Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak’s International’

Amtrak Continues to Eye Chicago-Toronto Route

August 13, 2019

Amtrak continues to study the prospect of creating a Chicago-Toronto route via Detroit.

The proposal would extend one of the current Wolverine Service trains east of Detroit via Windsor, Ontario, where it would then operate on tracks used by VIA Rail Canada.

In a presentation last week at the Michigan Rail Conference at Michigan State University, an Amtrak representative said a precursor to launching the service would be upgrading tracks between the Windsor tunnel portal and the VIA station in Windsor/Walkerville as well as constructing a border crossing processing facility.

Wolverine Service trains currently operate between Chicago and Pontiac in the northern Detroit suburbs and is funded by the Michigan Department of Transportation.

The presentation did not indicate how much it would cost to implement the service nor did it identify a funding source.

“There would be multiple railroads to work with that we currently partnership with, and so it would take some cooperation to get such service going,” said MDOT spokesman Michael Frezell.

Operating a connecting bus between the Detroit and Windsor stations was described as a possible short-term move.

Amtrak proposed in March the idea of a Chicago-Toronto route in its federal funding request.

The carrier once operated a train known as the International between Chicago and Toronto via Sarnia, Ontario.

In Michigan, the International used the route of the current Blue Water between Chicago and Port Huron.

The International operated between Oct. 31, 1982, and April 23, 2004.

Sarnia Mayor Wants Proposed New Amtrak Route

April 11, 2019

The mayor of Sarnia, Ontario, is hoping that Amtrak’s interest in starting a Detroit-Toronto route may lead to a restoration of service to Michigan.

Sarnia was a stop for Amtrak’s International, which once ran between Chicago and Toronto via Sarnia and Port Huron, Michigan.

That service ended in 2004, but Amtrak continues to operate the daily Blue Water between Chicago and Port Huron with funding from the State of Michigan.

The International had been a joint venture of Amtrak and VIA Rail Canada.

Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley said the route through the tunnel between his city and Port Huron deserves a closer look.

The Michigan Department of Transportation and Amtrak have discussed for years the institution of bus service linking Michigan and cities in Ontario.

Amtrak’s interest in a Detroit-Toronto route was mentioned in its fiscal year 2020 budget request to Congress.

“Amtrak is exploring places it can modernize and expand its services and network,” Amtrak spokesperson Marc Magliari said. “A Chicago/Western Michigan – Detroit – Toronto corridor is one of the services where we see promise.”

It is not clear if the route east of Detroit would operate via Port Huron/Sarnia or go through Windsor, Ontario, which is opposite of Detroit across the Detroit River.

“At this early stage, speculation would be premature,” Magliari said.

Bradley said his greater interest is to see restoration of passenger rail service lost over the past few decades.

He pointed out that the Sarnia VIA station is located on the Canadian National line running under the St. Clair River while Windsor’s new VIA station has no connection to the Detroit River rail tunnel.

Bradley said that although the market for passengers is bigger in Detroit and Windsor, the rail crossing at Sarnia and Port Huron worked well for many years.

The International was discontinued in part due to long delays in border crossing inspections follow the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Other factors included declining ridership and the desire of Michigan officials for a scheduled that allowed day trips to and from Chicago.

VIA operates just one roundtrip between Sarnia and Toronto.

He acknowledged that border crossing issues would still remain, but those would exist regardless of where it’s located.

Amtrak Eyes Detroit-Toronto Corridor

April 3, 2019

Among the recent items that Amtrak identified in its fiscal year 2020 budget request to Congress was restoration of service to Toronto from the Midwest.

However, the carrier has no firm plans to do that and merely listed it as a potential new corridor.

The budget shows the corridor as being anchored at its west end by Detroit.

“Amtrak is exploring places it can modernize and expand its services and network,” Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said. “A Chicago/Western Michigan–Detroit–Toronto corridor is one of the services where we see promise.”

Amtrak has never operated between Detroit and Toronto. It operated between Chicago and Toronto via East Lansing and Flint, Michigan, between October 31, 1982, and April 23, 2004.

During that time it operated as the International Limited and later, simply the International.

Over the years various proposals were made to reroute the International within Michigan, including via Detroit.

Amtrak’s Network Growth Strategy plan called for rerouting the International via Detroit in fall 2000, but that was never implemented.

Amtrak’s FY 2020 budget proposal does not specify how much money it needs to establish the Detroit-Toronto corridor.

Through intercity rail passenger service between Detroit and Toronto ended in the 1960s.

Michigan Rail Passenger Advocates Working to Get Amtrak-VIA Bus Connection Detroit-Windsor

April 25, 2017

Michigan rail passengers advocates are working with Amtrak and VIA Rail Canada to revive connecting service between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, although that might not necessarily be rail service.

In a campaign that has been dubbed “mind the gap,” the advocates are talking with both railroads about establishing a direct bus connection.

Passengers who now want to connect between Amtrak and VIA must either take a cab or ride three local transit buses.

The advocates noted that the border crossing at Detroit is the busiest between the two countries.

Until 2003, Amtrak and VIA hosted a Chicago-Toronto train known as the International that operated via Flint and Port Huron, Michigan.

A Detroit-New York train, the Niagara Rainbow, operated via Windsor between October 1974 and January 1979, ending when the states of New York and Michigan ended their funding of the train.

An article posted on the website of the National Association of Railroad Passengers said that VIA is in active discussions with bus companies to provide a “bus bridge” between the VIA station in Windsor and the Detroit Amtrak station.

The service may begin by late 2017. The Michigan advocates hope that if the bus connection proves successful that it might provide an impetus for resuming rail service between Detroit and Windsor.