Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak’s Southwest Chief’

Restoration of Lawrence Station Moves Ahead

December 8, 2017

Restoration of a former Santa Fe passenger station used by Amtrak’s Southwest Chief in Lawrence, Kansas, is moving forward.

The project stalled after the Kansas Department of Transportation received no bids for the work.

However, the Lawrence city council recently approved a resolution directing KDOT to award the restoration work bid to First Construction of Lawrence in the amount of about $1.8 million.

Another $240,000 has been spent on engineering work for the project to restore the station, which was built in the 1950s.

A KDOT grant will pay for 80 percent of the restoration costs while the city will pay up to $409,000 for its share of the project.

That is far more than the $24,000 the city expected to pay when the restoration work was proposed in 2014

A memo written by city staff indicated that the possible sale of historic tax credits and reimbursement from Amtrak for upgrades required by the Americans with Disabilities Act will make up the difference.

BNSF owns the property on which the one-story brick station is located, but has donated the station to the city.

The depot is an example of mid-century modern architecture. The restoration work is expected to be finished in 2018.

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Trucker Blamed for 2016 S.W. Chief Derailment

November 24, 2017

The National Transportation Safety Board has determined that a truck driver’s failure to properly secure an unattended truck led to the March 2016 derailment of Amtrak’s Southwest Chief near Cimarron, Kansas.

The derailment resulted in 28 people being injured and caused $1.4 million in damage to the tracks of the BNSF La Junta Subdivision.

The NTSB said that the day before the incident, the unattended truck rolled downhill and damaged the BSNF tracks.

The Chicago-bound Southwest Chief derailed when it crossed the misaligned tracks.

In its report, the NTSB said neither the truck driver or his supervisor reported the incident to local authorities.

“Railroads are not required to post emergency contact numbers other than at grade crossings,” NTSB said in its report. “In situations such as this one, the correct approach is to call 911 and report the concern. Using this approach, local emergency officials can notify the railroad about any potential issue with its equipment.”

The Southwest Chief was operating at the time with two locomotives and 10 cars.

Fort Madison Reaches Pacts for New Boarding Platform

November 8, 2017

Officials in Fort Madison, Iowa, have approved three agreements that will make possible moving the Amtrak station to the former Santa Fe depot.

City Manager David Varley said the agreements will provide for construction of a new platform that Amtrak will use once it is completed. The passenger carrier has agreed to pay $150,000 toward the construction costs.

Amtrak also has agreed to pay $400 month in rent to use the recently restored station for 20 years. Amtrak will use 813 square feet of the depot while the city will be responsible for maintenance and repairs.

Varley said the agreements involving the $1.2 million project took a long time to reach because of the multiple parties involved.

“So BNSF will own the platform because it is on their property,” he said. “And then BNSF will lease it to Amtrak. And since we own and operate the depot, and the platform will be attached to the depot, they lease it from Amtrak back to the city. It sounds kind of crazy but it’s because of the ownership of the property.”

Varley said the depot project is a good candidate for funding from hotel-motel tax funds, and recommended a 60/40 percent split of operation costs between the hotel-motel tax and the general fund, respectively.

He estimated that first year operation costs for running the station will be about $50,000, but after some one-time costs, the annual number will drop to about $35,000.

Going with the lower number would mean an annual cost of $21,000 from the hotel-motel tax and $14,000 from the city’s general fund.

Fort Madison is served by the Chicago-Los Angeles Southwest Chief and handles about 6,600 passengers annually.

Colorado Board OKs Matching Funds for TIGER Bid

October 30, 2017

The Pueblo [Colorado] Board of County Commissions has approved a resolution pledging $12,500 in matching support toward a Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant application.

The money, if awarded, would be used to repair tracks used by Amtrak’s Southwest Chief.

A news report indicated that 23 communities in three states have passed similar resolutions or submitted letters of support to pledge matching funds totaling nearly $9.2 million.

The TIGER grant bid is being submitted by Colfax County New Mexico, and is seeking $25 million from the federal grant program.

Also pledging money have been The City of La Junta and Otero County, which have agreed to put up $12,500 each.

It is the fourth time communities served by Amtrak Nos. 3 and 4 have rallied matching support funds for a TIGER grant.

Officials have said that the latest grant bid would wrap up necessary repairs in Colorado to save the Southwest Chief, which carried 367,267 passengers in 2016.

The route of the Chicago-Los Angeles train needs more than $50 million in rail repairs to the BNSF tracks.

In a related development, the Front Range Rail Commission of Colordao is working on getting a through car that would travel between the Pueblo Union Depot and the city of La Junta, offering a daily connection from Pueblo to the Southwest Chief.

Wisconsin Man Charged With Shooting Amtrak Conductor Deemed by Judge to be Mentally Unfit to Stand Trial

October 14, 2017

A Wisconsin man charged with shooting an Amtrak conductor has been ruled to be mentally unfit to stand trial.

Edward Klein, 79, of West Allis, Wisconsin, stands accused of shooting the conductor in Naperville, Illinois, on May 18.

DuPage County Judge Judge Daniel Guerin this week accepted a doctor’s statement that Klein is suffering from a major neurocognitive disorder, possibly Alzheimer’s disease.

One report said that Klein has an impaired cognition disorder and dementia while a second report said he suffers from a major neuro-cognitive disorder. The reports concluded that neither disorder is likely to be cured by medication.

A physician said in one report Klein is not oriented in time, place or situation and would be unable to recall details in his defense. Judge Guerin set a discharge hearing for Dec. 18.

During the hearing prosecutors said Klein could be acquitted, declared not guilty by reason of insanity, or declared not guilty due to being unable to stand trial.

Klein remains in police custody and the court could decide to have him involuntarily committed to a mental facility for up to two years.

Police have said Klein told them he shot Amtrak conductor Michael Case because he would not allow him to disembark in Naperville from the eastbound Southwest Chief.

Klein was ticketed to travel to Milwaukee via Chicago Union Station.

Case was critically injured when he was shot in the abdomen and hospitalized at Edward Hospital for 10 weeks.

Prosecutors have charged Klein with attempted first-degree murder and several weapons charges.

TIGER Grant Sought for SW Chief Route Upgrades

October 11, 2017

Officials in Colfax County in New Mexico are seeking a TIGER grant to upgrade the tracks used by Amtrak’s Southwest Chief.

If awarded, it would be the third federal grant used to improve the tracks, which are owned by BNSF.

Four state departments of transportation have pledged $1 million each while Amtrak and BNSF have each pledged $3 million in matching funds. Some local governments have also pledged matching funds.

The $25 million project will rebuild tracks within New Mexico. Previous TIGER grants of $25 million and $12 million were used for track work in Kansas and Colorado.

Suspect in Amtrak Shooting May be Unfit for Trial

July 7, 2017

Prosecutors and attorneys representing a Wisconsin man charged in connection with the shooting of an Amtrak conductor have agreed to delay the suspect’s arraignment as officials have indicated that he is likely to be ruled to be mentally unfit to stand trial.

Klein

Edward Klein, 79, of West Allis, Wisconsin, has been charged with attempted murder and aggravated battery in the May 16 shooting of an Amtrak conductor during a station stop in Naperville, Illinois.

The delay in the arraignment will give attorneys in the case more time to review a mental fitness evaluation that Klein recently underwent.

Public defender Jeff York said he will seek a mental fitness hearing for Klein, who is being held on $1.5 million bail in the DuPage County Jail. He will next be in court on July 31.

York contends that Klein is unfit for trail and that his mental health issues may not respond to treatment.

The attorney made the assertion during a proceeding in a late June hearing in DuPage County Court.

Klein was silent during the court hearing and sat in a wheelchair used to transport him from the jail.

Prosecutors have contended that Klein fired at the conductor of Amtrak’s Southwest Chief after Amtrak personnel refused to allow Klein to disembark at Naperville, which is the final stop before Chicago Union Station.

Klein was ticketed to Chicago where he was to make a connection to another Amtrak train to Milwaukee.

News media accounts have quoted officials as saying that Amtrak personnel aboard train No. 4 were concerned about Klein’s behavior during his journey from Kansas City and were keeping watch over him.

Southwest Chief Subject to Delay Due to Track Work

June 29, 2017

Track work being performed between Albuquerque and Lamy, New Mexico, is expected to delay Amtrak’s Southwest Chief through July 22.

In a service advisory, Amtrak No 3 may encounter delays of up to 2.5 hours at all stations west of Lamy while No. 4 may encounter delays of up to two hours east of Albuquerque.

The service advisory said that alternative transportation may be provided to passengers missing connections to Amtrak trains and Thruway buses at Kansas City, Chicago and Los Angeles.

Amtrak Conductor Continues Recovery

June 21, 2017

The Amtrak conductor shot in Naperville, Illinois, last month continues to make steady progress and doctors are optimistic that he will make a full recovery.

Michael Case, 45, remains hospitalized, but has made enough progress that he might not need another surgery that doctors expected to have to perform.

“The bottom line, he should be able to eat, he should be able to function, he should be able to work; we’re a long ways away from that, and his condition although fairly stable, could take a turn,” said Dr. David Piazza, the Medical Director of Trauma Surgery at Edward Hospital.

However, Piazza cautioned that a devastating infection or blood clots, or pneumonia could still hamper Case’s recovery and even take his life.

Piazza said Case faces six to eight weeks of rehab and will eventually have a final surgery in about six to nine months.

Case, a conductor on the inbound Southwest Chief, was shot on May 16 while standing on the platform of the Naperville Metra Station.

Edward Klein, 79, of Wisconsin has been charged in connection with the shooting. Klein is being held on a $1.5 million bond and will appear in court on June 28.

He has been changed with attempted murder and aggravated battery.

Crowds Turn Out for Amtrak Inspection Train

June 13, 2017

Crowds turned out in the communities visited last week by an Amtrak inspection train that was examining a possible expansion route of the Heartland Flyer.

The train operated from Oklahoma City to Kansas City and made stops in Guthrie, Perry, and Ponca City in Oklahoma; and Arkansas City, Wichita, Newton, Emporia, and Topeka in Kansas.

The consist of the train included P40 locomotive No. 822; heritage sleeper Pacific Bend, No. 10020, originally a 10-6 sleeper built by Budd for Union Pacific in 1950; Viewliner sleeper New River, No. 62043; dome-lounge Ocean View, No. 10031, built for Great Northern by Budd in 1955; and inspection car American View, No. 10004, built by Budd as one of the Viewliner prototypes in 1994.

The route covered by the train hosted Amtrak’s Chicago-Houston Lone Star until early October 1979.

Amtrak is studying extending the Heartland Flyer to Newton or to Kansas City. At Newton, the Flyer would connect with the Chicago-Los Angeles Southwest Chief.

Last year a Thruway bus service began between Newton and Oklahoma City.