Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak’s Lincoln Service’

IDOT Head Sees Top Speed of 90 mph for Trains by Summer 2018 in the Chicago-St. Louis Corridor

December 18, 2017

Illinois Secretary of Transportation Randy Blankenhorn said Amtrak trains in the Chicago-St. Louis corridor should be operating at 90 mph starting next summer.

The current top speed on the route is 79 miles per hour exception for a demonstration section between Pontiac and Dwight where 110 mph speeds began in fall 2012.

In an interview with the State Journal-Register of Springfield, Blankenhorn said a nearly $2 billion high-speed rail project to rebuild portions of the route for high-speed service is starting to wind down.

Although the route has an infrastructure for a 110 mph top speed, Blankenhorn said those speeds won’t come until 2019 after a positive train control system is put into operation.  “We are substantially complete,” said Blankenhorn.

Blankenhorn expects the project to finish on time and on budget with federal funding accounting for $1.65 billion of the estimated $1.95 billion final project cost.

The state is paying about $300 million of the project cost. IDOT has said that once the project is completed, Amtrak trains will have an 85 percent on-time guarantee.

Union Pacific, which owns the most of the track in the Chicago-St. Louis corridor used by Amtrak will be subject to financial penalties if the 85-percent, on-time guarantee is missed.

Nearly 590,000 passengers rode Amtrak between St. Louis and Chicago during the Illinois fiscal year that ended last June 30.

Patronage has fallen below 600,000 the last three fiscal years as a result of service disruptions caused by the high-speed project work.

One final phase of the project that is still underway is finishing track work in the Third Street corridor in Springfield.

“There’s some crossing work that needs to be done in Springfield, and that’s well underway,” Blankenhorn said.

The work will also include six-foot safety fencing on each side of the tracks. Safety, technology and accessibility improvements are planned for the Springfield Amtrak station.

Workers have made changes to 190 crossings in the Chicago-St. Louis corridor along 330 miles of track, closed nearly two dozen crossings and put up 90 miles of safety fencing meant to prevent trespassing.

The higher speeds are expected to reduce the 5.5 hour trip between St. Louis and Chicago by 11 minutes and by 20 minutes when a second set of tracks is competed near Joliet. Trains traveling 110 mph should cut the running time by 53 minutes.

However, the faster running times won’t address freight rail congestion in Chicago or St. Louis, which Blankenhorn said accounts for many of the delays now occurring.

Just over half of Lincoln Service and Texas Eagle trains ran late in the three years prior to high-speed rail work.

“It’s not so much about speed as it is reliability,” said Blankenhorn. “Passengers would use our trains a lot more if they knew they were going to be there when they need them and were not going to be an hour-and-a-half late.”

John Oimoen, chief of IDOT’s rail division said installation of the equipment needed for PTC in the Chicago-St. Louis corridor will be completed next spring.

“It’s the challenge of developing the software and getting that information back to (train) dispatcher,” he said.

Blankenhorn said the highest speeds initially will be allowed between Alton and Joliet while the state continues to work to fix the traffic bottlenecks in St. Louis and Chicago. He said those fixes will be “complicated and expensive.”

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Chicago-St. Louis Ridership Up 9%

December 6, 2017

Amtrak said that ridership in its Chicago-St. Louis corridor is growing and is up about 9 percent when compared with last year.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said upgraded track conditions and the completion of various construction projects has resulted in an uptick in passengers.

“The construction disruptions we have been enduring since about 2010 are pretty well gone. We’ve been able to run trains in nearly all the slots, not substitute buses,” Magliari said.

“The track improvements are pretty much in place so the promised improvements here on this route are coming true and the passengers are coming back because of it,” he said.

“There are 59,000 more people riding these trains between Chicago and St. Louis largely because some of the work we have been doing is paying off.”

In addition to the Chicago-St. Louis Lincoln Service trains, the corridor also hosts the Chicago-San Antonio Texas Eagle.

Lincoln Amtrak Station Renovated

December 5, 2017

A ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the renovation of the Amtrak station in Lincoln, Illinois, will held today.

The depot, built in 1911, has been renovated to retain its historic character and details. Amtrak passengers use a former freight house, which was transformed into a passenger station.

The project also included new parking lots, sidewalks, lighting and landscaping.

Funding for the project came from a federal High Speed Rail Initiative grant.

Lincoln is served by the Chicago-St. Louis Lincoln Service and the Chicago-San Antonio Texas Eagle.

New Carlinville Station Now Open to Passengers

November 28, 2017

The new Carlinville, Illinois, Amtrak station is now serving passengers and a grand opening has been set for Dec. 11 at 1 p.m.

Work on the station began more than a year ago and the depot opened on Nov. 16.

“It’s been a long journey,” said Mayor Deanna Demuzio.

Construction was completed two months ago, but negotiations between the city and Amtrak over a lease kept the station from opening. Primarily, the talks focused on liability insurance.

Speakers and entertainment for the grand opening event will be announced at a later date.

Among those expected to appear are Illinois Secretary of Transportation Randall Blankenhorn and Abraham Lincoln impersonator Randy Duncan.

The new station is open from 5 a.m. until 11:30 p.m. daily. The doors lock automatically once travelers from the last scheduled train have had time to depart.

Carlinville is served by Amtrak’s Chicago-St. Louis Lincoln Service trains and the Chicago-San Antonio Texas Eagle.

Alton Road Depot Being Razed in Alton

November 28, 2017

Demolition of the former Amtrak station in Alton, Illinois, began this week after efforts to find a nonprofit organization to buy and move the station failed.

The 89-year-old depot was once operated by the Gulf, Mobile & Ohio Railroad, but is now owned by Union Pacific, which owns the former GM&O tracks through Alton.

The station was built by the Chicago & Alton Railroad and opened in May 1928.

Kristen South, UP director of media relations, said the demolition is expected to take two weeks.

Amtrak had leased the 1,602-square-foot brick structure and parking lot until it began using the Alton Regional Multi-Modal Transportation Center on Sept. 13.

UP had said it didn’t want the depot to be used at its current location due to potential liability issues.

Preservationist Terry Sharp sought to save the station. He established a Facebook page devoted to the cause that had 418 members.

Sharp, the president of the Alton Area Landmarks Association, expressed disappointment that the station could not be saved. “I guess I will go out there and take some pictures,” he said.

The AALA included the depot in its house tour brochure in recent years in an effort to spark interest in saving it.

“I would talk to people, but no one, nothing, came up,” he said. “It was about money, and where to put it (station). There was always a circle of questions. It had to go to a not-for-profit, and it had to be moved. To move it would cost $150,000. We tried, but nothing came up. It’s too bad, it would have been nice to save it. It is going to be sad to see an old building torn down.”

In May 2013, the City of Alton signed a memorandum of agreement with the Federal Railroad Administration, Illinois State Historic Preservation Agency, Illinois Department of Transportation and Union Pacific to develop a marketing plan and attempt to help sell the building.

UP agreed to sell the station to a not-for-profit for $1 as a tax write-off provided that the buyer moved the depot at its own expense. UP also demanded that the platform and foundation be removed.

Had a group offered to take possession of the building it would have had up to 12 months to move the structure.

The city in the meantime is documenting the structure in accordance with the Illinois Historic American Building Survey Standards and Guidelines. That work will be placed in archives at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield.

“People talk about how great old train stations are that are still around, but we haven’t gotten a lot of public sentiment,” Sharp said last summer. “I was hoping this would be part of the (April 4) election, but none of the candidates brought it up. We’ve tried, I said I would try, but nothing has clicked.”

The station is located at 3400 College Avenue. Amtrak now uses a facility off Homer Adams Parkway.

Alton is served by Amtrak’s Chicago-St. Louis Lincoln Service trains and the Chicago-San Antonio Texas Eagle.

110 mph Running Delayed Until Next Year

November 25, 2017

Top speeds of 110 miles per hour are not expected to come to the Chicago-St. Louis corridor until 2018, the Illinois Department of Transportation has said.

IDOT said construction of the $2 billion high-speed rail project has taken longer than expected.

The original goal when the project began seven years ago was to have the higher speeds in place by late 2017.

Officials have not said when in 2018 the higher speeds will be allowed.

The latest delays have occurred in Springfield where five crossings have been closed while workers install safety fencing and make signal and gate upgrades.

The city of Springfield is seeking federal approval to establish a “quiet zone” of no train horns once the safety improvements are completed.

Trains began running at speeds up to 110 mph in 2012 between Pontiac and Dwight.

Carlinville OKs Amtrak Station Contract

November 16, 2017

The Carlinville, Illinois, city council has approved a contract that should pave the way for the opening of a new Amtrak station.

The contract had been delayed as state and local officials worked out with Amtrak language pertaining to the liability part of the lease.

The station has been completed for some time. Once Amtrak signs the contract, the station can be opened and a dedication ceremony scheduled.

Located on the Chicago-St. Louis corridor, Carlinville is served by Lincoln Service trains and the Texas Eagle.

Suspicious Luggage Prompted Evacuation of Lincoln Service Train in Illinois Late Last Week

October 23, 2017

Amtrak passengers aboard a northbound Lincoln Service train were delayed for more than three hours in Lincoln, Illinois, last Friday after a passenger reported suspicious bags aboard the train.

They turned out to be luggage that a passenger who had disembarked in Springfield, Illinois, had left onboard

Passengers were instructed to get off the train at the Lincoln station while police with bomb-sniffing dogs searched the train.

Authorities said there were 190 passengers aboard Train No. 302, which departed St. Louis at 6:40 a.m. and was scheduled to arrive in Chicago at 12:20 p.m.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said in a statement that the evacuation of the train was a pre-caution. The passengers lingered outside the station waiting for authorities to allow them to re-board their train.

Under normal circumstances, No. 302 would have departed Lincoln at 9:05 a.m. Instead it didn’t leave until 12:40 p.m.

Three other Amtrak trains, including the northbound Texas Eagle and southbound Lincoln Service trains 301 and 303 were delayed by the incident.

A passenger who did not want to be identified said that the man who left the luggage behind “just kind of seemed like there was something maybe not quite right with how he was acting.”

A news account quoted a passenger as saying the man seemed like he was on edge.

“Well, before we stopped in Springfield, he said, ‘I’m going to leave my bags here, I need to get off the train, but there’s only clothes in there, I promise,’ is what he said,” the passenger said.

Another passenger, Carla Mayernick of Girard, Illinois, told reporters that when the train reached Lincoln, passengers were told to evacuate and leave their bags.

Terry Storer, the deputy director of the Logan County Emergency Management Agency, said, the investigation was standard procedure because abandoned packages raise everyone’s suspicion.

Passenger Barry Trump said the train left the station for undisclosed location, “which I thought was a great idea, so it didn’t blow up in the station.”

New Carlinville Station Close to Opening

October 6, 2017

A new Amtrak station in Carlinville, Illinois, is expected to open soon.

A least lease agreement between the city of Carlinville, which owns the building, and Union Pacific, which owns the ground, has been reached.

But the city must work out a lease agreement with Amtrak, but the negotiations have snagged over liability insurance.

“We’re still dilly dallying with the Amtrak lease of the station and the platforms,” said City attorney Rick Bertinetti.” Everything is pretty well getting ironed out in that agreement except for one significant major item that pertains to liability and insurance.”

Bertinetti said he placed language in the lease stating Amtrak would indemnify the city over anything that happens with regard to Amtrak’s use of the platform, its agents, its employees and its passengers.

“We do have a good clause in there as far as indemnity that they have approved,” he said. “Now, we’re just trying to put together what insurances we do have to carry and maintain in effect because of our other agreement to lease the property — the platform in particular — from Union Pacific Railroad.”

Mayor Deanna Demuzio said a meeting has been scheduled with an attorney from Amtrak.

“We hope to get everything finalized very, very soon. This is something we’ve been working on for over a year.”

The Carlinville City Council recently approved a stipulation by the Illinois Department of Transportation for a passenger information display system that will provide passengers with infromation regarding arriving and departing trains.

Bertinetti said the PIDS agreement had to be approved by the council since the displays are improvements to the property and included a grant received by the city.

“We don’t have any monetary obligation here, other than we are the owner,” he said. “We have to carry insurance on it and we’re basically responsible if it gets damaged, vandalized, stolen, something like that. We’ll carry insurance on it, just as we have to carry insurance on the station itself.

Carlinville is served by Amtrak’s Lincoln Service trains and the Chicago-San Antonio Texas Eagle.

Amtrak to Begin Using New Alton Station

September 12, 2017

Amtrak will begin using the new Alton Regional Multimodal Transportation Center on Wednesday.

The facility, which features wide platforms, ample parking, free Wi-Fi, enclosed bicycle lockers, and connections to local transit buses, was built with a combination of federal federal and local funds.

Local buses will also use the center, which is near stores, restaurants, a Hampton Inn, and a Super 8 motel.

The current Alton station is on College Avenue in a depot built by the Gulf, Mobile & Ohio Railroad.

Southbound trains will stop two minutes earlier and northbound trains two minutes later than the current published schedule. A formal dedication of the new facility has been set for Sept. 15.

Alton is served by Chicago-St. Louis Lincoln Service trains and the Chicago-San Antonio Texas Eagle.