Posts Tagged ‘Chicago-Milwaukee route’

Hiawatha Service Restored Wednesday Afternoon

July 12, 2017

Amtrak restored Wednesday afternoon its Chicago-Milwaukee Hiawatha Service after it had been canceled earlier due to flooding.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said that service resumed with the departure of Train 338 from Milwaukee at 3 p.m. and Train 337 from Chicago at 3:15 p.m.

The flooding occurred after heavy rain fell along tracks in both directions from Rondout, Illinois.

The tracks in the area are used by Amtrak, Metra and Canadian Pacific and are located in Kenosha County, Wisconsin, and Lake County, Illinois.

Metra temporarily suspended service on its Milwaukee District North Line between Chicago Union Station and Fox Lake, Illinois.

Metra said the interlocking plant was flooded at Rondout. Ballast was washed away and a downed tree blocked tracks just west of Libertyville.

The commuter rail agency sent ballast cars and machinery to the location of the washout to lay a new track structure.

The Milwaukee District North Line serves 22,900 passengers a day on 60 trains. Also using the route is Amtrak’s Chicago-Seattle/Portland Empire Builder.

Some Hiawathas to Run Later This Summer

June 9, 2017

Amtrak is adjusting scheduled in the Chicago-Milwaukee corridor to better accommodate late night travelers attending summing events.

Northbound Hiawatha Service No. 343 will leave Chicago at 11:25 p.m. on Saturday nights and makes intermediate stops at Glenview and Sturtevant before arriving at the Milwaukee Airport Rail Station at 12:39 a.m., and downtown Milwaukee at 12:54 a.m., about 15 minutes later than the former schedule.

On Saturdays during Milwaukee’s Summerfest, July 1 and July 8, southbound train No. 344 will depart Milwaukee at 11:55 p.m.

A specially marked shuttle bus will also be provided to take passengers from Summerfest grounds to the downtown Milwaukee Intermodal Station. The bus will be located by the South Bar Bus pick-up location on the north side of Polk Street. It will depart at about 11:25 p.m.

On July 29, southbound train No. 344 will depart Milwaukee at 11:55 p.m. to better serve baseball fans traveling when Milwaukee Brewers host the Chicago Cubs that night.

These midnight specials will depart the Milwaukee Airport Rail station at 12:05 a.m.; Sturtevant at 12:18 a.m.; Glenview at 12:56 a.m. and will arrive in Chicago at 1:24 a.m.

The Hiawatha trains are paid for by the Illinois and Wisconsin departments of transportatipon. The trains carried 815,000 passengers in 2016.

Fare Sale Announced for Hiawatha Service Travel

April 18, 2017

Amtrak has announced a buy one get one half off deal for passengers traveling on Hiawatha Service trains on Saturdays.

In a news release, the rail passenger carrier said that a Chicago-Milwaukee roundtrip for two will cost $75.

Up to two children ages 2 through 12 can ride for half-price with a full fare adult.

Tickets must be purchased online using promotion code V451. Amtrak noted that for those wishing to spend a night on the town, the last Hiawatha Service trains depart Chicago at 10:40 p.m. and Milwaukee at 11:10 p.m.

Passengers wanting to take a bicycle with them may do so for $5 and do not need to place their bike in a box. It can be handed to an Amtrak crew member at the baggage car.

Chicago Suburban Officials Focus on Freight Train Operations in Study of Hiawatha Expansion

April 18, 2017

Some north suburban Chicago public officials have decided to emphasize possible regulation of freight traffic rather than opposing a proposed expansion of Amtrak service between Chicago and Milwaukee.

In particular, officials in Lake Forest and Glenview are now backing away from their demand for a detailed environmental impact study of the Hiawatha expansion and instead are supporting having the Federal Railroad Administration study the effects of how freight trains operate in the corridor between Chicago and Rondout, Illinois.

The corridor is used by Amtrak, Metra commuter trains and Canadian Pacific freight trains.

The focus on freight operations came from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

In earlier public hearings many residents and public officials expressed fears that CP freight trains would sit for lengthy periods of time adjacent to residential neighborhoods.

An FRA environmental assessment released last fall said the freights now sit north of Rondout waiting for permission to enter Union Pacific tracks in Northbrook.

One proposal is to move the waiting area further south to a new siding that would be built in Northbrook.

The EPA has not formally asked the FRA to conduct a study, but instead raised raised concerns that it wants the FRA to address.

“Would extending sidings or adding new holding areas enable freight operators to run more trains?” the EPA wrote in comments on the assessment. “Would proposed changes allow freight trains to wait within the corridor for extended periods of time, since the project would provide a place to do so off the main-line track?”

Lake Forest City Manager Robert Kiely Jr. has been critical of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation and the Illinois Department of Transportation for not taking a closer look at CP freight operations.

Kiely said he wants answers to questions about the project’s effect on “air quality, emissions, noise and public safety.”

Glenview officials are asking how operation of trains might change at grade crossings.

Interim village manager Don Owen said “Now the (freight) trains pass at 40 to 60 miles an hour and it takes a few minutes. If they slow down or stop it could take 10 to 15 minutes to clear a grade crossing.”

The Hiawatha Service expansion would increase service from seven daily roundtrips to 10.

Opposition to Hiawatha Expansion Softening

February 26, 2017

Some north suburban Chicago officials are having second thoughts about their opposition to a proposed expansion of Amtrak’s Hiawatha Service.

Hiawatha 2News reports indicate that officials in Lake Forest have softened their stance in view of the likelihood that the Federal Railroad Administration is unlikely to order that a full environmental impact study be done on a proposal to add a third track on the route used by Amtrak, Metra and Canadian Pacific.

Lake Forest, Glenview, Northbrook, Deerfield and Bannockburn have demanded the EIS after the release of an environmental assessment last fall that found installing the additional tracks would not adversely affect communities along the line.

That triggered intense opposition from homeowners and public officials who argue that CP freight trains will sit  for long period of time while awaiting permission to enter Union Pacific tracks. This, they argued, will create noise, pollution and lower property values.

Lake Forest Mayor Donald Schoenheider said the city council will vote on a resolution on March 6 pertaining to the proposed expansion.

The news reports indicate that meetings between Lake Forest officials and Metra also played a key role in the change of mind.

Lake Forest City Manager Robert Kiely Jr. said Metra, which owns the tracks between Rondout and Chicago, favors building the third track and opposes conducting an EIS.

Kiely said Metra CEO Donald Orseno recently told suburban officials, “We are not in the business of holding trains. We are in the business of moving trains. The third rail is not a holding track. It is there so faster trains can pass.”

A consulting firm hired by Lake Forest concluded after studying the environmental assessment that the FRA is unlikely to order an EIS and will take a “narrow” view of the proposed expansion because it involves an existing railroad right of way and won’t involve land acquisition.

The consultants concluded that as long as there is no impact on the environment within the railroad’s right of way the chances of FRA requiring an environmental impact study are remote.

Joanne Desmond, president of the Academy Woods Homeowners Association, which has been particularly vocal in its opposition disagrees with her city’s changing stance.

“We do not agree with your rationale,” Desmond said. “What about our safety? Is this just to get more Amtrak trains and Metra trains? Be considerate and consult with the stakeholders. Please reinstate the environmental impact study. Right now there are vibrations.”

Alderman Prue Beidler said she spent several hours in the Academy Woods area February 21. She said she got a first-hand feel for the noise and vibrations as a pair of freight trains passed while she was there.

“I really feel for these people,” said Beidler. “It seems pretty consequential. Can we get some kind of noise buffer because this really has an impact on their neighborhood?

A draft of the resolution that Lake Forest city council will vote on says the city will not oppose construction of the third track provided that idling locomotives are kept away from Academy Woods.

It also asks Metra, Amtrak and the departments of transportation of Illinois and Wisconsin to support the city’s effort to establish an Amtrak stop and increase the number of Metra trains that stop at the west Lake Forest Metra station.

Meta has said that once the third track is built it will launch express service between Chicago and Lake Forest.

In the meantime, representatives of the other cities opposing the expansion continue to insist that the FRA order an EIS.

Dan Owen, Glenview’s interim village manager, said that the project may affect communities in different ways. “We want to know what it is going to do to our community,” he said.

Deerfield Village Manager Kent Street said his town was not changed its position. The same is true for Northbrook Village President Sandy Frum.

“We are concerned about how the provisions put forth in the environmental assessment will affect our Northbrook community,” said Erik Jensen, assistant to the village manager of Northbrook.

FRA Response to Hiawatha Expansion Environmental Report Expected This Summer

February 1, 2017

The Federal Railroad Administration is not expected to release its response to an environmental assessment of Hiwatha Service expansion until this summer.

Hiawatha 2A public comment period pertaining to the assessment ended on Jan. 15.

The departments of transportation of Illinois and Wisconsin want to expand service on the Chicago-Milwaukee route from seven to 10 roundtrips a day and the departments have argued that the environmental assessment has enough information for the FRA to act on the proposed expansion.

But the suburban Chicago communities of Lake Forest, Glenview, Northbrook, Deerfield and Bannockburn have additional questions and want to see the FRA order a complete environmental impact statement.

The focal point of the issue is a proposal to build passing sidings to be used by Canadian Pacific freight trains. The CP freights would take siding to allow Amtrak and Metra trains to pass.

The suburban communities fear the siding will be used to park trains for extended periods of time. They have also raised concerns about pollution, noise, vibration, traffic congestion and a negative effect on property values.

The environmental assessment released last October concluded that the communities along the Hiawatha route would suffer no adverse effects.

But the suburban communities say that the FRA needs to order a more detailed study of the effect the sidings would have on the communities and not just on the railroads.

Lake Forest City Manager Robert Kiely Jr. said the answers to the questions that have been asked will be included in the environmental assessment, which was prepared by Quandel Consultants at the behest of the state transportation agencies.

Residents, Public Officials Await FRA Response to Hiawatha Expansion Environmental Assessment

January 18, 2017

Residents and public officials in the north Chicago suburbs are waiting for the Federal Railroad Administration to respond to a proposal to expand Amtrak’s Chicago-Milwaukee Hiawatha Service.

Hiawatha 2The expansion, which is not a sure thing to occur even with FRA approval, has raised hackles along the Hiawatha route because it calls for the building of a passing siding for Canadian Pacific freight trains to wait for Amtrak and Metra passenger trains.

Although an environmental assessment study released last year found the siding would not have a negative environmental impact, public officials and residents have challenged that during a series of public meetings and called for a complete environmental impact study.

The departments of transportation of Illinois and Wisconsin fund the Hiawatha Service and want to increase the number of daily trains from seven to 10.

A public comment period on the environmental assessment ended on Jan. 15. The comments received have been sent to the state DOTs and Amtrak. Residents have expressed concern about noise, vibration, diesel fumes and flooding.

The FRA is expected to respond to the environmental assessment during the first quarter of 2017.

Lake Forest Residents Criticize Environmental Assessment of Hiawatha Service Expansion Plan

December 8, 2016

Opponents of an environmental assessment of a proposal to expand Amtrak’s Chicago-Milwaukee service told the Lake Forest City Council on Dec. 5 that the report might have understated the potential traffic disruptions.

Hiawatha 2Residents who addressed the council said that increased rail traffic might hinder firefighters and police vehicles that need to cross the tracks to respond to an emergency on the other side of town.

As has been the case in other communities, some Lake Forest residents are wary of the effects of building a siding that would allow Canadian Pacific freight trains to wait for higher priority Amtrak and Metra trains.

David Tanaka, president of the Pine Oaks Condominium Association, said the environmental assessment made several “baseless assumptions” about environmental harm.

These included, he said, conclusions that increased Amtrak service would have “no noise impacts to adjacent properties” and “no vibration impacts to adjacent properties.”

The report also said construction of the siding would create “no adverse noise or vibration.”

City Manager Bob Kiely said Lake Forest is working with Glenview, Northbrook, Deerfield and Bannockburn, where similar opposition has also arisen.

A public forum to discuss the proposed Amtrak expansion project will be held on Dec. 19 at the Gorton Community Center, 400 E. Illinois Road, from 7 to 8: 30 p.m.

Hiawatha Expansion Comment Period Extended

November 21, 2016

The comment period on a plan to expand Amtrak service between Chicago and Milwaukee has been extended to Jan. 15.

Hiawatha 2The decision to expand the comment period was made by the departments of transportation of Illinois and Wisconsin, which help pay for the service and want to expand it from six to 10 daily roundtrips.

The expansion was recently the subject of an environmental assessment conducted by the two departments in conjunction with the Federal Railroad Administration.

That study has drawn criticism from several Chicago suburbs on the route of the Hiawatha Service trains because it proposes building a siding for freight trains to wait while Amtrak and Metra commuter trains pass by.

Suburban officials and residents fear the siding will be used by freight trains for long waits and may aggravate traffic congestion.

Scott Speegle, the passenger rail communications manager for the Illinois Department of Transportation, said the three agencies involved in creating the environmental assessment decided to extend the comment period because of the initial public response that it received.

“The volume of responses and comments we got from individuals showed a lot of people were interested and it was a good idea to extend the period,” Speegle told DailyNorthShore.com.

The assessment can be viewed on the WisDOT website

Northbook Raises Concerns on Hiawatha Expansion

November 17, 2016

Northbook has joined Glenview, Lake Forest, Bannockburn and Deerfield in opposing an environmental assessment that is the first step toward expansion of Chicago-Milwaukee Amtrak service.

Hiawatha 2The Northbook Village Board passed a resolution 5-0 protesting the study’s findings. The sticking point for the Illinois communities in suburban Chicago is the proposal to add a passing siding to the line so that Canadian Pacific freight trains could allow Amtrak’s Hiawatha Service trains or Metra commuter trains to pass.

Amtrak and the departments of transportation of Illinois and Wisconsin are eyeing an increase in service from seven to 10 roundtrips a day.

Northbrook Village President Sandy Frum isn’t adamantly opposed to the project, but expressed concern about idling trains and blocked fire truck routes.

Northbrook officials said they want more information about the proposed siding. Frum said she wanted to know how much traffic disruption erecting a new bridge would require.