Posts Tagged ‘Illinois Department of Transportation’

Venture Cars Pulled From Service

April 2, 2022

Two Venture coaches are shown in the consist of Lincoln Service Train 301 in Springfield, Illinois, on March 1.

Amtrak has temporarily withdrawn new Venture cars from operation on Midwest Corridor trains due to technical issues.

Trains magazine reported on its website Friday that magnets in the four-seat work tables in the coaches were disrupting operation of smart phones and laptops computers by causing them to shut down. The magnets are used to lock extensions on the tables.

The Trains report said Amtrak is eyeing a short-term fix of affixing brackets that prevent passengers from extending the outer flaps until correct-strength magnets can be installed.

Illinois Department of Transportation spokesman Scott Speegle said his agency is working with Amtrak and Seimens, which built the Venture cars, to solve the problem.

IDOT was the lead agency involved in the acquisition of the cars, which also will be used on corridor services in Missouri, Wisconsin and Michigan.

Venture cars began revenue service in February on the Chicago-St. Louis corridor.

Thus far only coaches have been delivered from Siemens to Amtrak, although three combination business class and coach class cars are in the process of being accepted.

The combination cars will have 36 business class seats, which is double the number available in existing Horizon and Amfleet equipment used in Midwest corridor service.

Venture cars to be used in California have also arrived in that state but the California Department of Transportation but have not yet been placed into service.

Trains said California officials wouldn’t say why that has been the case..

The article can be read at https://www.trains.com/trn/news-reviews/news-wire/siemens-equipment-delays-aggravate-amtrak-capacity-issues-special-report/

Hannibal Eyes Bringing Amtrak to Town

January 22, 2022

Hannibal, Missouri, has never had scheduled Amtrak service. In fact, by the time Amtrak arrived in 1971 Hannibal had lost intercity rail passenger service on the two major rail lines that pass through the city, a former Wabash route from Springfield, Illinois, to Kansas City; and a former Chicago, Burlington & Quincy route between St. Louis and St. Paul, Minnesota.

The last passenger train, Burlington Nos. 15 and 8 made their final trips on April 8, 1967.

Yet some Hannibal officials are eyeing bringing Amtrak to the city of 17,000 located on the Mississippi River 117 miles north of St. Louis. Hannibal is best known as the boyhood home of author Mark Twain.

Tourism is a significant business in Hannibal and local officials seek bringing in Amtrak as a way to bolster that. The Convention and Visitor’s Bureau is leading the way, seeking to get Amtrak to extend service to Hannibal that now terminates in Quincy, Illinois.

Business owner Michael O’Cheltree said rail passenger service could bring in tourists when the river cruises are not operating.

There is, of course, a long way to go before Amtrak could arrive in Hannibal.

Extending Amtrak service from Quincy to Hannibal is feasible because the ex-Burlington line through Hannibal, now operated by BNSF, connects with the route used by Amtrak at West Quincy, Missouri.

“One of the first things we’re looking at, obviously, is funding for planning,” said Hannibal Economic Development Executive Coordinator Corey Mehaffy. “We’ve got two studies we really need to do. And a feasibility study on demand or passenger rail. So obviously the potential revenue that could come along with that.”

The Chicago-Quincy service is funded by the Illinois Department of Transportation and there is little to no prospect that agency would agree to fund Amtrak service to Hannibal.

Funding would thus need to come from the Missouri Department of Transportation, which currently funds Amtrak’s Missouri River Runner service between St. Louis and Kansas City.

Hannibal officials have created a transportation committee to work with city and state officials as well as Amtrak and local businesses.

Mehaffy said the project is still at an early stage and no one knows yet how much it would cost to fund needed studies or to construct a station.

That hasn’t stopped some from dreaming. O’Cheltree said the station could be placed Y Men’s Pavilion next to existing tracks and within walking distance of downtown.

He sees nothing but upside to the idea of bringing in Amtrak.

 “They’d come from Chicago, Macomb, Rockford, all these possible places, spend the night in our motels, come here, do some shopping and go home the next day,” he said.

Beau Hicks, the executive director of the visitor’s bureau has even bigger dreams. She said in time the service could be extended south to St. Louis.

Illinois Zephyr Launched 50 Years Ago Today

November 4, 2021

The eastbound Illinois Zephyr (left) meets the westbound Carl Sandburg at Mendota, Illinois, on Aug. 6, 2008

As Amtrak prepared to begin operations on May 1, 1971, dozens of communities across the country faced the loss of intercity rail passenger service because the trains serving them had not been chosen to operate under the Amtrak banner.

Among them were the Western Illinois cities of Quincy and Macomb, both of which were served by trains of Burlington Northern. Both cities were stops for the Chicago-North Kansas City American Royal Zephyr and unnamed Nos. 5/6 between Chicago and West Quincy, Missouri. Nos. 5/6 has once been known as the Kansas City Zephyr but was now known informally as the “Quincy Local.”

BN forerunner Chicago, Burlington & Quincy had sought to end the Kansas City Zephyr in late 1967 but 800 people, including 700 college students and their parents had opposed the move, leading the Interstate Commerce Commission to order the train to continue operating between Chicago and West Quincy. Students attending Western Illinois University in Macomb were heavy uses of Burlington passenger trains and the Burlington operated 24 specials a year to accommodate them.

Macomb had no airline service and no direct intercity bus service or interstate highway to Chicago, where many students were from. Quincy College also had a contingent of students from Chicago who took the train to campus.

With the “Quincy Local” set to make its final trips on April 30, 1971, officials of WIU, Quincy College, and the cities of Quincy and Macomb went to court on April 28, 1971, where Federal District Court Judge Joseph Sam Perry issued an injunction ordering BN to continue to operate the “Quincy Local.” The court vacated the injunction on May 10 and the “Quincy Local” was prompted discontinued.

But Quincy College and its allies weren’t through with their fight to preserve intercity rail passenger service to their communities. They filed suit In the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, arguing that the Rail Passenger Service Act of 1970, which created the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, as Amtrak is formally known, was an unconstitutional attempt to regulate commerce that is solely intrastate.

A three-judge panel on June 21 disagreed and also rebuffed the argument of the plaintiffs that discontinuance of the “Quincy Local” violated section 403(b) of the 1970 Act, which authorized Amtrak to operate service beyond its initial basic route network if management thought it would be prudent to do so. The court’s decision was appealed and on Feb. 22, 1972, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the decision of the District Court.

But even as Quincy College and its fellow plaintiffs were in court, legislation had been introduced in the Illinois General Assembly to appropriate $4 million to pay for service to Quincy and Macomb under section 403(b), which enabled state and local governments to request Amtrak service if they agreed to pay two-thirds of the operating deficit.

The bill was approved and the Illinois Zephyr began operating between Chicago and West Quincy, Missouri, on Nov. 4, 1971, with intermediate stops at LaGrange Road in the Chicago suburbs, Aurora, Mendota, Princeton, Kewanee, Galesburg and Macomb.

Service began at Plano on April 30, 1972, while Naperville replaced Aurora as a station stop on April 28, 1985. Service to Quincy proper began April 24, 1983. After flooding damaged the West Quincy station in July 1993, Quincy became the western terminus for the Illinois Zephyr on May 1, 1994.

Service on the Chicago-Quincy route expanded to two daily roundtrips on Oct. 30, 2006, with the inauguration of the Carl Sandburg. The Illinois Zephyr continued its traditional schedule of leaving Quincy in early morning and arriving in Chicago by 10:30 a.m. while departing Chicago in early evening for a 10 p.m. arrival in Quincy.

The Carl Sandburg, which was named for a Pulitzer Prize winning poet and biographer who had been born in Galesburg, was scheduled to depart Chicago at 8 a.m. and arrive in Quincy shortly after noon. The return trip to Chicago left Quincy in late afternoon and arrived in Chicago before 10 p.m.

As it marks its 50th anniversary, the Illinois Zephyr holds the distinction of being Amtrak’s continuously operated state-sponsored train. The Chicago-Quincy route is one of four Midwest corridor routes radiating from Chicago funded by the Illinois Department of Transportation. The other routes are Chicago-St. Louis; Chicago-Carbondale; and Chicago-Milwaukee, the latter funded in part by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.

Chicago-St. Louis Top Speed Set at 90 mph

July 9, 2021

Amtrak this week raised the top speed for trains traveling on its Chicago-St. Louis corridor to 90 miles per hour.

The action came after the Federal Railroad Administration completed its certification of reliability of the signal system on the former Gulf, Mobile & Ohio route that is now mostly owned by Union Pacific.

The higher speeds will apply between Laraway Road (south of Joliet, Illinois) and CP Wann (two miles south of Alton, Illinois).

The higher speed is permitted if a train is led by an Amtrak locomotive equipped with both Alstom’s Incremental Train Control System to monitor the status of highway crossings, and the Wabtec Interoperable Electronic Train Management System.

In the past decade Amtrak, the Illinois Department of Transportation and the Federal Railroad Administration have spent more than $2 billion to upgrade the route with the goal of achieving a top speed of 110 miles per hour.

However, those efforts fell short because of several failed efforts to create a signal system that would support that speed and while interacting with highway crossing equipment.

A short stretch between Dwight and Pontiac in 2015 tested 110 mph speeds in 2015 but UP and other parties concluded the equipment used there was unreliable and incompatible with the railroad’s I-ETMS positive train control system.

I-ETMS is only currently certified as a vital system for a top speed of 90 mph.

It would need further testing and development to reach FRA certification for 110 mph, a process that would require additional funding that has yet to materialize.

Amtrak plans to tweak its travel times on July 19 to reflect the higher speeds and when it returns Lincoln Service to its pre-COVID-19 pandemic level of service.

Illinois, Vermont Trains Coming Back July 19

May 21, 2021

Suspended Illinois-funded corridor trains will resume operation on July 19. On the same day, the Vermonter and Ethan Allen Express will also return to service.

The Illinois Department of Transportation said that it is restoring service as part of its Rebuild Illinois capital plan.

One daily roundtrip each will be added to the Chicago-Quincy and Chicago-Carbondale routes while two roundtrips will be restored to the Chicago-St. Louis corridor.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic the Chicago-Quincy Carl Sandburg was suspended along with the Chicago to Carbondale Saluki and Carbondale to Chicago Illini.

Those suspended trains left Chicago in the morning and returned in the evening.

In Vermont, the Vermont Agency of Transportation said the Vermonter will return between St. Albans, Vermont, and Washington.

Also coming back is the Ethan Allen Express between Rutland, Vermont, and New York.

On Time at Pesotum

March 5, 2021

Amtrak’s daily Chicago-Carbondale, Illinois, combination is still running these days with Superliner equipment. The northbound train, which operates as the Saluki, is on time as it barrels through Pesotum, Illinois, en route to its next station at Champaign-Urbana.

This equipment will turn later in the day to return to Carbondale as the Illini.

Until the COVID-19 pandemic took hold last year about this time, the Illinois Department of Transportation paid for a pair of Chicago-Carbondale roundtrips. For now it is only sponsoring one roundtrip.

This image was made on Feb. 27.

IDOT Hires Manger for Rockford Project

September 29, 2020

The Illinois Department of Transportation has hired a project manager for its efforts to restore rail passenger service between Chicago and Rockford.

Engineering services firm WSP USA was hired to oversee the project, which could involve contracting with Amtrak or Chicago rail commuter rail provider Metra.

IDOT has been talking with host railroad Union Pacific about infrastructure work needed for the service.

Trains would use an existing Metra route between Chicago and Elgin and then travel what are now freight-only tracks to Rockford.

Rockford lost rail service in late September 1981 due to a state budget cut for intercity rail passenger funding.

At the time Rockford was on a route between Chicago and Dubuque, Iowa, that used former Illinois Central Gulf tracks.

New Rail Cars Arrive for Testing

September 2, 2020

Four new passenger cars built by Siemens have been delivered to Amtrak’s Chicago service facility for testing.

The cars, which were ordered by the Illinois Department of Transportation, are to be used on state-supported Midwest corridor trains.

Known as Venture cars, the single-level cars are built to a design pattern that Siemens used to construct coaches for Florida’s Brightline intercity service.

IDOT and its partner departments of transportation have ordered 88 of the Venture cars in coach, coach-business and coach-café configurations.

The cars are expected to be delivered through 2023. They are being built in Sacramento, California, where Siemens is also building an order of ALC-42 Chargers for Amtrak that will pull long-distance trains once they enter revenue service.

The Siemens passenger cars have a long and convoluted history that dates to 2012 when IDOT ordered  bi-level cars from Japanese manufacturer Sumitomo, which subcontracted construction of the cars to Nippon Sharyo, which had a manufacturing plant in Rochelle, Illinois.

However, a prototype car failed a crash safety test in 2015.

IDOT ultimately switched the contract to Siemens, which agreed to build single-level cars for the transportation agency over a 24- to 34-month period.

In addition to the cars being built for IDOT, Siemens is building 49 single-level cars for the California Department of Transportation for use on corridor trains in that state.

Once the new passenger cars enter service on Midwest corridor routes serving Illinois, Missouri, Wisconsin and Michigan, it will mean that the trains will have Siemens locomotives (SC-44 Chargers) and Siemens passengers.

Midwest trains currently use a combination of Horizon Fleet and Amfleet cars.

IDOT Expected to get New Rail Cars in August

July 11, 2020

New passenger cars to be used in Midwest Corridor service are expected to begin being delivered in August.

The cars are expected to be placed into service for trains funded by the Illinois Department of Transportation.

Fifty-one of the 130-car order is currently being built by Siemens in Sacramento, California.

Siemens has delivered 11 cars to the California Department of Transportation.

It is not clear when the cars, once received by IDOT, would go into revenue service.

Development Continues on New Illinois Routes

February 15, 2020

Illinois Department of Transportation officials are continuing planning work to launch Amtrak service from Chicago to Rockford and the Quad Cities region of Illinois and Iowa but much work remains to be completed.

IDOT is seeking to hire a consultant to help manage the projects.

Guy Tridgell, an IDOT spokesman, said planning for service to Rockford is in the early stages.

He said environmental studies need to be completed on the Rockford route along with preliminary engineering and final design before the route can be implemented.

Trains to Rockford are expected to use Metra’s Milwaukee District West Line to Elgin and use a Union Pacific route to Rockford via Huntley and Belvidere.

As for the Quad City route, IDOT has been negotiating with the Iowa Interstate Railroad over infrastructure improvements needed to accommodate two daily round trip passenger trains.

IDOT has reportedly decided to name the service the Quad Cities Rocket.

That name was used by a former Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific passenger train between Chicago and Rock Island, Illinois, that operated until late 1978.

The Quad Cities service would use 50 miles of IAIS track to Moline, Illinois. The rest of the route would use BNSF tracks with a connection to IAIS at Wyanet.

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

A $45 billion capital bill approved last year by the Illinois General Assembly earmarked

$225 million for service to the Quad Cities and $275 million for service to Rockford.

The proposed services have been discussed for several years but were given much lower priority during the administration of former Gov. Bruce Rauner.