakland. Train 715 will depart 12 minutes later from Bakersfield.

Train 716 will depart 59 minutes earlier from Oakland. Train 718 will depart 19 minutes earlier from Oakland. Train 1718 is cancelled

David Lipari, marketing manager of the San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority said in a statement that the schedule changes are, “Designed to improve on-time performance and connectivity across the Bay Area, Sacramento, the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California, we are proud to offer a more convenient and timely solution that meets the growing needs of riders.”

Capitol Corridor Station Named for Hannigan

May 18, 2019

The Capitol Corridor station in Fairfield, California, has been named for a state legislature who was instrumental in getting the intercity rail service established.

The Fairfield-Vacaville Station has been renamed the Fairfield-Vacaville Hannigan Station in honor of the late Tom Hannigan.

As a state assemblyman, Hannigan pushed for the development of the Capitol Corridor in the middle 1980s, saying that growth in the region would support a new intercity rail system.

“It is because of Tom’s vision over 30 years ago, that we have this great route between the [San Francisco] Bay Area and Sacramento,” said Fairfield Mayor Harry Price in a statement.

A ceremony will be held this fall to unveil a memorial plaque at the depot to commemorate Hannigan, who died in 2018.

Amtrak’s Capitol Corridor trains average 3,600 trips per month from the station, which opened in November 2017.