Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor’

FY2018 Budget Gives Amtrak Funding a Boost

March 26, 2018

A federal budget bill approved by Congress last week contained an increase in funding for Amtrak, although that funding boost is expected to be used to help pay for the Gateway project in New York-New Jersey.

However, Amtrak’s long-distance trains would also receive an upward bump in funding.

News reports indicate that Amtrak will receive a minimum of $388 for the Gateway project, which involves replacement of tunnels leading into New York City beneath the Hudson River.

The $1.3 trillion Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018 allocates more money for passenger rail projects than Congress has approved since the 2008 economic stimulus spending programs ended.

The budget directs $650 million to the Northeast Corridor while Amtrak’s national network will receive $1.292 billion. Those are both increases from 2017 funding of $328 million for the NEC in 2017 and $1.1 billion for the national network. Amtrak’s total appropriation will be $1.942 billion, up from $1.428 billion.

Other transportation programs also fared well in the budget bill.

The Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery program was given a $1 billion boost over 2017 levels to $1.5 billion available. At least 30 percent of these grants will go to rural communities.

Federal investments in rail infrastructure and safety programs was funded at $3.1 billion.

Also included is funding for the Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair grants at $250 million to address critical rail investments nationwide and on the NEC.

Rail safety and research programs received $287 million to fund inspectors and training, plus maintenance and safety investments to the physical rail infrastructure.

Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements grants were given $593 million to fund capital and safety improvements, planning, environmental work and research. There is also $250 million included for grants available to rail operators for the installation of positive train control.

The Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing loan program received a $25 million allocation for the first time and $350,000 has been set aside to help short line and regional railroads participate in the program.

The Federal Transit Administration received $13.5 billion, which includes $9.7 billion “to help local communities build, maintain, and ensure the safety of their mass transit systems.”

Within the $9.7 billion is $2.6 billion for Capital Investment Grants transit projects. “New Starts” projects are funded at $1.5 billion, Core Capacity projects at $716 million and Small Starts projects at $400 million.

The Trump administration and President Donald Trump in particular have opposed federal funding of the Gateway project, saying that the states of New York and New Jersey needed to spend more of their own money for most of the project.

The project involves building a new Tunnel under the Hudson River and replacing the century-old Portal Bridge on the NEC.

There has been speculation that Trump opposed the Gateway project as retribution to New York and New Jersey Congressmen and Senators who opposed a tax cut bill that he favored and which Congress passed last December.

At one point Trump had threatened to veto any bill containing federal funding for Gateway.

The 2018 budget will circumvent the Trump administration’s opposition to federal funding of the Gateway project.

Amtrak is likely to contribute a minimum of $388 million to Gateway though its Northeast Corridor Account, while New York and New Jersey will receive $153 million from the Federal Transit Administration’s High-Density States and State of Good Repair grant programs.

Gateway is projected to receive 60 percent of the original federal dollars intended for it.

The budget bill ensured that the U.S. Department of Transportation will have limited ability to withhold the $650 million earmarked for the Northeast Corridor Account, which also funds projects throughout the region.

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FTA Downgrades NEC Projects

February 16, 2018

The proposed Amtrak Gateway projects in the Northeast Corridor were downgraded in importance this week by the Federal transit Administration, a move that might make receiving federal funding, more difficult.

The FTA in its annual funding recommendations report to Congress on the Capital Investment Grants program rated the Hudson Tunnel and the Portal North Bridge replacement projects as “medium-low” in priority for federal grants.

That is the second-lowest rating on a five-point scale that helps determine whether federal funding is warranted.

The FTA ratings indicate the Trump administration’s shift away from the Obama administration’s support for federal help in paying for the projects, Gateway program supporters said.

“In case it wasn’t clear before, President Trump today tried to land another death blow to Gateway, by having his Federal Transit Administration vindictively and inexplicably downgrade the project in order to cut off critical federal funding,” said U.S. Senator Robert Menendez in a statement.

Michael Friedberg, executive director of the Coalition for the Northeast Corridor said the FTA’s decision means the corridor’s stakeholders need to “raise their voices and work harder” to show the administration and Congress that the Gateway program is necessary to support the region’s economy.

The Portal North bridge is a two-track moveable swing-span structure located between Kearny and Secaucus, New Jersey, that forms a link between New Jersey and New York Penn Station.

Amtrak, New Jersey Transit and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey have agreed to fund half of the $1.5 billion cost to build the new bridge.

The Hudson Tunnel project calls for a new tunnel to be built under the Hudson River and rebuild the 106-year-old North River Tunnel, which currently has two tracks under the river between New York Penn Station and New Jersey.

The tunnel was severely damaged during Hurricane Sandy in October 2012.

Although Amtrak claims the tunnel is safe for use, emergency maintenance continues to interrupt service.

Track Works Leads to NEC Changes

February 15, 2018

In a service advisory, Amtrak said that track work will result in changes starting March 10 to Northeast Corridor. Minor schedule adjustments will be made on Acela Express and Northeast Regional trains as the infrastructure work begins.

  • Most trains will operate with extended schedules to compensate for speed reductions and congestion caused by track work.
  • Scheduled departure and arrival times of both Acela Express and Northeast Regional trains may change by 3 to 15 minutes in both directions between Boston, New York and Washington.
  • All Acela Express trains will depart Washington at 10 minutes before the hour, rather than on the hour.

Additional minor adjustments to departure times and travel times for both Acela Express and Northeast Regional can be found on Amtrak.com and the Amtrak mobile app.

Penn Station Work Begins Friday

January 3, 2018

The next phase of track renewal work at New York Penn Station will begin on Friday, Jan. 5. Modified schedules will go into effect on Jan. 8, but none of the changes affect any Amtrak-long distance trains.

Most of the work is being done on weekends and the project is expected to be finished by May 28. The revised schedule includes:

  • Amtrak cancelled Northeast Regional Trains 110 from Washington to New York Penn Station and 127 from New York to Washington.
  • Northbound Keystone Train 640 is terminating at Newark Penn Station.
  • Southbound Keystone Train 643 is originating at Newark Penn Station.
  • Southbound Train 173 is stopping at Newark Airport station.
  • Southbound Trains 129, 193 and 653 all have earlier departure times.
  • Train 170 is also departing Washington early, is stopping at North Philadelphia and Cornwells Heights and resuming its schedule from Trenton

The latest work is being undertaken near Track 15 and requires a section of concrete demolition and replacement that is similar to the work on Track 10 done last summer.

Work is also being done on Track 18, which requires localized concrete demolition with complex steel hardware replacement and rail renewal.

Amtrak said in a news release that it is renewing and replacing three turnouts in “C” Interlocking, which directs Amtrak and Long Island Rail Road trains to routes heading east and to Sunnyside Yard.

2nd Penn Station Track Project Begins in January

November 16, 2017

The project will extend through May 28 and involve work performed mostly on weekends.

In a news release, Amtrak said there will be a series of continuous single-track closures that will result in minor modifications to Amtrak and commuter train weekday operations.

“After a successful summer, it is essential that we continue to upgrade the infrastructure so that we can continue to improve the reliability of service for all the customers that use New York Penn Station,” said Amtrak co-CEO Charles “Wick” Moorman.

The following schedule changes will take place during the infrastructure renewal work:

  • Amtrak is cancelling Northeast Regional Trains 110 from Washington to New York and 127 from New York to Washington.
  • Northbound Keystone Train 640 will terminate at Newark Penn Station
  • Southbound Keystone Train 643 will originate at Newark Penn Station
  • Southbound Train 173 will stop at Newark Airport
  • Southbound Trains 129, 193 and 653 will all have earlier departure times.
  • Train 170 will also depart Washington early, stop at North Philadelphia and Cornwells Heights and resume its schedule from Trenton
  • Long Island Rail Road and NJ Transit are also expected to announce service schedule adjustments

The projects will occur in the area of Track 15, which requires a section of concrete demolition and replacement that will be similar to the work done on Track 10 last summer and Track 18, which requires localized concrete demolition with complex steel hardware replacement and rail renewal.

Amtrak also will renew and replace three turnouts in “C” Interlocking, which is at the east end of the station and directs Amtrak and Long Island Rail Road trains to routes heading east and to Sunnyside Yard.

While Amtrak has maintained and repaired this aging infrastructure, some of which dates to the 1970s, full replacement is now required.

Additional information and updates will be posted on Amtrak.com and Amtrak.com/NYPrenewal

 

Amtrak Head Acknowledges Need for New Equipment

November 15, 2017

Amtrak needs to replace or overhaul the rail car fleet that serves its long-distance trains, its co-CEO told the National Association of Railroad Passengers earlier this month.

Richard Anderson

Co-CEO Richard Anderson said rebuilding or replacing aging Superliners and Amfleet cars will receive a “first priority.”

He also said the diesel locomotive fleet used to pull that equipment also needs replacement and/or rebuilding

Anderson said that the first up will be renovations of  Amfleet I and Amfleet II cars followed by new Acela Express trainsets.

New diesel locomotives are being placed into service on corridor routes in the Midwest and West.

Amtrak also expects CAF USA to complete soon an order for 25 new Viewliner II diners to be completed. Last on the list that Anderson ticked off was overhauling the current Acela fleet.

Despite saying it is a priority, Anderson did not describe a plan to replace or rebuild the Superliner fleet.

Amfleet II coaches are used on single-level long-distance trains such as the Lake Shore Limited, Cardinal, Crescent and Silver Service.

Anderson did, though, describe the importance of long-distance trains by emphasizing their role in “connecting small and large communities and bringing the most utility to the most Americans across the country.”

He said Amtrak’s 15 long-distance trains serve a series of markets with just 6 percent of riders traveling from endpoint to endpoint.

Many of those markets have lost or seen their level of intercity bus and airline service greatly diminished.

Anderson said Amtrak faces “risk points” with host railroads delaying Amtrak trains, the Trump administration’s efforts to end funding of long-distance trains and a dire need for capital.

The latter is most acute in the Northeast Corridor although some might say capital is desperately needed to buy new rolling stock and locomotives.

The former airline executive also said Amtrak needs to become more customer-focused.

2nd Penn Station Project Begins in January

November 15, 2017

Amtrak will begin the next phase of its track rebuilding at New York Penn Station on Jan. 5, 2018.

The project will extend through May 28 and involved work performed mostly on weekends.

In a news release, Amtrak said there will be a series of continuous single-track closures that will result in minor modifications to Amtrak and commuter train weekday operations.

“After a successful summer, it is essential that we continue to upgrade the infrastructure so that we can continue to improve the reliability of service for all the customers that use New York Penn Station,” said Amtrak co-CEO Charles “Wick” Moorman.

The following schedule changes will take place during the infrastructure renewal work:

  • Amtrak is cancelling Northeast Regional Trains 110 from Washington to New York and 127 from New York to Washington.
  • Northbound Keystone Train 640 will terminate at Newark Penn Station
  • Southbound Keystone Train 643 will originate at Newark Penn Station
  • Southbound Train 173 will stop at Newark Airport
  • Southbound Trains 129, 193 and 653 will all have earlier departure times.
  • Train 170 will also depart Washington early, stop at North Philadelphia and Cornwells Heights and resume its schedule from Trenton
  • Long Island Rail Road and NJ Transit are also expected to announce service schedule adjustments

The projects will occur in the area of Track 15, which requires a section of concrete demolition and replacement (similar to the work on Track 10 during the summer of 2017), and Track 18, which requires localized concrete demolition with complex steel hardware replacement and rail renewal within Penn Station New York.

Amtrak also will renew and replace three turnouts in “C” Interlocking, which is at the east end of the station and directs Amtrak and Long Island Rail Road trains to routes heading east and to Sunnyside Yard.

While Amtrak has maintained and repaired this aging infrastructure, some of which dates to the 1970s, full replacement is now required.

Additional information and updates will be posted on Amtrak.com and Amtrak.com/NYPrenewal

Amtrak Adds NEC Trains for Thanksgiving

October 31, 2017

Amtrak is adding trains and capacity to its Northeast Corridor service for the Thanksgiving holiday travel period.

The carrier said will operate every available passenger railcar to handle the surge in patronage.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said its Acela Express and Northeast Regional services will operate with extended schedules with additional frequencies and added capacity during the week of Thanksgiving. Regular Amtrak booking procedures apply.

Last year, Amtrak carried 760,755 passenger throughout its national network during the Thanksgiving travel period. Similar business is expected this year.

On the other coast, Amtrak said passengers riding Pacific Surfliner trains in California between Wednesday, Nov. 22 and Sunday, Nov. 26, will need reservations

During that period, a ticket will only be valid on the train for which a passenger holds a reservation.

Reservations will be not required for our monthly and ten-ride ticket holders.

Additionally, both Rail2Rail programs (Coaster and Metrolink) will observe a blackout period for the same dates, Nov. 22 through Nov. 26.

Amtrak Kicks Off Ready to Build Campaign

October 7, 2017

Amtrak launched a “Ready to Build” campaign this week to spotlight five critical investments that it is seeking to implement.

In a news release, the passenger carrier said the campaign emphasizes needed investments at major stations, including in Chicago Union Station, as well as in infrastructure along the Northeast Corridor.

The NEC carries 260 million intercity and commuter customers each year, but demand for passenger rail service continues to outpace investment, resulting in a backlog of more than $38 billion of deferred capital investments that risks future service expansion and reliability.

“The NEC is a central artery for the greater Northeast, which generates 20 percent of U.S. gross domestic product and is one of the country’s principle economic engines,” said Amtrak co-CEO Wick Moorman. “These major projects are critical to keeping people, the economy and the nation moving forward.”

Among the five critical infrastructure projects identified by Amtrak are:

Hudson Tunnel Project: Construction of a new Hudson River rail tunnel serving New York Penn Station will provide greater operational flexibility and infrastructure resiliency, following damage from Superstorm Sandy.

Portal North Bridge Project (New Jersey): Replacement of the century-old Portal Bridge with a new high-level, fixed-span bridge will result in faster trip times and greater reliability as well as eliminate the need to open for maritime traffic.

Major Stations Development (Northeast and Chicago): Leveraging public-private partnerships and underutilized land and air rights to transform 50+-year-old facilities into vibrant commercial transportation hubs.

Susquehanna River Bridge Project (Maryland): Replacement of existing two-track bridge with two new high-level bridges with a total of four tracks, allowing for increased speeds and eliminating the need to open for maritime traffic.

Baltimore & Potomac Tunnel Project (Maryland): Replacement of the Civil War-era, 30 mph bottleneck with a four-tube tunnel that allows for more reliable and more frequent service.

Amtrak is the majority owner of the NEC infrastructure and its connecting corridors, the NEC is a shared trans­portation asset that runs through eight states and the District of Columbia. It is used by Amtrak, eight commuter rail partners and multiple freight operators that together run nearly 2,200 daily trains.

Anderson Discusses Amtrak’s Priorities

September 6, 2017

Amtrak has dropped the idea of reducing the distance between its seats.

Appearing on the CBS program This Morning, Amtrak’s co-CEO Richard Anderson said that the spacing between seats, known in the industry as pitch, will remain unchanged.

“One of our great advantages is that there are no middle seats,” Anderson said. “Our coach on Amtrak is much, much better than first class on airlines.”

Anderson is a former president of Delta Air Lines. The airline industry is notorious for its efforts over the years to reduce seat pitch in order to cram more passengers aboard its planes.

During the interview, Anderson said that infrastructure repair is the passengers carriers “first imperative.”

The next priority is better service. “We’ve got to clean up our trains, run our trains on time, fix the interiors of our trains, and grow our services in the regions that provide the highest level of service to the communities around the country,” Anderson said.

Anderson said the new equipment that Amtrak has ordered for its Acela Express service will increase capacity in the Northeast Corridor by 40 percent.

He did not, though, say anything about buying new equipment to replace cars used on long-distance trains. Some of that equipment dates to the 1970s. Instead, Amtrak plans to refurbish that equipment.

Increasing service frequency on some routes is an Amtrak goal, but that appears to be limited to densely populated regions.

“If we could get our train speeds up and operate more densely-populated urban corridors, it would be a great service to the traveling public in America,” Anderson said.