Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak’s Empire Corridor’

Funding Approved for Berkshire Flyer Pilot Program

August 2, 2019

Funding has been approved by the State of Massachusetts for a two-year pilot program to launch Amtrak service from New York City to Berkshire County in Massachusetts.

The Berkshire Flyer has been allotted “not less than $270,000” for its inaugural year, which is expected to start in Spring 2020.

Legislation authorizing the funding also set aside $30,000 for a project manager and $100,000 for marketing the service.

The Flyer is will operate on weekends during the summer season between New York Penn Station and Pittsfield, using the Empire Corridor to Albany-Rensselaer, New York, and the route of the Lake Shore Limited east of there.

One train is expected to operate from New York to Pittsfield on Friday while its counterpart will return to New York on Sunday.

Trains will operate from Memorial Day through Columbus Day weekends with the fare set at $70 each way.

A marketing plan will be created by 1Berkshire, the county’s economic development and tourism council while the Massachusetts Department of Transportation needs to work out schedules and other logistical matters with Amtrak.

Also involved in the planning and implementation of the service will be the Berkshire Regional Transit Authority.

Service Added for Saratoga Racing Season

July 9, 2019

Starting July 13, Empire Service will run additional trains on Saturdays and Sundays. Train 296 will operate in lieu of Train 292 on Saturdays while Train 256 will operate on Saturdays in addition to its normal Sunday operation.

Train 1297 will operate on Sundays in addition to its normal Monday operation.

Track Work to Affect Empire Service Train

May 19, 2019

Track work will result in a temporary schedule change for Empire Service Train No. 288 on May 19 and June 2.

On those dates No. 288 will operate from Niagara Falls to Croton-Harmon, New York, with passengers reaching New York City on a special Metro North train.

That train will terminate at Grand Central Terminal whereas No. 288 terminates at New York Penn Station.

Amtrak said in a service advisory that Metro-North will honor Amtrak tickets on the special train. No Amtrak staff will be aboard that train or at Grand Central.

Passengers will be responsible for making their own arrangements to transfer from Grand Central to Penn Station if they so desire.

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.

Track Work to Affect Empire Corridor Trains

April 13, 2019

Track work being undertaken by Metro North will result in schedule changes for Amtrak trains using the Empire Corridor.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said Trains 64, 252, 254, 260, 280, 284 and 290 will arrive between three to five minutes later into New York. Train No. 48 will arrive 12 minutes later into New York while No. 244 will arrive 15 minutes later into New York.

Trains 69, 233, 281, 283 and 295 will arrive between two to five minutes later into Albany-Rensselaer, New York.

No. 49 will arrive 8 minutes later into Albany. No. 253 will depart eight minutes earlier from of New York and arrive 10 minutes earlier into Albany-Rensselaer.

Train 259 will operate 10 minutes later between New York and Albany-Rensselaer.

NY Won’t Fund More Empire Service Cafe Cars

April 5, 2019

New York transportation officials have ruled out for now funding café car service on Amtrak’s Empire Service trains operating between New York City and Albany-Rensselaer.

Food and beverage service was removed by Amtrak from those trains in 2005 in a cost-cutting move.

Earlier this year, passenger train advocates, including the Empire State Passengers Association, began pushing for food service to be offered on all Empire Corridor trains.

However, a New York Division of Budget official ruled that out this week.

“The FY 2020 Enacted Budget does not include funding to restore food service in the Empire Corridor and we continue to look to the Federal government to restore its role in fully supporting train service,” said spokesman Freeman Klopott.

Nonetheless, the ESPA is not giving up. President Gary Prophet said the money needed to restore food service would used to cover startup costs of the service.

“Cafe service on short-distance trains breaks even,” Prophet said, adding that it was only the dining cars on the long-distance trains that lose money.

Café car service is available on several trains operating in the Empire Corridor including the Adirondack, Ethan Allen Express, Maple Leaf and Lake Shore Limited.

The two New York-Niagara Falls Empire Service roundtrips also offer café cars.

Amtrak cited heavy financial losses for ending food and beverage service on Empire Service trains operating south of Albany in 2005.

It launched a four-month trial in fall 2005 of selling Subway sandwiches aboard those trains, but pulled the plus before the end of the first week of operation.

Passengers since then had to bring their own food or buy something at a coffee shop in the Albany-Rensselaer station.

Rochester Station Named for late Congresswoman

March 28, 2019

The Amtrak station in Rochester, New York, was recently dedicated to the memory of the late U.S. Rep. Louise Slaughter.

Slaughter as instrumental in winning a federal TIGER grant of $15 million that was used to construct the station, which opened in October 2017 after a 15-year planning process.

Slaughter died in March 2018 and before her death helped to secure $18.5 million in federal funds for the station’s construction.

Her daughters, Emily Robin Minerva and Megan Secatore, joined Amtrak and New York public officials for a dedication ceremony.

The station will be called the Louise M. Slaughter Rochester Station. It serves Empire Corridor trains between New York and Niagara Falls, New York, the Chicago-New York/Boston Lake Shore Limited and the New York-Toronto Maple Leaf.

It is built on the site of a “temporary” Amtrak-built station that was used for 36 years. That station was in turn built on the footprint of a former New York Central depot.

Report Backs Berkshire Flyer Proposal

March 14, 2019

A group seeking to establish experimental Amtrak service to Berkshire County in Massachusetts from New York has issued a report calling for a two-year pilot program to start in 2020.

The service, dubbed the Berkshire Flyer, would operate on weekends between New York Penn Station and Pittsfield, Massachusetts, using routes now used by Amtrak.

During the pilot period, one train would operate on Fridays to Pittsfield while the return train to New York would operate on Sundays.

The season would begin with Memorial Day weekend and last through Columbus Day weekend. Fares are expected to be $70 each way.

The report indicated that an earlier option to operate through Connecticut on the freight-only Housatonic Railroad would cost $300 million.

State Senator Adam Hinds of Pittsfield introduced legislation directing the Massachusetts Department of Transportation to create a working group to study the feasibility of service using Amtrak’s Empire Corridor and CSX tracks that host the Chicago-Boston Lake Shore Limited.

“They reported back that it was, in fact, feasible, would be beneficial economically, and would require no new capital investment for the infrastructure,” Hinds said.

The report also estimated that it would cost $421,561 to start the program in June 2020.

Ticket revenue is expected to be $184,000, leaving $237,561 to be raised elsewhere, Hinds said, adding that a combination of federal, state, and local funding might be used to launch the Berkshire service.

The service will also need a sponsor who can serve as the go between with host railroads Amtrak and CSX, as well as government agencies and private companies involved in the service.

NYDOT Lists Empire Corridor Improvements

March 4, 2019

The New York State Department of Transportation recently listed the numerous improvements it has sponsored in the Empire Corridor to improve Amtrak service there.

These included a second track between Albany and Schenectady; a fourth platform track at the Albany-Rensselaer station; installation of positive train control on tracks south of Rensselaer; signal and grade crossing improvements south of Rensselaer; and new stations at Rochester & Niagara Falls, both with high-level platforms.

The agency has not yet revealed its plans to increase trains speeds and schedule frequencies in the corridor, but those might be detailed in an environmental impact statement it expects to release in the spring.

One option that report is expected to address is the feasibility of creating a dedicated passenger rail corridor between Albany and Buffalo that would have a top speed of 125 miles per hour.

The expect cost of that option is $14.7 million.

The report will consider five options for improving Empire Corridor service.

Projects to Benefit Amtrak Routes

February 9, 2019

Amtrak stands to benefit from some of the railroad improvement  projects that recently won federal grant funding.

The Federal Railroad Administration said this week that it will award more than $56 million in grants, covering 18 projects in 16 states as part of the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements program.

In Florida, the installation of supplemental safety features at 48 grade crossings will benefit the Virgin Trains USA route between West Palm Beach and Miami.

Officials said the work is expected to cut the number of grade-crossing violations by keeping motorists and pedestrians from trespassing as trains approach.

Amtrak’s Lincoln Service trains and the Texas Eagle will see a trip time reduction of three minutes due to a reconfiguration of the Lenox Interlocking in Mitchell, Illinois, located 16 miles northeast of St. Louis.

The project is expected to provide operating flexibility at a junction of four rail lines used by six railroads operating 46 trains per day.

In St. Louis, funding was awarded to replace the Broadway Truss of the Terminal Railway Association of St. Louis’ MacArthur Bridge across the Mississippi River.

The bridge is more than 100 years old and serves as the nation’s second longest railroad bridge. The work will work will increase horizontal clearance of the bridge, which is used by Lincoln Service trains and the Texas Eagle.

In New York, replacement of timber bridge decks with ballast decks on three bridges on the Hudson Line in Dutchess and Columbia counties will eliminate current speed restrictions and allow for future 110-mph operation.

Twenty-six Amtrak trains per day use these bridges, including the Lake Shore Limited, Maple Leaf, Ethan Allen Express, Adirondack and Empire Service trains.

Work will be performed in Vermont to stablize slopes along an 80-mile section of the New England Central Railroad used by Amtrak’s Vermonter.

The project will lead to the elimination of slow orders that have resulted in 216 hours of annual passenger delays and 520 hours of freight delays as well as decreasing safety risks.

A second second platform, elevator towers, and an overhead pedestrian bridge will be built at the Milwaukee Airport Amtrak station, allowing passenger trains to use both tracks and ease congestion resulting from the current single-track configuration for passenger service.

The station is used by Hiawatha Service trains.