Posts Tagged ‘Empire Corridor’

Schenectady Passengers Might Have to Make Do With a Shelter Until a New Station is Built

February 2, 2017

Schenectady, New York, officials knew that Amtrak passengers in their city would need to use a temporary facility while a permanent station was being built.

But it may be that the temporary facility will provide far less comfort than anyone expected.

Amtrak 4The Albany Times-Union reported that  in a cost-cutting move the New York Department of Transportation is looking at building what would be little more than a shelter that would not have a ticket office or restrooms.

A temporary station with those amenities was to have been completed by late 2016, but work has yet to begin on it other than the construction of stairs and a ramp.

Since 1979, Schenectady has been served by an Amtrak-built modular station that few have liked.

Since 2007, city and state transportation officials have been planning to replace the 1970s Amtrak station with something more modern and attractive.

But that project suffered a setback when the lone bid for the new station came in last year $10 million over the $12 million to $15 million budget for the depot.

The new station remains on track with Gov. Andrew Cuomo allocating $15 million for the project in his proposed state budget. That is in addition to $15 million already in hand, giving planners $30 million for the station project.

The temporary station is expected to be located north of the site for the permanent station, which is expected to open in late 2018.

Bruce Becker, vice president of operations at the National Association of Railroad Passengers and a former head of the Empire State Passengers Association, said he was concerned about the proposed temporary facility.

“Our concerns are for both the benefit and the safety of the passengers,” he said.

Schenectady is served by Amtrak’s Empire Corridor trains, the Chicago-New York/Boston Lake Shore Limited, the New York-Montreal Adirdondack, and the New York-Rutland, Vermont Ethan Allen Express.

Gov. Pledges Funds for New Schenectady Depot

January 12, 2017

New Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed spending $15 million to build a new Amtrak station in Schenectady, New York.

The funding was mentioned in his State of the State speech given this week.

Amtrak 3Amtrak currently uses a depot on Erie Boulevard. Cuomo cited the Schenectady station project while discussing plans to upgrade transportation hubs across the state.

It is not clear how much new state money will be spent on the new station. Some federal and local funding is also expected to go into the project.

The New York Department of Transportation has budgeted $15 million for the station, but that includes some federal funding that may no longer be available.

Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy said the state is expected to kick in some additional money in order to get the project going and the station open by 2018.

“Anybody that’s gone through that station, it’s an embarrassment,” McCarthy said. “It doesn’t reflect the quality of the community we’re building. We’re doing demolitions in the neighborhoods, working on home ownership, getting the casino online, and that train station is just an embarrassment.”

In March 2016, NYDOT sought bids for a new station, but received just one response. That bid was $10 million over budget, so the state scrapped its plans.

Instead, it decided to split the work into two projects, one involving razing the 1970s era that Amtrak built and now uses and another to build a replacement station.

The Chicago-New York/Boston Lake Shore Limited, New York-Toronto Maple Leaf, the New York-Montreal Adirondack, the New York-Rutland (Vermont) Ethan Allen Express and four New York-Niagara Falls Empire Service trains serve Schenectady, which handled 61,000 passengers last year.

Amtrak and the NYDOT are building a second track between Schenectady and Albany-Rensselaer to alleviate rail traffic congestion on the route. That track is expected to be completed this spring.

Buffalo Exchange Street Station Closed After Heavy Rainfall Led to Ceiling Collapse

September 21, 2016

Exchange Street station in Buffalo, New York, has been closed after heavy rain caused the ceiling to collapse.

Amtrak 3The city of Buffalo, which owns the station, has indicated that it will seek cost estimates about repairing the facility, which is served by New York-Niagara Falls Empire Service trains and the New York-Toronto Maple Leaf.

All of those trains plus the Chicago-New York Lake Shore Limited are also served by another Amtrak station in suburban Buffalo in Depew, New York.

Buffalo Public Works Commissioner Steven Stepniak said a contractor has been sent to the site to evaluate the condition of the building. Stepniak said the city will explore various options before moving forward.

The ceiling collapse occurred near the passenger waiting area last weekend and the station was closed on Monday.

Earlier this month, another portion of the ceiling collapsed, prompting the closure of the station’s ticket office.

Amtrak will continue to serve the station in the meantime. The passenger carrier said it is working with the New York State Department of Transportation, but is not directly involved in station repairs because it does not own the station.

A New York passenger train advocate said the situation underscores the need for a new station in Buffalo near the city’s waterfront.

“We are very concerned over the immediate safety implications, and the loss of service to the increasingly vibrant downtown Buffalo area,” said Bruce Becker, vice president of operations for the National Association of Railroad Passengers.

Niagara Falls Station Still Without Trains

September 21, 2016

Niagara Falls, New York, has a state-of-the-art new $43 million intermodal station that was built in part to serve Amtrak, yet the trains continue to call elsewhere.

Amtrak 4The city and Amtrak have yet to agree on a lease agreement for the station, which remains closed until such a pact is reached.

Amtrak continues to work with the City of Niagara Falls toward execution of a lease agreement allowing us to occupy space in the new train station,” said Amtrak spokesman Craig Schulz. “We are working through the remaining issues which we are optimistic can be resolved. We look forward to moving Amtrak operations into the new building and inaugurating service to the new station.”

Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster has told local media that “the ball is now in Amtrak’s court.”

Work on the new station was completed this summer and an open house was held at which Amtrak showed off a display train.

In the meantime, Amtrak continues to use a facility in Niagara Falls near Lockport Road.

Amtrak to Suspend Empire Service Train

April 8, 2016

Amtrak plans to suspend one of its Empire Service trains for more than two months west of Rensselaer, New York, due to CSX track work.

The New York-Niagara Falls train will not operates between Sunday and Wednesday starting April 24 and continuing through July 13.

Amtrak logoAt the request of CSX, Amtrak and the New York State Department of Transportation agreed to the service suspension, which has drawn criticism from the Empire State Passengers Association.

“This is an outrageous service reduction just as the busy spring and summer travel season gets under way to and from upstate cities and tourist destinations,” the passenger advocacy group said on its Facebook page.

New York helps fund service between New York and Niagara Falls, although most trains operate between New York and Albany-Resselaer.

Two roundtrips operate between New York and Niagara Falls. Most of the route is also served by the Chicago-New York Lake Shore Limited.

Amtrak and the NYSDOT are spending $300 million to lengthen platforms at the Albany-Rensselaer station, install a fourth track at the station complex, build a second track to alleviate congestion between Albany and Schenectady, and upgrade signal and crossing systems between Rensselaer and Poughkeepsie.

Amtrak Opens Temporary Rochester Depot

November 7, 2015

Amtrak opened a temporary station in Rochester, New York, this past week while the existing facility is razed and replaced by a larger and more modern facility.

The temporary deport is located on Central Avenue and is adjacent to the existing station, which Amtrak build in the 1970s. The interim station will have a ticket office, waiting area and a parking lot.

Amtrak and New York officials expect the new $30 million station to open in fall of 2017.

That facility will feature a two-sided, high-level passenger platform that will be reached via an underground concourse.

Two Amtrak trains will be able to board simultaneously. Rochester is served by the Chicago-New York/Boston Lake Shore Limited, the New York-Toronto Maple Leaf and New York-Niagara Falls, New York, Empire Corridor.

Pike Company of Rochester won the contract to build the new station.

 

Amtrak Extends Delay Warning for LSL

September 23, 2014

Amtrak has extended through Oct. 29 its notification of possible delays on trains serving New York State on the CSX Water Level Route.

The Chicago-New York Lake Shore Limited will be subject to delays of up to 45 minutes on Sunday through Wednesday due to CSX track work between Buffalo and Rome, N.Y.

Also affected are the New York-Toronto Maple Leaf and the New York-Niagara Falls, N.Y., Empire Service trains.

Amtrak said passengers should sign up for delay notifications when booking their travel and to check the status of their train on Amtrak.com, its mobile apps or at 800-USA-RAIL (800-872-7245).

CSX Demands New Track in Empire Corridor

June 27, 2014

CSX is demanding a separate track for passenger trains operating more than 79 mph between Albany and Buffalo, N.Y.

The company made the demand in a filing that is part of a preliminary environmental impact statement for a proposal to raise the maximum speed limits for Amtrak trains using the Empire Corridor to 90 or 110 mph.

CSX said the dedicated passenger track would allow speeds of up to 125 mph.

The former New York Central Water Level Route between Schenectady and Buffalo sees 70 to 75 trains daily. It is, CSX said, the company’s “most important line” in its network.

The railroad said that adding additional passenger trains would only add more congestion, causing delays and hindering access to freight customers on sidings along the main line.

Without adequate separation between the freight tracks and a newly constructed passenger track, high-speed trains also would pose increased danger to CSX track crews, it said.
CSX criticized the methods used to compile the draft statement, saying the projected costs don’t include payments for use of CSX property, which it said is worth “billions.”

The railroad also contended that the draft statement doesn’t reflect the detrimental environmental impact that would result from shifting freight traffic from trains to less fuel-efficient trucks as shippers facing delays from the added rail congestion moves freight to the highways.

CSX said that increase in truck traffic would lead to additional road and bridge maintenance cost.

The CSX filing said the statement fails to consider other, more cost-effective, ways to improve passenger mobility, including improved bus service and air service.

However, the filing doesn’t acknowledge that scheduled air service along the Albany-Buffalo corridor is nonexistent because air carriers have been unable to serve the route profitably.

CSX did note the relative lack of population density and transit connections around existing stations in Buffalo, Syracuse, Utica, Rome, and the Capital Region, factors that could affect demand for the service.

The railroad said the study should have considered the Albany-New York City and Albany-Niagara Falls segments as different corridors, allowing policy makers to proceed with improvements on the first and choosing the “no-build” alternative for the second.

CSX freight trains do not use the same tracks s Amtrak uses between Albany and New York City.
The New York State Department of Transportation collected comments from the public during several meetings across the state and through written submissions. On March 21, it extended the deadline for comments to April 30. CSX filed its comments that day.

The final draft environmental impact statement is expected to be released six months to a year after the comment period ends. Another environmental impact statement on the alternative selected will then be produced.

CSX Track Project to Benefit Amtrak

December 27, 2013

Amtrak’s Chicago-New York Lake Shore Limited and New York-Buffalo Empire Corridor trains should have smoother sailing through Syracuse, N.Y., after CSX completes a congestion relief project being funded with an $18.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The money will be used to reconfigure the tracks and upgrade the signal system in the vicinity of the Amtrak station and DeWitt Yard.

The New York Department of Transportation will chip in $4.6 million. Construction will begin in 2015.

The project involves upgrading two sidings, one of which is used by Amtrak to reach the station. The other siding is used by CSX freights to enter and leave the yard. Currently, both siding have 30 mph speed limits.

2 States Still Talking About Amtrak Funding Pacts

October 12, 2013
Passengers board Empire Corridor train No. 288 at Buffalo Depew station on July 31, 2011.

Passengers board Empire Corridor train No. 288 at Buffalo Depew station on July 31, 2011.

With California having reached a funding agreement with Amtrak to share costs of short-distance routes, there are now just two states left that have yet to reach a pact.

Illinois is reported to be close to coming to terms with Amtrak and negotiators are optimistic that an agreement can be reached with Indiana.

In the meantime, more details have been released about the agreement that the New York State Department and Amtrak reached.

The cost sharing agreements are required by the federal Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008.

New York state will pay about $22 million in federal fiscal year 2014 to cover operating and capital costs associated with the Empire Service trains between New York and Niagara Falls, the Adirondack (New York-Montreal), Maple Leaf (New York-Toronto), and the Ethan Allen (New York-Rutland, Vt.)

Amtrak and New York earlier had reached a separate agreement to share costs with Vermont on the Ethan Allen in which New York will pay 35 percent of the train’s costs. That is an estimated to be about $800,000, in federal fiscal year 2014.

The latest agreement will fund seven daily round trips between New York Penn Station and Albany, two daily round trips between New York and Niagara Falls, and one daily round trip each between New York and Toronto, Montreal, and Rutland.

State funding will pay for operating costs associated with the lines, including fuel and labor costs., and repair and maintenance of Amtrak equipment.

Amtrak and NYSDOT have established a committee to review and approve maintenance costs for the Hudson line between Schenectady and Poughkeepsie. It costs Amtrak about $100 million per year to operate the four routes.

The $22 million state share helps make up the difference between revenues and Amtrak’s operational costs.

New York and Amtrak will establish performance measures for the state-supported trains, including  on-time performance, cleanliness of the trains and Amtrak-operated facilities, and customer service.

Amtrak and NYSDOT will develop performance program standards over the next 90 days, which will include incentives for meeting and exceeding the agreed-upon standards. The first year of the program will be used to create a baseline for future years.

The states of Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont will be establishing identical programs.