Posts Tagged ‘Chicago Union Station’

FRA Awards Grant for Chicago US Project

August 21, 2022

A $3 million grant has been awarded by the Federal Railroad Administration for design work for Chicago Union Station renovations.

The grant is being matched by $1.5 million from Chicago commuter train operator Metra, $600,000 from the Chicago Department of Transportation, $400,000 from Amtrak, and $250,000 each from the Illinois Department of Transportation and Cook County Department of Transportation and Highways.

The project will involve rebuilding the station’s concourse areas.

The next phase of the project is design and engineering work. The grants also will fund construction management.

The construction will be part of a series of projects to be funded by a National Infrastructure Project Assistance, or Mega Program, grant of more than $250 million being sought by Amtrak and its partners.

The latter grant application also seeks funding for other projects, including re-configuring the routes Amtrak uses to reach Union Station.

Amtrak Cancels Polar Express Trips

August 8, 2022

Crew shortages have led to another Amtrak cancellation.

This time is the 2022 Polar Express trips from Chicago Union Station this December.

In a message posted on the the Polar Express Union Station Facebook Amtrak cited “a systemwide shortage of railroad personnel.”

The passenger carrier indicated that once it has sufficient train crews it would operate the Polar Express trains in future years.

The Polar Express rides began in 2015, but were cancelled in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some trips were held during 2021 although on a reduced schedule.

Amtrak Seeks Funding for Chicago Projects

June 16, 2022

Amtrak is seeking grant funding for a multimillion series of infrastructure improvements to its Chicago terminal that could change how trains from the East and South reach Chicago Union Station.

Most of the funding for the $850 million proposal would come from the federal National Infrastructure Project Assistance program, also known as the Mega Program.

Other funding would be sought from Chicago rail commuter operator Metra and departments of transportation of Illinois, Michigan, Chicago, and Cook County, Illinois.

Among the projects Amtrak hopes to undertake are removing walls and other barriers in the Union Station concourse to improve traffic flow; add new express escalators from the concourse to street level; widening used by Metra trains to Aurora on the south concourse; rebuilding the former mail platforms to allow through-running and level boarding; and improving ventilation to remove diesel exhaust from platform areas.

However, the most significant programs would involve creating a new entrance to Chicago.

This includes creating a direct connection from the St. Charles Air Line to Amtrak-owned tracks leading into Union Station.

This would eliminate a time-consuming backup move that some Amtrak trains must make that reach Union Station via the St. Charles Air Line. It also would set a new way into the station for other trains as well.

Amtrak also wants to discuss buying from Canadian National its Lakefront Line from downtown Chicago to Kensington.

That route is now used by Amtrak trains to New Orleans and Carbondale, Illinois. Those trains use the St. Charles Air Line in part to reach Union Station.

At Kensington, Amtrak trains to the East Coast and Michigan would then use South Shore Line tracks into Indiana.

The Chicago-New York Cardinal would diverge in Hammond on the under construction West Lake Corridor route to Dyer before resuming its regular route on the CSX Monon Subdivision.

Michigan trains would diverge in Michigan City while the Chicago-New York/Boston Lake Shore Limited and Chicago-Washington Capitol Limited would rejoin the Chicago Line of Norfolk Southern in South Bend.

Using the South Shore would enable Amtrak to avoid the busy NS Chicago Line, which has been a frequent source of delays for Amtrak.

Amtrak also wants to double track a 16-mile segment of its Michigan Line from Niles to Glenwood, Michigan.

The extended double track would reduce delays to Blue Water and Wolverine Service trains when they miss scheduled meets on the existing passing sidings.

Another project related to the St. Charles Air Line would be to rebuild the connection to Metra’s Rock Island District in Chicago.

This would enable Amtrak’s Lincoln Service trains to St. Louis and the Texas Eagle to use the Metra route to Joliet, Illinois.

At Joliet Amtrak would need a new station platform. Currently trains to St. Louis use a CN route to Joliet that is prone to causing delays.

The federal grant program Amtrak hopes to tap has $5 billion available between through 2026.

It is being administered by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

It is not clear if Amtrak has discussed these projects with CN or the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District, which oversees the South Shore Line, and if those entities are amenable to what Amtrak wants them to do.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari told Trains magazine that no formal negotiations with CN or NICTD had yet occurred.

However, Magliari told the magazine that CN has in the past express interested in a potential sale of the Lakefront Line to Amtrak.

This Way

February 23, 2022

It’s just another day at Chicago Union Station. Passengers are walking from the Great Hall toward the concourse where Amtrak and Metra trains board.

From here you can reach directly many, if not most, of the cities that Amtrak serves. Among Midwest cities, Chicago is in a class all its own.

No other Midwest city has the level of rail passenger service that Chicago does. Not St. Louis, not Kansas City, not Cincinnati, not Minneapolis-St. Paul, not Cleveland, not Detroit. all of which are cities with multiple busy railroad lines.

All of those cities once had large railroad stations that in their heyday had a level of activity that approached what Chicago Union Station still has.

None of that, though, mattered to those folks you can see in this image made on May 31, 2012. They had other things on their minds and they had trains to catch.

The Capitol Limited Has Arrived

February 9, 2022

It is May 20, 1998. Amtrak’s Capitol Limited has arrived at Chicago Union Station from Washington and passengers are disembarking and heading into the depot to continue on to where they are going. I was aboard this train but don’t remember if we were on time or, if not, how late we were. If the latter it probably was not too much lateness. I had boarded in Cleveland and had a more than six hour layover until boarding the southbound Illini to continue on to Mattoon, Illinois.

In From Milwaukee

January 30, 2022

An Amtrak Hiawatha Service train reposes at Chicago Union Station after arriving from Milwaukee. When this image was made on May 22, 1998, Hiawatha trains used former F40PH locomotives transformed into non-powered cab cars and P42DC locomotives. The latter pulled trains to Milwaukee from Chicago and pushed them back. Although the F40 cab cars had doors for a baggage compartment, I don’t know if those were ever used on the Chicago-Milwaukee route. I do recall seeing them used on Chicago-Detroit trains for a time .

Red Boards at CP Lumber

January 25, 2022

Amtrak’s outbound Capitol Limited is less than 10 minutes out of Chicago Union Station and has just crossed Lumber Street at the southern end of shop and service complex. If you look carefully you will see a P42DC siting on a service track awaiting servicing or its next assignment.

This is still Amtrak-owned trackage although in a few minutes No. 30 will be on the Chicago Line of Norfolk Southern, which it will use all the way to Cleveland.

On Amtrak these signals are known as CP Lumber and are a familiar sight to Amtrak locomotive engineers piloting trains from the East, Michigan and St. Louis on their final few miles into Chicago.

Seeing them means their shift is about over and their train is about reached its terminus.

Not every Amtrak train coming into Chicago sees these signals. Trains coming in from the BNSF Raceway from Aurora don’t go past here nor on most days do trains coming off the route from New Orleans and Carbondale, Illinois. And of course trains coming down from Milwaukee use the north concourse at Union Station and don’t see these signals either.

They are, of course, one set of dozens of signals that Amtrak trains pass along their respective routes. But most of those signals don’t offer a city skyline view as these do.

One Morning at Chicago Union Station

June 29, 2021

It is Sept. 9. 1995, on the north side of Chicago Union Station. A Hiawatha Service train sits adjacent to the equipment to be used later today for the outbound Empire Builder.

At the time, Hiawatha Service trains were using former Metroliner cab cars. This equipment also was common at the time on the Chicago-Detroit route.

Note the mismatching liveries on the Superliner equipment on the Empire Builder. Amtrak was moving into a new look for its rolling stock and the old and new continued to mix for a while.

Amtrak, Metra Trade Barbs in Latest STB Filings in CUS Case

February 23, 2021

Recent filings by Amtrak and Chicago commuter carrier Metra with the U.S. Surface Transportation Board show that the two sides remain are fighting  over which party will control the station.

Amtrak owns the facility but claims in its filings that Metra is trying to wrest away control of the station.

The two have long been at odds over a new Metra lease and Metra has raised questions about Amtrak’s ownership of the building.

Metra contends Amtrak unlawfully merged long-time station owner Chicago Union Station Company into Amtrak.

The ownership issue had arisen in 2018 but at the time the STB said it would be premature for it to rule on that matter, indicating it would issue a ruling at an unspecified future date.

Metra contends that Amtrak “bias” stemming its ownership of the station is the basis for many of the ongoing issues separating the two sides.

The commuter rail agency argues that if the STB agrees that the parties would be better served by “balancing public interests” then there would be no basis for imposing Amtrak-requested terms that derive from an entirely different perspective.

Amtrak said in its filing that it must have the ability to manage, oversee, and coordinate service and operations at its station.

Therefore Amtrak said it is seeking clear rights and responsibilities to be delineated in a future access agreement.

The intercity passenger carrier called “not feasible” Metra’s demand that any reduction of the number of Metra trains or revision of peak periods must have its consent.

Metra wants to be able to increase its train movements at Union Station by 5 percent.

Amtrak said as owner it must have the ability to control and coordinate train schedules.

This includes dwell times for Metra trains. Amtrak wants to decree that Metra trains have as little as 10 minutes of dwell time during peak periods, some thing Metra has called “wasteful, unnecessary and arbitrary” because Amtrak has not presented any evidence that the limits are based on operating experience or need.

Amtrak also expressed concern about a Metra proposal that it be allowed to store some trains in the station overnight.

Amtrak, Metra Remain Far Apart Over CUS Lease

February 18, 2021

Amtrak and Chicago commuter carrier Metra remain far apart in their dispute over a new lease for the latter to use Chicago Union Station.

Documents filed with the U.S. Surface Transportation Board verge on contempt for some positions taken by the other party.

A Metra attorney wrote to the board on Feb. 8 seeking to strike a Jan. 29 letter from Amtrak, calling the letter an impermissible, “abusive” and “highly prejudicial” response to an earlier filing in which the sides jointly offered an update on results of their mediation efforts.

Amtrak countered by telling the STB that its letter was substantive changes to a Metra correction of earlier errors, and says it feels “compelled to address the faux outrage contained in Metra’s letter.”

Amtrak said its letter was providing context for those corrections that Metra “should have provided . . . but did not.”

The intercity passenger carrier argued that its Jan. 29 filing was proper, but it will not object if Metra wishes file a full response.

Both sides face a Feb. 19 deadline to file responses to each other’s earlier filing on remaining disagreements.