Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor’

Portal Bridge Rules to Become Permanent

February 22, 2020

The U.S. Coast Guard will make permanent next month a practice of keeping the Portal Bridge on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor closed during rush hour.

The 110-year-old structure over the Hackensack River in New Jersey has been prone to malfunctions after being opened for marine traffic, which has resulted in delays to Amtrak and New Jersey Transit trains.

Last year the Coast Guard began keeping the swing bridge closed between 5 a.m. and 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. on an interim basis with limited exceptions.

Replacement of the bridge is a key component of the Gateway Plan that would make other infrastructure improvements including construction of new tunnels under the Hudson River between New Jersey and New York City.

Portal Bridge Gets Favorable FTA Rating

February 14, 2020

The Federal Transit Agency this week gave a favorable rating to one component of the Gateway Project in the Northeast Corridor but continued to rate low the other major component.

The replacement of the Portal Bridge in New Jersey received a “medium high” rating from FTA while construction of a new tunnel between New York City and New Jersey continues to receive a “medium low” rating.

It means that the $1.8 billion bridge replacement plan can move to the engineering phase.

The bridge spans the Hackensack River and sometimes fails to lock into place after opening, which delays Amtrak and New Jersey Transit trains.

New reports have indicated that the $11 billion tunnel project continues to languish due to the assertion of the federal government that the project is not receiving enough local funding.

The “medium low” priority rating means the tunnel project continues to be ineligible for federal funds.

Amtrak Rehabbing NEC Tunnel in Baltimore

February 3, 2020

Amtrak said it is launching a pilot to rebuild the 147-year-old Baltimore & Potomac Tunnel in the Northeast Corridor.

In a news release, Amtrak said the preventive maintenance work is expected the tunnel in good working condition until a new tunnel can be built under the City of Baltimore.

Workers will replace 1,000 feet of track slab and block ties and renew track inside the tunnel that have deteriorated due to age and water infiltration.

The work is being done over eight weekends in order to minimize disruptions of passenger operations.

Amtrak said the pilot project will allow Amtrak’s engineering department to evaluate viable options to improve the reliability of the B&P Tunnel.

The two-track tunnel, which opened in 1873, is located between the West Baltimore MARC and Baltimore Penn stations and is used by Amtrak, Maryland’s MARC Commuter trains and Norfolk Southern freight trains.

The tunnel is said by Amtrak to be approaching the end of its useful life and its obsolete design creates a low-speed bottleneck in the Northeast Corridor.

In 2017the Federal Railroad Administration issued a Record of Decision for a new four-track tunnel system to replace the existing B&P Tunnel. The new tunnel would cost an estimated $5 billion.

Amtrak IG Warns Carrier at Risk of Missing May 2021 Objective to Start Using New Alstom Acela Train Sets

January 25, 2020

Amtrak’s Office of Inspector General said this week the passenger carrier is in danger of missing its stated goal of putting into revenue service in May 2021 new equipment for its Acela Express service in the Northeast Corridor.

That could mean lost revenue because the new train sets Amtrak has purchased and are still being built will have 82 more seats than the original equipment now used in Acela Express service.

“The Acela 21 program is entering a critical stage if it is to begin revenue service on time,” the report concluded.

Although the IG found the program has used “some sound program management practices” there are management and structural weaknesses that continue to pose significant risks.

“Foremost is that project delays have eliminated any cushion in the schedule, and multiple indicators point to further delays beyond the planned service launch in 2021,” the report said.

The report came on the heels of the Federal Railroad Administration giving approval to Amtrak to move one train set from the factory in Hornell, New York, where it was built, to an FRA test site in Colorado.

Amtrak also released a video showing the train set, which was built by Alstom, getting underway on its trip to the test track.

Alstom is building 28 train sets for Acela service. The train sets have cost $2.1 billion.

Amtrak assistant IG Jim Morrison wrote in his report that it is likely that Amtrak will not meet its 2021 target date for putting the new high-speed equipment into service.

The IG report said Amtrak has not upgraded maintenance facilities or information technology systems to handle the new train.

Training of the 1,000 maintenance and onboard personnel on the nuts and bolts operations of the new equipment has yet to get underway.

The original plan had been for Alstom to deliver to Amtrak as many as nine train sets in 2021, but that timetable is in doubt.

Amtrak plans to remove one existing Acela train set from service each time a new train set is ready to run.

In order for Amtrak to meet its 2021 objective, the testing of the first train set must be flawless and construction of remaining equipment must be without significant delays.

The IG report recommended Amtrak have managers working on the Acela 21 be given the property authority to focus on and finish the project.

This includes creating contingency plans for what the passenger carrier will do if it misses its target service and deliveries falls further behind schedule.

The report was based on interviews with Amtrak managers in late 2019 and early 2020.

It noted that many of the delays were beyond the control of Amtrak. These included delays that occurred during the manufacturing process.

Amtrak agreed with the five elements the IG identified, including employee training, development of IT services, and modifications to service and inspection facilities.

However, Amtrak said it believes it has a strong management structure in place to oversee execution and delivery of the project.

“There remains an extraordinary amount of work ahead and Amtrak management is confident that the proper resources are aligned to deliver this ambitious program on scope, schedule and budget,” Amtrak wrote in its response to the report.

The contract with Alstom was approved by Amtrak’s board of directors in 2016.

Amtrak said in the video of the first new Alstom train set that it will be moved to the test track near Pueblo, Colorado, in mid-February.

NE Corridor Scheduled to be Adjusted

January 16, 2020

New York-Boston Luxury Bus Service Shuts Down

January 4, 2020

A luxury bus operator in the New York-Boston market abruptly closed on New Year’s Eve after 17 years in business.

The president of LimoLiner cited financial pressures and competition that led the company into bankruptcy proceedings.

Mark Richardson said those pressures included rising expenses for insurance, mantenance and labor.

Efforts to sell the operation fell thought. “It was our last resort,” he said of the shutdown. “Coming into the new year with our slow season, we just felt we were no longer able to continue operating.”

LimoLiner, which had begun operations in 2003, was known for offering onboard movies, spacious leather seats, and fresh meals served by an attendants.

Its fleet of eight buses and 25 employees operated multiple daily trips to Midtown Manhattan from the Back Bay and Framingham for fares of less than $100.

Richard said LimoLiner was also hurt by other bus companies entering the market and lower airline and Amtrak fares.

Some of LimoLiner’s loyal customers told the Boston Globe that they considered it to be an affordable and comfortable alternative to Amtrak.

“It felt like this extravagant way to travel, but it really wasn’t so expensive compared to taking a train,” said Susan Rubin of Stoneham.

Baltimore Airport Station Reopens

December 13, 2019

The Northeast Corridor station in Linthicum, Maryland, that serves Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport has reopened following a $4.7 million renovation.

The station serves Amtrak and MARC commuter trains.

Work at the station included expanding the seating areas, providing natural sunlight, installing new ticketing facilities, and providing new options for food and drink.

The project began in 2018 and during the 14-month construction period passengers had to use a temporary station.

The BWI Airport Station also serves a LocalLink bus route and connects riders to the Maryland Transit Administration’s Light RailLink light-rail service at the airport.

N.J. Senators Wants Answers from DOT Head Chao

November 12, 2019

Two New Jersey senators are demanding that Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao explain why her agency continues to slow walk its review of the Hudson River Tunnels project.

Cory Booker and Bob Menendez noted that Chao inspected the existing tunnels in April 2018 and would have seen first-hand evidence of deterioration in the tunnels, which link Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor with New York City and New Jersey.

Furthermore, the senators are upset that Chao toured the tunnels without letting them know about it.

“We would have welcomed the opportunity to join you on the tour to discuss how we could partner to advance the Gateway Project, but please know the invitations we have previously extended still stand,” the senators said in a statement.

Booker and Menendez want Chao to explain why the environmental impact statement for the Hudson River tunnel project has not yet been approved by DOT, even though a draft EIS prepared by the Federal Railroad Administration and New Jersey Transit was published in June 2017.

DOT gave the tunnel project a medium-low rating earlier this year.

The senators also noted that the Portal North Bridge project has continued to languish without DOT’s approval.

In earlier statements, DOT has called for New Jersey and New York to spend more money on the projects, calling them local projects.

4 New Jersey Stations to be Upgraded

October 20, 2019

Amtrak and the State of New Jersey are upgrading four stations in the Northeast Corridor that are used by the national passenger carrier and New Jersey Transit.

The work will begin at the 116-year-old station in New Brunswick where the project will include renovation of the elevators and escalators, lighting, heating and air conditioning, extending the eastbound platform, rehabilitation of the exterior brick façade, and new paint.

Other work will be done at stations in Elizabeth, Trenton, and Princeton Junction.

Federal funding will pay for 90 percent of the work with the state picking up the remaining 10 percent of the costs.

Portal Bridge to Remain Closed During Rush Hours

October 13, 2019

The U.S. Coast Guard has agreed to ban opening of the Portal Bridge in New Jersey on the Northeast Corridor during morning and evening rush hours.

The move will lessen the chances that the 110-year-old bridge will be stuck in the open position and delay thousands of commuters.

An average of a train every two minutes crosses the bridge during rush hours. It is used by Amtrak and New Jersey Transit.

Last March the Coast Guard implemented a six-month ban on opening the bridge during rush hours on a trial basis.

Officials said the practice is now permanent after the trial found no delays being reported.

New Jersey officials want to replace the bridge and a $1.5 billion project to do so is part of the Gateway Project that also included other improvements to the Northeast Corridor between New Jersey and New York City.

However, that project has been stalled by political fighting over the federal government share of the funding.