Posts Tagged ‘Chicago-St. Louis Corridor’

Alton Seeks Developers for Station Area

May 12, 2018

Alton, Illinois, officials continue to talk with developers about their ideas to develop the area bordering the Amtrak station.

Two developers have proposed mixed use plans with the only variation being the mix of tenants they would seek to attract to the proposed Wadlow Town Center.

“We are still talking with a couple entities; we still are talking about the nature of what they want to do with the property,” said Greg Caffey, Alton director of development and housing. “Both parties are large developers in the St. Louis area. They have a very strong interest in this, it is just a matter of time.”

The Alton Amtrak station is located on the former 55-acre Robert P. Wadlow Municipal Golf Course.

It opened last year and replaced a station built by the Chicago & Alton Railroad decades ago on College Avenue. That station has since been razed.

Alton officials had originally issued a request for proposals to develop Waldlow Town Center and set a March 1 deadline, but received no proposals by then or a revised deadline of March 31.

Caffey said the city remains open to ideas and proposals to develop the 35.87 acres west, northwest, southwest and south of the Alton Regional Multi-Modal Transportation Center that is used by Amtrak and Madison County Transit buses.

Amtrak’s Chicago-St. Louis Lincoln Service trains and its Chicago-San Antonio Texas Eagle stop in Alton.

“We’re in no rush; we want what is in the best interest for the site and for the community,” Caffey said. “We want a quality development for the community.”

Alton Mayor Brant Walker envisions a retail and casual dining district that would not cannibalize what exists in Alton and Godfrey.

“The city desires that the property be developed in accordance with transit-oriented design principals and meets the requirements of the city’s Mixed Use Transportation zoning classification,” the city said in its request for proposals.

The request did not suggest types or sizes of businesses that officials would like a developer to bring to the site.

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Lincoln Depot Restoration Honored

May 12, 2018

Renovation of the Amtrak station in Lincoln, Illinois, has been named Project of the Year by the Illinois chapter of the American Public Works Association.

The $4 million project involves complete renovation of the depot building, a new boarding platform and upgraded passenger amenities.

The windows, doors and a ticket counter have been restored to their original 1911 appearance. structure.

The station had closed in 1972, but its platforms continued to be used by Amtrak’s Chicago-St. Louis route trains.

Track Work Disrupts Chicago-St. Louis Trains

March 16, 2018

Select Amtrak Lincoln Service trains and the Texas Eagle will be disrupted by track work being performed by Union Pacific on March 18 and 20.

Train 303 will operate between Chicago and Bloomington-Normal, Illinois, with alternate transportation provided to missed stops at Lincoln, Springfield, Carlinville and Alton, Illinois, and St. Louis.

Train 304 will operate between Bloomington-Normal and Chicago with Bus service provided to passengers boarding or detraining at St. Louis, Alton, Carlinville, Springfield and Lincoln.

The westbound Texas Eagle will hold at the Bloomington-Normal station until 4:15 p.m. for an open track.

Amtrak said that buses 3103 and 3004 will operate non-stop express from Bloomington-Normal to St. Louis. Buses 5003 and 5004 will make limited station stops, serving Bloomington-Normal, Springfield, Alton and St. Louis on March 18.

Buses 6003 and 6004 will make all station stops, serving Bloomington-Normal, Lincoln, Springfield, Carlinville, Alton and St. Louis. Northbound buses will operate earlier and southbound buses will operate later than the train schedules.

Passengers should check with Amtrak.com for updated schedules.

Track Work Disrupts Lincoln Service

March 6, 2018

Track work being done by Union Pacific disrupted some Lincoln Service trains today between St. Louis and Springfield, Illinois.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said that Trains 301 and 303 were to operate between Chicago and Springfield only with alternate transportation provided to and from Carlinville, Alton and St. Louis. However, bus service was not provided to Carlinville for Train 301.

Trains 304 and 305 were to operate between Springfield and Chicago only. Bus service was being provided to and from St. Louis, Alton and Carlinville.

Buses 3301, 3303, 3304 and 3306 were to depart up to 80 minutes earlier than the respective trains in St. Louis, Alton and Carlinville.

Chargers Pulling Lincoln Service Trains

March 1, 2018

SC44 Charger locomotives have been assigned to Chicago-St. Louis Lincoln Service trains.

The first train to be pulled by a Siemens-built locomotives operated on Feb. 21.

Due to the lack of a device compatible with Union Pacific’s hybrid automatic train control-incremental train control system, trains pulled by Chargers are limited for now to 79 p.m.

The system allows for a 110 mph top speed between Dwight and Pontiac, Illinois, for trains with the proper PTC equipment.

In the weeks ahead the Feb. 21 trip, Chargers had operated on Lincoln Service trains but in the trailing position because of the need to pass “pre-revenue service acceptance” tests on the route.

IDOT Head Sees Top Speed of 90 mph for Trains by Summer 2018 in the Chicago-St. Louis Corridor

December 18, 2017

Illinois Secretary of Transportation Randy Blankenhorn said Amtrak trains in the Chicago-St. Louis corridor should be operating at 90 mph starting next summer.

The current top speed on the route is 79 miles per hour exception for a demonstration section between Pontiac and Dwight where 110 mph speeds began in fall 2012.

In an interview with the State Journal-Register of Springfield, Blankenhorn said a nearly $2 billion high-speed rail project to rebuild portions of the route for high-speed service is starting to wind down.

Although the route has an infrastructure for a 110 mph top speed, Blankenhorn said those speeds won’t come until 2019 after a positive train control system is put into operation.  “We are substantially complete,” said Blankenhorn.

Blankenhorn expects the project to finish on time and on budget with federal funding accounting for $1.65 billion of the estimated $1.95 billion final project cost.

The state is paying about $300 million of the project cost. IDOT has said that once the project is completed, Amtrak trains will have an 85 percent on-time guarantee.

Union Pacific, which owns the most of the track in the Chicago-St. Louis corridor used by Amtrak will be subject to financial penalties if the 85-percent, on-time guarantee is missed.

Nearly 590,000 passengers rode Amtrak between St. Louis and Chicago during the Illinois fiscal year that ended last June 30.

Patronage has fallen below 600,000 the last three fiscal years as a result of service disruptions caused by the high-speed project work.

One final phase of the project that is still underway is finishing track work in the Third Street corridor in Springfield.

“There’s some crossing work that needs to be done in Springfield, and that’s well underway,” Blankenhorn said.

The work will also include six-foot safety fencing on each side of the tracks. Safety, technology and accessibility improvements are planned for the Springfield Amtrak station.

Workers have made changes to 190 crossings in the Chicago-St. Louis corridor along 330 miles of track, closed nearly two dozen crossings and put up 90 miles of safety fencing meant to prevent trespassing.

The higher speeds are expected to reduce the 5.5 hour trip between St. Louis and Chicago by 11 minutes and by 20 minutes when a second set of tracks is competed near Joliet. Trains traveling 110 mph should cut the running time by 53 minutes.

However, the faster running times won’t address freight rail congestion in Chicago or St. Louis, which Blankenhorn said accounts for many of the delays now occurring.

Just over half of Lincoln Service and Texas Eagle trains ran late in the three years prior to high-speed rail work.

“It’s not so much about speed as it is reliability,” said Blankenhorn. “Passengers would use our trains a lot more if they knew they were going to be there when they need them and were not going to be an hour-and-a-half late.”

John Oimoen, chief of IDOT’s rail division said installation of the equipment needed for PTC in the Chicago-St. Louis corridor will be completed next spring.

“It’s the challenge of developing the software and getting that information back to (train) dispatcher,” he said.

Blankenhorn said the highest speeds initially will be allowed between Alton and Joliet while the state continues to work to fix the traffic bottlenecks in St. Louis and Chicago. He said those fixes will be “complicated and expensive.”

Chicago-St. Louis Ridership Up 9%

December 6, 2017

Amtrak said that ridership in its Chicago-St. Louis corridor is growing and is up about 9 percent when compared with last year.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said upgraded track conditions and the completion of various construction projects has resulted in an uptick in passengers.

“The construction disruptions we have been enduring since about 2010 are pretty well gone. We’ve been able to run trains in nearly all the slots, not substitute buses,” Magliari said.

“The track improvements are pretty much in place so the promised improvements here on this route are coming true and the passengers are coming back because of it,” he said.

“There are 59,000 more people riding these trains between Chicago and St. Louis largely because some of the work we have been doing is paying off.”

In addition to the Chicago-St. Louis Lincoln Service trains, the corridor also hosts the Chicago-San Antonio Texas Eagle.

Lincoln Amtrak Station Renovated

December 5, 2017

A ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the renovation of the Amtrak station in Lincoln, Illinois, will held today.

The depot, built in 1911, has been renovated to retain its historic character and details. Amtrak passengers use a former freight house, which was transformed into a passenger station.

The project also included new parking lots, sidewalks, lighting and landscaping.

Funding for the project came from a federal High Speed Rail Initiative grant.

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

New Carlinville Station Now Open to Passengers

November 28, 2017

The new Carlinville, Illinois, Amtrak station is now serving passengers and a grand opening has been set for Dec. 11 at 1 p.m.

Work on the station began more than a year ago and the depot opened on Nov. 16.

“It’s been a long journey,” said Mayor Deanna Demuzio.

Construction was completed two months ago, but negotiations between the city and Amtrak over a lease kept the station from opening. Primarily, the talks focused on liability insurance.

Speakers and entertainment for the grand opening event will be announced at a later date.

Among those expected to appear are Illinois Secretary of Transportation Randall Blankenhorn and Abraham Lincoln impersonator Randy Duncan.

The new station is open from 5 a.m. until 11:30 p.m. daily. The doors lock automatically once travelers from the last scheduled train have had time to depart.

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

Alton Road Depot Being Razed in Alton

November 28, 2017

Demolition of the former Amtrak station in Alton, Illinois, began this week after efforts to find a nonprofit organization to buy and move the station failed.

The 89-year-old depot was once operated by the Gulf, Mobile & Ohio Railroad, but is now owned by Union Pacific, which owns the former GM&O tracks through Alton.

The station was built by the Chicago & Alton Railroad and opened in May 1928.

Kristen South, UP director of media relations, said the demolition is expected to take two weeks.

Amtrak had leased the 1,602-square-foot brick structure and parking lot until it began using the Alton Regional Multi-Modal Transportation Center on Sept. 13.

UP had said it didn’t want the depot to be used at its current location due to potential liability issues.

Preservationist Terry Sharp sought to save the station. He established a Facebook page devoted to the cause that had 418 members.

Sharp, the president of the Alton Area Landmarks Association, expressed disappointment that the station could not be saved. “I guess I will go out there and take some pictures,” he said.

The AALA included the depot in its house tour brochure in recent years in an effort to spark interest in saving it.

“I would talk to people, but no one, nothing, came up,” he said. “It was about money, and where to put it (station). There was always a circle of questions. It had to go to a not-for-profit, and it had to be moved. To move it would cost $150,000. We tried, but nothing came up. It’s too bad, it would have been nice to save it. It is going to be sad to see an old building torn down.”

In May 2013, the City of Alton signed a memorandum of agreement with the Federal Railroad Administration, Illinois State Historic Preservation Agency, Illinois Department of Transportation and Union Pacific to develop a marketing plan and attempt to help sell the building.

UP agreed to sell the station to a not-for-profit for $1 as a tax write-off provided that the buyer moved the depot at its own expense. UP also demanded that the platform and foundation be removed.

Had a group offered to take possession of the building it would have had up to 12 months to move the structure.

The city in the meantime is documenting the structure in accordance with the Illinois Historic American Building Survey Standards and Guidelines. That work will be placed in archives at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield.

“People talk about how great old train stations are that are still around, but we haven’t gotten a lot of public sentiment,” Sharp said last summer. “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.”

The station is located at 3400 College Avenue. Amtrak now uses a facility off Homer Adams Parkway.

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