Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak’s Texas Eagle’

Bus Service Begins at New Alton Station

August 10, 2017

The new intermodal station has opened in Alton, Illinois, but no date has been set as to when Amtrak will begin using it.

The local transit system in Madison County, Illinois, began using the facility on Aug. 6 and Amtrak expects to begin stopping there within the next few weeks.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said the passenger carrier is likely to begin using the new facility in September but first must inspect it and agree to a lease with the City of Alton.

The new station is located at the site of the old city golf course near Homer Adams Parkway and is about two miles northwest of the existing Amtrak station.

Amtrak currently uses the former Gulf, Mobile & Ohio depot at 3400 College Avenue. The 89-year-old station is in danger of being razed once Amtrak pulls out of it.

Union Pacific has offered to give the station away to a group that will move it from the site.

But that will cost at least $150,000 and thus far no one has offered a plan to save the station, said Terry Sharp, president of the Alton Area Landmarks Association.

“Maybe it’ll take bringing the wrecking ball right up against the building to get people interested,” Sharp said.

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

Among the features of the new Alton station  are lockers for bicyclists, a pay parking lot and surveillance cameras. Nearby is green space and biking and hiking trails.

City officials hope the 55-acre former golf course site will draw development of new stores, offices and housing.

The project, including associated road improvements, cost about $24 million, which includes the $3.4 million value of the land.

The American Association of Railroaders is planning an outing to mark the end of Amtrak service at the ex-GM&O station and the startup of service at the new Alton station.

“We like to do firsts and lasts related to transportation,” President Rich Eichhorst said, adding that his group’s members rode the last train from St. Louis Union Station in 1978.

Eichhorst believes the last Amtrak train from the Alton GM&O station will be a late-night run from Alton to St. Louis.

The AAR plans to ride from St. Louis to Alton or vice versa or from Alton to Carlinville or the reverse.

The AAR will will sell tickets covering a short train-trip leg and a ride back on its bus with Eichhorst providing commentary.

Tickets are expected to be $25 and limited to 40 people.

Anyone interested  should send a self-addressed stamped envelope to AAR, 9600 Tesson Ferry Road, St. Louis, Mo., 63123, and indicate preference for the last train from the old station or the first train using the new one or both.

Prospective riders should also include their telephone number in case only short notice is given regarding Amtrak’s station change.

Normal to Buy Vehicle to Transport Passengers at Station

July 7, 2017

The Normal, Illinois, city council has approved the purchase of an electric vehicle to shuttle Amtrak passengers between the station and a platform that is currently under construction.

The vehicle, which will cost $26,000, will be used to transport passengers with disabilities or limited mobility.

However, the platform that the vehicle will serve isn’t expected to open for service until late October or early November.

City Manager Mark Peterson said the vehicle needed to be ordered now because it will be three months before it is delivered.

The vehicle will transport passengers to and from the south platform from the station via the Broadway Avenue or Linden Street crossings.

The vehicle will be operated by Amtrak employees and Peterson said Amtrak asked the city to buy the vehicle.

When some council members questioned why the city would spend its funds for the vehicle, Peterson said, “Amtrak has a very inflexible budget.”

He said Amtrak doesn’t pay rent at the station, although it does pay for its use of utilities, and city officials consider that a reasonable cost of having the service.

“We see other uses in the uptown area if the Amtrak use goes away,” said Public Works Director Wayne Aldrich.

The $2.5 million new platform is being funded by federal money as part of a high-speed rail project that is wrapping up this year.

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

Normal Close to Decision on Crossing at Station

June 19, 2017

The planning staff of the City of Normal has recommended building a underpass at the site of the Amtrak station.

Materials prepared for a June 19 meeting of the city council said that the underpass would have a park with it.

The council will vote at the meeting on which option for a railroad crossing will be studied by a consultant and thus given favorability.

Normal’s 2014 Uptown 2.0 plan recommended the underpass and estimated its cost at $12.7 million. The plan said an overpass would cost $8.6 million.

The consultant, WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff, has narrowed the options to an overpass for Amtrak passengers only; two varieties of public overpasses; and three varieties of public underpasses

Adding a park to the underpass would be the most expensive option, but it was also preferred by many who spoke at an April 27 hearing or who submitted written comments.

“Out of the 41 public comments received, 29 strongly supported the underpass (with park),” said Public Works Director Wayne Aldrich in a memo.

The consultant has already ruled out an at-grade crossing.

The voted in early 2015 to postpone plans for an overpass, which had been designed and funded, and instead research an underpass.

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

Future of Alton Amtrak Station Remains Murky

June 14, 2017

The future of the soon-to-be former Amtrak station in Alton, Illinois, remains murky and city officials say there is little they can do about it.

“The city is out of the loop, the inquiries are to go to Union Pacific,” said Greg Caffey, Alton’s director of development and housing.

UP owns the former Gulf, Mobile & Ohio depot and has said it will have it razed if no one comes forward with a plan to move the 89-year-old structure away from its current site at 3400 College Avenue.

The city has been trying to find a new owner for the station, but Caffey said UP has not informed him of any solid offer from a group wanting to buy and move the station.

Calli Hite, director of corporate communications for UP said in a statement that the railroad continues to evaluate options for the depot. “We do not have a timeline for a decision,” she said.

Amtrak leases the station from UP but plans to move this year to the under construction Alton Regional Multi-Modal Transportation Center.

The facility is expected to be completed this month although Amtrak and the city have yet to agree on a lease for the national passenger carrier to use it.

Under terms of the $13.85 million federal grant being used to fund development of the new station, it must be completed by June 30.

It is located at the former Robert P. Wadlow Municipal Golf Course, Golf Road at Homer Adams Parkway.

The grant also include money to raze the existing station, but UP would have to pay for that work on it own if it is not completed by Sept. 30.

Caffey said Amtrak would not likely move to the new station until mid or late July.

Terry Sharp, president of Alton Area Landmarks Association, said this week that although his organization has sought to generate interest in saving the College Avenue depot, time appears to be running out.

“We don’t have anything lined up; the last three to four months, myself and the group from Facebook (Save the Alton Train Station) have explored different ways in how to do it,” he said.

A St. Louis company that specializes in moving structures estimates it would cost $150,000 to move the 1,602-square-foot brick station to Gordon F. Moore Community Park or Rock Spring Park.

However, the city has said it doesn’t have any use for the station and therefore doesn’t want to be responsible for it.

UP has said it would sell the station for $1 and take a tax write off, but whoever buys it must pay to move it to a location off railroad property.

Sharp said it is hard to plan to move a building when no one has determined a destination.

“It is kind of a circular problem, trying to find a place to go and figure out a use for it,” he said. “I didn’t want to dump it on the city. They could work out a use for it, maybe it could be a concession stand, maybe they could put it at the entrance to Gordon Moore Park. Maybe they could use it as a clubhouse at Rock Springs Golf Course. I am trying to find a use for it. I am trying to find a place for it. I am going around in circles. I have talked to developers, businessmen and (an attorney) trying to get some interest, trying to pick their brains,” he said.

Sharp said another challenge is overcoming the lack of interest in the community toward saving the depot. “People talk about how great old train stations are that are still around, but we haven’t gotten a lot of public sentiment,” he said. “Maybe when it gets closer to the deadline. 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.”

New Amtrak Station Opens in Pontiac, Illinois

June 9, 2017

The new Amtrak station in Pontiac, Illinois, has opened along the Chicago-St. Louis corridor.

Served by Amtrak’s Lincoln Service and Texas Eagle trains, the facility cost $2.65 million to build.

The new station has 1,350-square-feet of space and is located a block south of the old station. The design featured a peaked roof, glass facade, and such amenities as pedestrian paths, free Wi-Fi, and parking for vehicles and bikes.

Funding for the station came from a federal grant administered by the Illinois Department of Transportation.

New stations on the Chicago-St. Louis route also are being planned for Lincoln, Carlinville and Alton, Illinois. The stations in Normal and Springfield will be renovated.

Texas Eagle Delayed 10 Hours En route to St. Louis

May 24, 2017

A detouring Texas Eagle this week got stuck behind a disabled freight train on Monday in Tuscola, Illinois, and wound up being delayed 10 hours.

The westbound Eagle had departed Chicago on time and was detouring over the former Chicago & Eastern Illinois route of Union Pacific due to track work being done on its regular route via Springfield, Illinois.

No. 21 did not arrive in St. Louis until 3:30 a.m. An Amtrak spokesperson said that a two-hour delay was expected, but not a 10-hour one.

“We were alerted by Amtrak that there might be some delays because apparently there is work on the track,” said passenger Janelle Jones. “Our first delay was about a three-hour standstill. They kept us pretty apprised of what was going on, they let people off the train for a smoke break and what not.

“Then we traveled for about an hour and then we stopped for another three hours. There was a lot of communication at that point that we were gonna get started as soon as possible. We rolled for about five minutes and then the communication stopped and we were at a standstill for another three hours. No one would tell us why we weren’t moving. Apparently, the crew had to switch out because they had been on board for 12 hours, so they were tired.”

Amtrak officials could not say when crew change occurred.

Jones said the café car was open until about 10 p.m.. “There were some hungry people on the train,” Jones said.

 

Texas Eagle to Detour in Texas May 24-June 21

May 16, 2017

The detours just keep coming for Amtrak’s Texas Eagle. Nos. 21 and 22 will detour in in Texas between Longview and Taylor starting May 24 and extending through June 21.

Passengers at intermediate stations will begin or end their journey on a chartered bus.

The buses will travel southbound from Longview and northbound from Austin.

The Eagle will not be serving Dallas or Fort Worth, but will be using a freight-only route that will be faster than the train’s normal route.

No. 21 will use a former Cotton Belt route between Big Sandy and Tyler, then a former Southern Pacific route to Corsicana, then the former Texas & New Orleans to Hearne, Texas, before getting on the former Missouri Pacific west to Taylor.

No. 22 will use the ex-MoPac from Taylor to Longview via Hearne, Buffalo, Palestine and Jacksonville.

“This detour will provide the opportunity for some unusual mileage for rare mileage fans,” Amtrak said in an email sent to ticketed passengers affected by the Texas detour.

No. 21 will depart all stations between Chicago and Longview one hour later than scheduled, but is expected to resume its regular schedule at Taylor.

No. 22 will operate on its regular schedule from San Antonio to Taylor, but run an hour earlier from Longview to Chicago.

The detour has been prompted by extensive track work by Union Pacific between Longview and Dallas.

The Texas detour will come on the heels of a detour between Chicago and St. Louis between May 16 and May 23, although No. 22 will use the detour route through May 24.

That rerouting involves the former Chicago & Eastern Illinois passenger route via Pana and Villa Grove, Illinois.

Springfield Wants to Close Grade Crossings

May 8, 2017

Four grade crossings in Springfield, Illinois, on Amtrak’s Chicago-St. Louis corridor may be closed and others improved, which will lead to faster speeds through the capital city of Illinois.

Springfield Mayor Jim Langfelder said the city plans to ask the Illinois Commerce Commission for authority to close crossings at Allen, Canedy, Cedar, Jackson and Union streets.

The remaining crossing of the Union Pacific crossings used by Amtrak trains will receive safety upgrades.

When the crossings work is completed, Amtrak trains will be allowed to travel at 40 mph in Springfield compared with the current 25 mph speed limit.

Longer term, rail traffic through downtown Springfield will be placed along the 10th Street rail corridor.

The city is served by Lincoln Service trains and the Texas Eagle. Those trains operate on former Gulf, Mobile & Ohio tracks along Third Street.

Work is expected to begin soon on improvements at the South Grand Avenue crossing, and $575,000 in land acquisition and demolition costs for improvements at the Fourth Street and North Grand Avenue crossings.

“The state will be installing new traffic controllers and traffic-signal interconnects along South Grand Avenue from Second to Fourth streets,” said city engineer Nate Bottom.

Bottom said similar work is planned at the remaining Third Street crossings.

Chicago-St. Louis Corridor Disruptions Set

May 6, 2017

Amtrak has announced a series of service disruptions and detours on its Chicago-St. Louis corridor between May 15 and 24 due to track work being undertaken to bring higher train speeds to the route.

Lincoln Service trains 305 and 307 on May 15 will operate from Chicago to Springfield, Illinois, with bus service between Springfield and Carlinville, Alton and St. Louis.

Between May 16 and 23 all Lincoln Service trains will operate between Chicago and Springfield only with buses replacing all trains except No. 300 between Springfield and St. Louis.

On May 24, Nos. 300 and 302 will operate between Springfield and Chicago only. Bus service will be provided for No. 302 from St. Louis to Alton, Carlinville and Springfield.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said that the charter bus service replacing Nos. 302, 304 and 306 will depart earlier than their respective trains. Passengers are advised to pay close attention to the bus departure time on your ticket.

The westbound Texas Eagle will depart Chicago two hours early at 11:45 a.m. between May 16 and May 23 and detour via the former Chicago & Eastern Illinois route of UP between Chicago and St. Louis.

No. 21 is scheduled to depart St. Louis westbound at its regularly scheduled time of 7:55 p.m.

The detour route will miss the scheduled intermediate stops in Illinois of Joliet, Pontiac, Bloomington-Normal, Lincoln, Springfield, Carlinville and Alton.

Texas Eagle passengers are advised to travel instead on Lincoln Service trains or buses.

The eastbound Texas Eagle will operate as scheduled from St. Louis to Chicago between May 16 and 23, but will be detouring over the same route as its westbound counterpart.

No. 22 will miss its scheduled stops at Alton, Carlinville, Springfield, Lincoln, Bloomington-Normal, Pontiac and Joliet.

Passengers on No. 22 traveling to Chicago from point south of St. Louis will remain on the train.

Those traveling to the missed intermediate point on No. 22 will instead be transported by bus.

Amtrak said Nos. 21 and 22 may encounter delays of up to 45 minutes while traveling on the detour in addition to the two hours of time added to the train’s timetable in each direction.

Missouri River Runners May Resume on Saturday

May 6, 2017

Amtrak expects to resume service on Saturday between St. Louis and Kansas City after Union Pacific reopened its route between the two cities.

UP also said it has restored service on the line used by the Texas Eagle between St. Louis and Poplar Bluff, Missouri.

“As water levels recede in several areas, we have made significant progress restoring service to flood-impacted rail lines on our network,” UP said in a service advisory. “Service has been restored between St. Louis and Jefferson City, Missouri; and between St. Louis and Poplar Bluff, Missouri.

Flooding from heavy rains washed out tracks and also caused mudslides during the past week.

The Missouri River Runners between St. Louis and Kansas City were replaced by buses during the service disruption.