Posts Tagged ‘Chicago’

Last Outbound Amtrak Train of the Day

October 9, 2019

Boarding of the outbound Lake Shore Limited has begun on Track 26 at Chicago Union Station.

The sleeper class passengers are the first to board and I was near the head of the line in that group.

Actually, I wasn’t riding in a sleeper. But if you buy a day pass to the lounge at Union Station you get to board your train along with the sleeper passengers.

Train No. 48 will be the last Amtrak train to depart from the South concourse of Union Station today.

But other trains will be arriving over the next couple of hours including a Wolverine Service train, the Illini, a Lincoln Service train, the Carl Sanburg and an extraordinarily late California Zephyr.

These platforms won’t be empty for long.

Proposal New Chicago Transit Hub Includes Amtrak

June 6, 2019

Chicago may be getting a second Amtrak station if a Wisconsin developer is able to follow through on an ambitious proposal.

Landmark Development wants to create a transit center across Lake Shore Drive near Soldier Field on the southside of downtown Chicago. The location is close to the site of Central Station, which the Illinois Central razed in the middle 1970s after Amtrak ceased using it in March 1972.

The center would serve Metra, CTA and Amtrak. The developer also plans to build a $20 billion residential and commercial complex on a platform that would span the tracks running alongside Lake Shore Drive.

Those tracks are used by Metra Electric trains and Amtrak’s City of New Orleans, Illini and Saluki.

A recent state capital funding plan approved by the Illinois General Assembly would make $5 billion in state funding available to help finance the transit center.

The proposal calls for extending the CTA Orange Line and Metra’s BNSF route to the site.

It is not clear if that would mean that Metra BNSF route trains would no longer use Chicago Union Station.

The transit center would have parking for 6,500 vehicles and feature a bus line connecting it to Navy Pier, museums and other tourist attractions along the Lake Michigan shore in and near downtown Chicago.

The Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce paid for a study that concluded that the transit center, to be known as One Central, generate $120 billion in new tax and fee revenues to state and local governments over 40 years.

Student funding is necessarily for the project to qualify for federal transportation funding.

All of Amtrak’s trains serving Chicago originate and terminate at Union Station. Some of those Amtrak routes have suburban stops, but no Amtrak train stops for passengers within Chicago other that at Union Station.

Amtrak Workers Protest Outsourcing

April 25, 2019

Three Chicago area Congressmen joined Amtrak workers on Wednesday for a rally to protest what the workers have described as “a hostile turn” in labor relations.

Reps. Dan Lipikski, Chuy Garcia and Jan Schakowsky appeared at a Unite Here rally conducted by the Transportation Communications Union and the Transport Workers Union.

The unions are decrying Amtrak’s decision to outsource work and proposals by the Trump administration to reduce Amtrak funding, particularly for long-distance routes.

Human Error Blamed for Chicago Service Issues

March 3, 2019

A reported “human error” that disrupted Amtrak and Metra service at Chicago Union Station on Thursday turned out to be a worker falling onto a circuit board that in turn turned off computers used to oversee train operations.

The computers in question operate signals at the station. The service interruption occurred for much of the day.

Amtrak President Richard Anderson issued a statement on Friday blaming human error for the service disruptions, but didn’t explain what that was.

The workers who fell on the circuit board wasn’t the only cause of the 12-hour problem.

Amtrak also had decided to conduct a server upgrade to its computers during peak hours of service rather than during the middle of the night when only a handful of trains would be operating.

In his statement, Anderson acknowledged that the passenger carrier failed to provide the service that its passengers and Metra riders expect.

“We own the system. We will fix this problem. More importantly, we are taking steps to improve our operations in Chicago, which include appointing a veteran Amtrak executive to make sure we deliver the performance our stakeholders expect of us,” Anderson said.

Metra service had returned to normal by Friday morning after signal operations were disrupted starting Thursday morning.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said workers had to shift from automated to manual control of signals and switches and that caused delays.

The signal problems began on Thursday at 8:35 a.m. and trains between Union Station and Western Avenue were halted about an hour later.

Although some delays were brief, other trains were delayed for almost three hour.

Metra shifted to a “load and go” operations plan for trains on its BNSF line between Chicago and Aurora, Illinois, its busiest route in Chicago.

Amtrak’s eastbound Lake Shore Limited did not depart Chicago until 2:28 a.m., nearly five hours late.

Amtrak Cancels Most Midwest Service Due to Cold

January 30, 2019

Amtrak has canceled all trains that are scheduled to originate in Chicago today (Jan. 30) due to subzero temperatures in the Midwest.

This also includes trains that originate elsewhere today en route to Chicago.

Trains that originated on or before Jan. 29 will complete their trip to Chicago. Most of those are long-distance trains.

Amtrak said that all corridor trains will be canceled on Thursday, Jan. 31. Most long-distance trains originating in Chicago are also expected to be canceled on Thursday.

Also being canceled today and Thursday will be long-distance trains bound for Chicago that would be scheduled to arrive on Thursday and Friday.

One long-distance train, the Chicago to Seattle/Portland Empire Builder was canceled on Tuesday due to the severe cold.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari told Trains magazine that decision was made in consultation with host railroad BNSF, which handles the train for most of its route.

The only Amtrak trains that will originate in the Midwest today and Thursday will be the two Missouri River Runner round-trips between Kansas City and St. Louis.

Amtrak typically operates 55 trains daily to and from Chicago hub.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said passengers traveling on the affected trains will be able to change their travel to another date without an additional charge.

In a related development, intercity commuter carrier The South Shore Line suspended all service on Wednesday.

The carrier, which operates between Chicago and South Bend, Indiana, said a test train encountered “significant overnight wire problems.”

The South Shore said it will evaluate weather and operating conditions and determine later today if it will operate on Thursday.

The severe cold also prompted Chicago commuter railroad Metra to operate today on a modified schedule.

Lipinski to Head House Rail Subcommittee

January 28, 2019

A Chicago congressman has been named the chairman of the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

Dan Lipinski represents a district that includes parts of the city of Chicago and some Chicago suburbs.

A news release from Lipinski’s office said he was named to the chairman’s post based on his experience in and knowledge of rail, pipeline and hazmat safety; freight-, commuter- and passenger-rail issues and regulation; and the impact rail and pipelines have on local communities.

The release noted that Lipinski’s district include not only railroads but also several underground pipelines.

“As chair, I will continue the work I have done to advance policies that prioritize rail and pipeline safety, a better environment, more jobs and better public transit,” Lipinski said.

Lipinski also said he will continue to pursue funding for the Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency program, a public-private partnership seeking to ease congestion on Chicago railroads.

Metra, BNSF Ripped at Public Hearing

December 12, 2018

A Chicago congressman has accused commuter rail agency Metra and host railroad BNSF of having “failed all to often” to provide reliable service.

The charge was made by U.S. Rep. Daniel Lipinski, D-Illinois, during a public hearing that he described as an effort to force Metra and BNSF to improve service.

“We all understand that problems can occur, but this year the Metra BNSF line has failed all too often. There have been repeated delays, cancellations, broken air conditioners, and other problems,” Lipinski said during the hearing in Western Springs. “I’ve told Metra and BNSF that this is unacceptable and the problems must end.”

Metra CEO James Derwinski and BNSF Vice President for passenger operations D.J. Mitchell told the audience of 80 that their organizations would do their best to address problems on the line.

The BNSF Line between Chicago Union Station and Aurora, Illinois, is the busiest of Metra’s 11 lines, carrying 64,000 riders a day.

The line is also used by Amtrak’s Southwest Chief, California Zephyr, Illinois Zephyr and Carl Sandburg trains.

Metra operates 94 trains on weekdays while BNSF has up to 60 trains a day.

Grant to Boost Chicago Railroad Projects

June 8, 2018

A $132 million grant to the Illinois Department of Transportation will enable the completion of three components of the Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency program’s 75th Street corridor improvement project.

In a news release, U.S. DOT said the projects will improve rail traffic flow at several high-priority chokepoints.

Among the improvements that are being planned are:

• The Forest Hill flyover, consisting of a new north-south flyover structure that will eliminate conflicts between north-south and east-west train movements at the Forest Hill Junction.

• The 71st Street grade separation that will separate the Western Avenue rail corridor from 71st street.

• The Argo and Canal junction improvements, which will address the 87th Street chokepoint and increase capacity at Argo yard.

Funding for the projects will include $106.3 million from Class 1 railroads, or about 25 percent, of the total project costs.

DOT said the railroads have agreed to maintain the tracks to be improved at no cost to the project’s public partners.

Federal funding is being provided through the Nationally Significant Freight and Highway Projects Program.

CREATE was launched in 2003 and involves 70 projects to separate freight and passenger trains at six key junctions, eliminating about two dozen crossings, and increasing rail capacity, speed and reliability in the Chicago area.

The program is managed through a public-private partnership among Amtrak, the Association of American Railroads, BNSF, Belt Railway of Chicago, the Chicago and Illinois departments of transportation, Canadian Pacific, Canadian National, CSX, Indiana Harbor Belt, Metra, Norfolk Southern and Union Pacific.

The St. Charles Air Line

January 19, 2018

Since March 1972, Amtrak trains going to and from the Illinois Central mainline between Chicago and New Orleans have plied the St. Charles Air Line to gain access to Chicago Union Station.

At some point a train arriving or leaving Union Station must do a backup move to get into or out of the station. All of this adds to the running time and for years there has been talk of creating a more direct connection to the IC mainline and the route into Union Station.

But that has yet to come to fruition so six Amtrak trains a day use the St. Charles Air Line.

In the Illinois Central passenger train days, varnish going to and from the Iowa Division used a portion of the St. Charles Air Line.  Of course, freight trains use the Air Line, too.

Some Chicago officials and land developers would like to see the Air Line abandoned because it traverses territory that in the past decade has seen rapid grown of high-end residential housing. The former site of Central Station has been converted to a housing development.

But for the foreseeable future Amtrak and freight trains will continue to use the Air Line at all hours of the day.

I made the image above from the last car on Amtrak Train No. 393, the Illini, to Carbondale, Illinois, back in June 2010.

In a few minutes No. 393 will round the curve at South Wye Junction and gain the Mainline of Mid America. The train will accelerate as it passes beneath McCormick place and heads southward.

Amtrak Might Substitute Lake Forest for Glenview as Chicago Suburban Hiawatha Service Stop

December 14, 2017

Amtrak is considering changing its northern Chicago suburban stop for its Hiawatha Service from Glenview to Lake Forest, Illinois.

A study commissioned by the City of Lake Forest determined that the station change could mean as many as 40,000 more passengers on the Chicago-Milwaukee  trains.

However, some capital improvements to a Metra station in Lake Forest would be needed before the change is made.

“At this point, the only obstacle preventing us from beginning service is the lack of a pedestrian underpass at Lake Forest station that would allow passengers to move safely from one side of the tracks to another,” said Joe McHugh, Amtrak’s vice president of state supported services-business development.

Amtrak said that was because it didn’t want passengers crossing tracks that are heavily used by its own trains as well those of Metra and Canadian Pacific.

Lake Forest has been pushing to become a stop for the Hiawatha trains during the past year.

It even paid a Washington lobbying firm $192,000 to conduct the feasibility study and promote the city with Amtrak officials.

One advantage of using Lake Forest rather than Glenview is that there would be more parking at the former station.

The pedestrian tunnel that Amtrak says is required before it would begin stopping in Lake Forest will cost an estimated $9 million, which the city must pay for.