Posts Tagged ‘BNSF Railway’

BNSF Joins Big Sky Authority

May 16, 2022

The group seeking to restore Amtrak service to lower Montana has a new member.

BNSF has joined the Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority, which wants to restore rail passenger service to three of Montana’s four largest cities.

The railroad, which would host the proposed service, will be an ex officio member of the authority as is Amtrak.

Representing BNSF at authority meetings will be Jim Tylick, the railroad’s assistant vice president of passenger operations.

The proposed route last hosted Amtrak’s North Coast Hiawatha in early October 1979. The Chicago-Seattle train was discontinued during a massive Amtrak route restructuring prompted by congressional budget cuts of Amtrak funding.

The authority’s board of directors has members from 17 Montana counties.

Empire Builder Sidelined Until Saturday

January 13, 2022

Amtrak is hoping to get its Empire Builder back to normal winter operation following a week of delays and cancellations due to severe winter weather.

However, the passenger carrier said Wednesday that it doesn’t expect to resume operations on the route until Saturday due to equipment and crews being out of place.

Mudslides and two derailments of BNSF freight trains on the Builder’s route in Washington State have led to a tangle of issues.

An avalanche on Jan. 7 in Montana in Marias Pass halted rail traffic. News reports indicated the snow, mud and other debris was 60 feet wide and in some places 15 feet deep.

The westbound No. 7 was one of the last trains to traverse the route before the avalanche struck.

The Empire Builder originates in Chicago, Seattle and Portland with sections for the latter two cities converging and diverging at Spokane, Washington.

$16M Grant Released for S.W. Chief Route Track Work

March 7, 2018

The federal government has released a $16 million grant that will pay for track work on the route of Amtrak’s Southwest Chief.

“This should finish off the rail repair between La Junta (Colorado) and Newton (Kansas) as well as the work in Raton Pass,” said Pueblo [Colorado] County Commissioner Sal Pace, who is chairman of the Southwest Chief and Front Range Passenger Rail Commission.

The grant supplements more than $9 million pledged from communities served by the train in Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico.

The project arose after track owner BNSF said it would decrease its maintenance of the line because it handles little freight traffic.

Pace said the multi-state coalition had earlier obtained grants of $21 million and $27 million.

“With this grant, we’re about 75 percent of the way toward the goal of needing $100 million in rail and route repairs,” he said.

The Southwest Chief runs daily between Chicago and Los Angeles.

In a related development, the Pueblo County Board of County Commissioners approved a resolution pledging $12,500 to match support from the latest grant to rebuild the route of the Chief.

The federal money is coming from the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery program.

Colfax County, New Mexico, submitted the $25 million grant application and 23 communities in three states have passed similar resolutions, totaling about $9.2 million

The Front Range Rail commission is seeking to get route the Chief through Pueblo or get a connecting train that would operate to La Junta.

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.

SW Chief to Benefit from BNSF Track Work in Kansas

January 26, 2017

Amtrak’s Southwest Chief will benefit from planned capital expenditures planned for its route in Kansas in 2017

Amtrak Southwest Chief 2BNSF said it will spend $125 million in the Sunflower State, most of it on rails used by the Chicago-Los Angeles train.

BNSF spokesman Andy Williams said the work will include replacing ties, laying new rail and adding ballast.

The work will be undertaken between Emporia and Topeka, and between Newton and Garden City.

Earlier track work done in western Kansas was instrumental in helping to keep the Chief on its present route. That work was funded largely with federal TIGER grants.

City Manager Says New Amtrak Station Platform in Fort Madison May be Completed This Year

January 18, 2017

Amtrak is waiting on Federal Railroad Administration approval of a new platform reconstruction project in Fort Madison, Iowa.

Amtrak 4City officials said that although the project was projected to go out for bids in April, that is now more likely to occur in May or June. Construction is expected to take six to eight months.

The project will move the Amtrak stop for the Chicago-Los Angeles Southwest Chief to the former Santa Fe passenger station, which has recently been rehabilitated.

Fort Madison City manager David Varley said once the FRA signs off on the project the platform plans will be reviewed by BNSF, which owns the station site.

“The final construction plans have been submitted,” Varley said.

Once BNSF reviews the platform plans, they will be passed on to the Iowa Department of Transportation for its review. “IDOT will be the group that will be bidding out the project,” Varley said.

Also, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers must issue a 404 permit because the Amtrak platform will be located in a flood plain.

“We are working on getting that permit, which is required,” Varley said. “We are trying to tie up some of the final paperwork and review of the final plans approved, and once that all gets together, we will get a definitive date as to when it will go on a schedule as to when it will go to be bid out.”

And then the Fort Madison City Council will need to approve the plans.

“We need to clarify what the duties and responsibilities of both parties are,” Varley said. “These have to be approved by both parties before the project goes out to bid and before construction starts.”

Despite having a lot of hoops to jump through, Varley does not expect any problems to crop up that will keep the platform from being built.

Amtrak, BNSF Sue Kansas Feed Company in Connection with March 14 S.W. Chief Derailment

April 11, 2016

Amtrak and BNSF are suing a Kansas company in connection with a March 14 derailment of the eastbound Southwest Chief.

The laws suit names Cimarron Crossing Feeders and claims that the company engaged in “gross negligence.”

The suit alleges that company employees left a truck “unattended, out of gear and without any brakes applied” when it was loading grain March 13 into March 14.

The truck later rolled downhill, crossed U.S. Highway 50 and struck the side of the railroad BNSF tracks, coming to rest on the tracks, the newspaper reported.

Cimarron was then said to have called for a tow to remove the truck, but did not call BNSF or Amtrak to warn about the damaged track.

A National Transportation Safety Board investigation has found that the tracks near the derailment site were a foot or more out of alignment.
Amtrak train No. 4 derailed shortly after midnight near Cimarron, Kansas. Twenty-eight passengers were injured.

Ft. Madison to Pay for Depot Platform Redesign

November 23, 2015

The Fort Madison (Iowa) City Council has approved hiring a consulting firm to redesign the platform of the city’s former Santa Fe Depot. The project began in 2007 but has been hung over a dispute over platform design.

Amtrak had asked that the 500-foot platform be extended to 1,000 feet, but BNSF objected to the original design for the extension.

“We had the train stopping in a curve and they (BNSF) said that can’t happen,”said City Manager David Varley.

The council approved paying almost $30,000 to Klingner & Associates to redesign the platform.

BNSF has told the Iowa Department of Transportation that the platform must be moved 250 feet eastward so that it will not be located on a curve.

Although the city will have to bear the expense of redesigning the platform, Councilman Rusty Andrews said that is pocket change for a project of this magnitude.

“For a long time I’ve been saying this is our field of dreams — if we build it, they will come — and we keep getting pushed off,” Andrews said. “We keep spending money on it, and some day Amtrak will sign on the dotted line.”

Fort Madison is served by the Chicago-Los Angeles Southwest Chief.

California Zephyr, Empire Builder Make Shorter Trips Because of Freight Train Derailments

November 10, 2015

It has been a tough couple of days for Amtrak’s long-distance trains.

A freight train derailment on Canadian Pacific near Watertown, Wisconsin, resulted in the westbound Empire Builder making a detour and passengers making part of their journey aboard a bus.

The derailment of the CP crude oil train occurred on Sunday. Eastbound No. 8 had already passed the derailment site, but westbound No. 7 had just left Chicago.

Nos. 7 reversed course and wound up traveling to La Crosse, Wisconsin, via a BNSF route through Savanna, Illinois.

In La Crosse, the Empire Builder got back on its normal route, but arrived into St. Paul, Minnesota, more than 12 hours late.

Passengers riding today between Spokane, Washington, and Seattle and Portland will ride buses because No. 8 will originate in Spokane.

On Monday, the eastbound Empire Builder was terminated at St. Paul and was to become the westbound train. Passengers rode buses between Chicago and St. Paul.

Also on Monday, a derailment on BNSF in Iowa closed the route of the California Zephyr.

Eastbound No. 6 was terminated at Ottumwa, Iowa, and passengers were taken by bus to their destination. The train was to originate in Ottumwa on Monday night as No. 5.

Amtrak added additional cars to the westbound Southwest Chief that departed Chicago on Monday afternoon to accommodate passengers ticketed aboard the westbound California Zephyr.

At Galesburg, Illinois, passengers for No. 5 were to board buses and travel to Ottumwa to resume their journey by rail.

The extra coaches added to the Chief were to be removed in Kansas City and deadhead back to Chicago on Tuesday.

TIGER Grant to Fund Additional Track Upgrades on BNSF Route Used by Amtrak’s Southwest Chief

October 27, 2015

More federal grant money will flow toward rebuilding the route of Amtrak’s Southwest Chief.

The U.S. Department of Transportation is awarding a $15 million TIGER grant to the city of La Junta, Colorado, that will be used to fund track work on the BNSF La Junta Subdivision in Colorado and the Albuquerque Subdivision in New Mexico.

An earlier TIGER grant is being used to upgrade tracks used by the Chicago-Los Angeles train through Kansas.

Cities served by the train in Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico have raised more than $9 million to match the TIGER grant. Collectively, $24.4 million has been raised for the track project.

The track work will include installation of 39 miles of new welded rail in Colorado and more than 20 miles of new ties and ballast in New Mexico.

The Chief is the only train using the route between La Junta and Madrid, New Mexico. At the latter point, the track into Albuquerque is owned by the State of New Mexico.