Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak’s Empire Corridor’

Rochester Station Cost 49% More Than Expected

October 18, 2017

The newly opened Amtrak station in Rochester, New York, has received high marks, but it also wound up costing 49 percent more than projected.

The new station replaced a modular facility that Amtrak built in the 1970s.

When the project was announced in 2014, the projected cost was put at $29.8 million.

Even that figure was an increase over projections of a few years earlier. Officials said that design changes and delays has increased the sticker price.

But when the station opened more than a week ago, officials said that the station had cost $44.3 million.

In a news release, the New York Department of Transportation said that $20.4 million of the expenses were covered by the federal government, $500,000 by the City of Rochester and $23.4 million by the state.

NYDOT said a number of things led to the increased cost. Those included unexpected costs related to skylights, bridges, soil removal and drainage work.

This included unforeseen problems once workers reached the basement of the former New York Central Railroad station that stood at the site.

Those increased design and construction contract costs from $29.5 million to $34.3 million.

Much of the remaining $10 million in added costs came from track work performed by CSX. This included moving two mainline tracks and building two new tracks for Amtrak’s use.

An open government group said that CSX was paid $8 million for that work.

Rochester is served by four Amtrak Empire Service trains, the New York-Toronto Maple Leaf and the Chicago-New York/Boston Lake Shore Limited.

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Schenectady Station Bid to be Opened

October 11, 2017

Bids for a new Amtrak station in Schenectady, New York, will be opened on Oct. 19, the New York Department of Transportation said.

The bids to be opened are the second phase of the project, which involves construction of the station and parking lot.

That work is expected to occur in 2018 with the depot slated to open in October 2018.

The first phase of the project, demolition of the existing station, plus platform concrete work and new culverts was earlier awarded to Bette & Cring, which submitted the low bid of $5,409,091.

The new station, which is projected to cost $23.5 million, will replace an Amtrak-built facility that opened in 1979.

Transportation department officials have said the design of the new Amtrak station will have architectural features reminiscent of the Schenectady Union Station, which was built in 1908 and razed in 1971.

This will include a wraparound awning outside the building, a weather vane in the shape of New York state on top of a gold dome on the roof, and tall arched windows similar to those in the original Union Station.

Schenectady is served by Empire Corridor trains, including the Lake Shore Limited (Chicago-New York/Boston), Maple Leaf (New York-Toronto) and Adirondack (New York-Montreal).

New Rochester Station Opens

October 9, 2017

The new Amtrak station in Rochester, New York, opened last Friday at the same location as the previous Amtrak-built modular facility.

The new station is fully ADA-compliant and has a new high-level platform serving two dedicated boarding tracks.

Attending a ribbon cutting ceremony were Congresswoman Louise Slaughter and Gov. Andrew Cuomo. During the ceremony, the eastbound and westbound Maple Leaf’s met at the new station.

Aside from the Maple Leaf, Rochester is served by the Lake Shore Limited and four Empire Service trains between New York and Niagara Falls, New York.

Many Amtrak Trains on CSX Tracks Took Taken Hit in Timekeeping in July, But Not all of Them

August 29, 2017

Not all Amtrak trains that run on CSX rails were plagued by poor timekeeping this past July, but many of them were.

An analysis by Trains magazine found that the Silver Meteor, Silver Star, Palmetto, Cardinal, Hoosier State and Maple Leaf suffered serious deterioration in their on-time performance in July compared with the previous 12 months.

The Silver Service and Palmetto ran late 80 percent of the time compared with 56 percent of the time over the past 12 months.

The Cardinal was late 77 percent of the time compared with 43 percent in the previous 12 months.

The on-time performance of the Hoosier State dipped to 54 percent in July, down from 77 percent over the past 12 months.

The Maple Leaf’s timekeeping declined from 77 percent over the past 12 months to 61 percent in July. However, issues on Metro-North in the New York City region caused some of the delays.

Emerging relatively unaffected by the CSX troubles were the Auto TrainCapitol LimitedLake Shore LimitedEmpire Service, and Carolinian/Piedmont. The on-time performance of those trains either improved or held steady.

When the on-time performance did decline, it has more to do with factors other than CSX dispatching.

For example, the Capitol Limited was late 66 percent of the time in July compared with 58 percent during the previous year.

Much of the delay to Nos. 29 and 30 occurred on Norfolk Southern between Chicago and Pittsburgh.

Likewise, most of the delays to the Lake Shore Limited could be attributed to NS.

The Lake Shore Limited was late 64 percent of the time in July, which was down from 53 percent in the past 12 months.

Half of the delays to Nos. 48 and 49 occurred between Chicago and Cleveland, which is owned and dispatched by NS.

Thirty-percent of the delays to the Boston section of the Lake Shore were due to CSX freight train interference.

On the Empire Corridor, trains posted a 78 percent on-time performance in July, down from 84 percent over the past 12 months. However, most of the delays occurred on Metro North tracks.

The Auto Train’s timekeeping improved in July to 66 percent versus 56 percent over the past year.

The Carolinian/Piedmont service posted a 57 percent on-time record in July, which was up from 54 percent over the past year.

Although Amtrak would not say if poor on-time performance has affected ridership, spokesman Marc Magliari said arriving on time is the biggest single factor in customer satisfaction.

“Amtrak performance on a route is often the ‘canary in the coal mine,’ ” Magliari said. “If our trains are not running well, the freight trains are often not running well.

“The numbers speak for themselves every month. Host railroads make operational and dispatching decisions that can result in delays to our trains and cause our trains not to make the times on the schedules the host railroads have agreed to meet.”

For its part, CSX acknowledges Amtrak trains have been delayed, but spokesman Rob Doolittle compared it to the undesired effects that CSX customers have had as the railroad implemented a new operating plan.

“We value all of our customers, including Amtrak, and we have worked diligently to resolve those issues as they have emerged.”

Doolittle insisted that CSX dispatcher continue to provide Amtrak trains with preference in accordance with federal law.

Amtrak to Skip Buffalo Exchange Street on July 23-24

July 21, 2017

Amtrak’s New York-Toronto Maple Leaf and New York-Niagara Falls Empire Service trains will not stop at Buffalo Exchange Street Station on July 23 and 24 due to track work being performed by CSX.

Alternative transportation will be provided between the Exchange Street station and Buffalo-Depew station.

Affected are Trains 63, 64, 281, 283, 284 and 288 on July 23, and trains Trains 63, 64, 280, 281, 283 and 284 on July 24.

Second Track Opens on Amtrak Empire Corridor

July 14, 2017

Work to install a second track on a CSX route in New York State heavily used by Amtrak has been completed.

The $91.2 million project involved building the second track between Schenectady and Albany in order to eliminate a bottleneck that often delayed Amtrak trains on a 17-mile stretch of single track.

The track went into service on June 26 to conclude a three-year project.

Some trains waited as long as 20 minutes in Schenectady or Rensselaer for opposing traffic to clear.

The track had been removed when the rails were owned by Penn Central.

Overseeing the project were the New York State Department of Transportation, Amtrak and CSX.

In a related development, New York officials released design details for a new $23 million Amtrak station in Schenectady. The station is expected to be completed in late 2018.

The design will feature a wraparound awning outside the building, a weather vane in the shape of New York state on top of a gold dome on the roof, and over-sized arched windows similar in design to those of the 1910-era Union station that once sat at the site.

Earlier this year, Amtrak finished work to improve its station serving Albany-Rensselaer.

That $50.5 million project involved construction of a fourth passenger loading track, extending the loading platforms and upgrading block signals.

Much of that work will benefit the Chicago-New York/Boston Lake Shore Limited, which splits at the Albany-Rensselaer station.

Still to be completed is a $3.5 million state-funded project to rebuild platform elevators and replace the escalators.

Other work that remains in the Empire Corridor includes making grade crossing and signal improvements south of Rensselaer on the route to New York City.

Most of the funding for the work in the Capitol Region of New York came from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

The Federal Railroad Administration in a separate allotment had granted New York $33 million to be used to install positive train control technology between Poughkeepsie and Schenectady.

Amtrak Names Trains That Will Use Grand Central

July 6, 2017

Amtrak has announced which Empire Service trains will be using Grand Central Terminal once the reconstruction of tracks at New York’s Penn Station gets underway.

Three weekday trains originating at Albany-Rensselaer, New York, will use Grand Central and be turned on the the station’s loop track.

The trains set to diverge at Spuyten Duyvil and head for Grand Central are No. 230, departing Albany-Rensselaer at 5:05 a.m.; No. 236, departing at 8:20 a.m.; and No. 242, whose departure time has been moved up to 2:40 p.m. from 3:10 p.m.)

Northbound trains will depart Grand Central at 11:15 a.m. (No. 233, weekdays only), 2:15 p.m. (No. 235), and 5:48 p.m. (No. 239).

The New York-Montreal Adirondack will continue to use Penn Station but will be combined with the Toronto-bound Maple Leaf as far as Albany. The Adirondack will arrive earlier at intermediate stops to Montreal.

The Friday departure time of the Ethan Allen Express will be moved up to the Saturday-Thursday 3:15 p.m. scheduled departure time.

Amtrak plans to cancel six New York-Washington Northeast Regional trains and the New York-Philadelphia portion of three Keystone round-trips.

Another Keystone Service will terminate at Newark, New Jersey, while the New York-New Orleans Crescent will originate and terminate in Washington

Travel between all Northeast Corridor stops will be allowed on the New York-Miami Silver Star and Silver Meteor, and aboard the Chicago-New York Cardinal.

Those trains ordinarily stop between New York and Washington to pick up and discharge passengers traveling to and from destinations south and west of Washington.

Unaffected by the changes are Empire Service trains operating to and from Niagara Falls, New York, and the Chicago-New York Lake Shore Limited.

The schedule changes are effective July 10. The work at Penn Station will continue through Sept. 1.

Third-rail shoes have been modified from over-running contact to Metro-North’s under-running configuration on at least four P32-DM locomotives to power the detouring Amtrak trains.

Only tracks 1-9 and 11 of Penn Station’s 21 tracks will be accessible from the west end during the construction work.

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.”

Signs Point to Shift to Grand Central for Amtrak

May 22, 2017

Amtrak has yet to comment on reports that it plans to shift some Empire Corridor trains this summer to New York City’s Grand Central Terminal, but there are increasing signs that it will happen.

Gary Prophet of the Empire State Passengers Association told New York radio station WCBS that he has spoken with Amtrak train crews who said they are being trained to operate on the route to Grand Central Terminal.

A New York state legislator who represent the Albany, New York, area, said Amtrak using Grand Central is a real possibility.

“The fact that there’s ongoing discussion and communication . . . indicates that it’s still very much in play,” he said.

Amtrak President Charles “Wick” Moorman didn’t address using Grand Central in speaking to a state legislative panel last week, but said that “for perspective on this, Grand Central Terminal handles only roughly two-thirds the number of daily trains on double the number of train tracks, compared to Penn Station.”

Amtrak has announced that it plans to conduct a track repair project at New York’s Penn Station this summer and that during that work 25 percent of the station’s track capacity will be out of service. That project will begin on July 7.

Penn Station handles 1,300 passenger trains a day. Amtrak has not used Grand Central Terminal since 1991.