Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited’

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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Track Work to Disrupt LSL Boston Section

September 30, 2017

Track work being performed by CSX will affect operations of the Boston section of the Lake Shore Limited between Oct. 1 and 27.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said the work will affect Trains 448 and 449, on the dates indicated below:

Train 448 will not operate on Sundays through Thursdays while Train 449 will be affected on Monday through Friday.

Passengers on Train 448 who are traveling to Pittsfield, Springfield, Worcester, Framingham, and Boston (South Station) will get off the train at Albany on the Sunday through Thursday where they will board a bus to complete their journey to their destination.

On the weekdays indicated above, Train 449 will not operate between Boston (South Station) and Albany. Passengers boarding at Boston (South Station), Framingham, Worcester, Springfield, Pittsfield will travel by bus to Albany, where they will transfer to westbound Train 49, making all remaining stops on the route.

During this period, Trains 448 and 449 will not stop at Boston Back Bay, and bus service will not be provided.

Passengers can take MBTA commuter rail for travel to or from Boston South Station. Train 448 customers can also take the MBTA subway Orange Line to Downtown Crossing and transfer to the Red line to Boston South Station. Train 449 customers can use reverse directions.

Passengers at Boston South Station should go to the Amtrak Information Desk for instructions on boarding the buses.

Passengers at Framingham will board all buses at the drop-off/pick-up area at the Track 2 platform (at Waverly Street).

The Worcester station is not staffed so passengers should check with station security personnel for the location to board the bus, which is being provided by Premier Bus Lines.

Bus Replacing Boston Section of LSL for Track Work

September 21, 2017

The Boston section of the Lake Shore Limited will be affected on select dates Sept. 15-25 due to track work being performed by Keolis/MBTA.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said passengers on Train 48 who are traveling to Pittsfield, Springfield, Worcester, Framingham, and Boston (South Station) will get off the train at Albany on the dates below and travel by bus to and from all stations, except Boston Back Bay.

  • Friday, Sept. 15 through Saturday, Sunday, Sept. 17
  • Friday, Sept. 22 through Sunday, Sept. 24

Train 449 will not operate between Boston (South Station) and Albany on the dates below. Passengers boarding at Boston (South Station), Framingham, Worcester, Springfield, Pittsfield will be provided bus service to Albany, where they will transfer to westbound Train 49 to their destination.

  • Saturday, Sept.  16 through Monday, Sept.  18
  • Saturday, Sept.  23 through Monday, Sept.  25

Service at Boston Back Bay station is cancelled and bus service will not be provided. Passengers for Back Bay can contact MBTA for travel to and from Boston Back Bay.

Passengers at Boston South Station should go to the Amtrak Information Desk for instructions on boarding the buses.

Passengers at Framingham, will board all buses at the drop-off/pick-up area track 2 platform (at Waverly Street)

Passengers at Worcester should go downstairs to the intercity bus area and board the bus marked Premier Bus.

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 Routes Said to be Eyed by Terrorists

August 20, 2017

Amtrak’s Empire Builder and Lake Shore Limited might be targeted by terrorist groups the Transportation Security Administration has warned.

The TSA has told mass transit agencies, freight, and passenger rail lines to be vigilant in the wake of a propaganda video released by the terrorist group Al Qaeda.

TSA said there are no known plots against transportation operations in the United States, but that the terrorist group has listed dozens of rail routes that it considered to be vulnerable.

Many of those routes serve Chicago Union Station. Al Qaeda listed the Chicago-New York Lake Shore Limited and the Chicago-Seattle/Portland Empire Builder.

“The Al-Qaeda video is an important reminder that mass transit, passenger-rail, and freight-rail operations are a potential target for terrorist activity,” TSA officials said.

The federal agency said employees should keep a close watch on their environments and to exercise caution with equipment and materials that could be used to obstruct or derail trains.

Transportation officials has indicated that airport-style screening systems are unlikely to become common in rail transportation, including mass transit lines, but testing is being conducted of systems that would enhance existing security measures.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority in Los Angeles conducted a test run of new technology designed to scan passengers to detect firearms or explosive vests.

“While we’ll never become a fully secured environment like you’d have in the airport, we do want to find a way to more effectively screen passengers,” Metro security executive Alex Wiggins said. “We are trying to stay ahead of the threat.”

One reason why airport security measure have not been implemented for rail passengers is because they cannot process transit and intercity rail passengers fast enough.

The technology being tested in Los Angeles can scan up to 600 passengers per hour. Riders are not required to remove their shoes or take out laptops, keys and phones from their bags.

The scanners cost about $60,000 each and 20 would be needed for Union Station alone.

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.

Schenectady Amtrak Station Being Razed

July 7, 2017

The Amtrak station in Schenectady, New York, is being razed in preparation for the building of a new depot on the site.

Passengers are now using a temporary platform to board trains and the station’s parking lot has been transformed into a construction site that is blocked off with fencing.

Amtrak said parking at the interim boarding site is limited and the ticket office for Schenectady has been closed. Passengers are advised to arrive more than 30 minutes early and to plan on being picked up and dropped off.

Construction of the new station is occurring in two phases, the first of which will cost $5.4 million and involve demolishing the current Amtrak-built station, making concrete and structural repairs along the existing station platform, and installing new concrete culverts underneath the tracks.

The second phase involves construction of the new station. Bidding on that project is expected to begin this fall. The new station is projected to open in late 2018.

The new station is on the site of the former Union Station that was torn down and replaced in 1979 by a modular facility built by Amtrak.

Amtrak handled about 60,000 passengers per year in Schenectady, which is served by Empire Service trains to and from Niagara Falls, New York; the Chicago-New York Lake Shore Limited; the New York-Montreal Adirondack; and the New York-Rutland, Vermont, Ethan Allen Express.

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.

The Other LSL’s Passengers Were More Fortunate

July 5, 2017

Sunday, July 2, was not a good day to be a passenger aboard Amtrak’s westbound Lake Shore Limited.

First, the train was delayed for five hours due to flooding and track inspections between Albany and Utica, New York.

Then it ran into a Norfolk Southern work window in Ohio by which it had to make a roundabout detour move that added four more hours of delay.

By the time it reached Chicago at 7:27 p.m. it was nine hours, 42 minutes late.

But those riding the eastbound Lake Shore Limited only had to deal with the “standard” delays.

It was a mere 30 minutes late reaching New York Penn Station although it was over an hour late at some stations in New York state.

It it shown above cruising through Painesville, Ohio, east of Cleveland after departing the latter station 40 minutes off the advertised.

A noteworthy point about this train is that the P42DC locomotives pulling it are consecutively numbered 15 and 14.

Amtrak Where You Don’t Normally See It

July 3, 2017

It isn’t every day that you an Amtrak train in Bellevue. The National passenger carrier has never run through here in scheduled service, only on detour moves.

Amtrak No. 49 takes the Toledo District in the mini plant in Bellevue on its circuitous detour

Crossing the Portage River in Oak Harbor.

On Sunday (July 2) Norfolk Southern was changing out the diamonds at Sandusky and Vickers (Toledo). As a result Amtrak 49, the westbound Lake Shore Limited, needed to detour through Bellevue.

Normally this would not have been an issue; however, it was running about 5 1/2 hours late when it reached Cleveland. The other Amtrak trains did not need to detour as they were on time.

No. 49 took the Sandusky district to Bellevue and the Toledo district west. It would have an interesting route to get to Toledo going past Ironville tower and the Wheeling Belt before regaining the Chicago Line. I didn’t chase the train that far however I was able to get a few photos at Bellevue and Oak Harbor Ohio.

Article and Photographs by Todd Dillon