Posts Tagged ‘Illinois’

Illinois High Speed Commission Plan Advances

March 13, 2021

The House of the Illinois General Assembly is expected to vote on a bill that would create a high speed rail commission.

The bill was approved by a unanimous vote of the transportation committee. It calls for creation of a statewide plan for high speed rail line connecting Chicago and St. Louis, including existing Amtrak and Metra service as feeder lines.

Under the legislation, the commission would be required to conduct a ridership study and make recommendations for the frequency of service and implementation.

Lawmakers Seek Grant Spending Deadline Extension

June 29, 2019

Illinois lawmakers are asking the U.S. Department of Transportation to extend the deadline for use of a federal grant to establish Amtrak service between Chicago and the Quad Cities region of Illinois and Iowa.

The letter was sent by Senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, as well as Representative Cheri Bustos.

It came on the heels of a commitment by Gov. J.B. Pritzker to revive the efforts to establish the service, which would terminate in Moline, Illinois.

A recent capital funding bill approved by Pritzker and the state legislature allocated $225 million in state funding for the project.

The federal grant was originally awarded in 2010. The City of Moline has since created a station facility for the train and the Illinois Department of Transportation has held discussions with host railroad Iowa Interstate about infrastructure upgrades needed for the service.

Illinois Funding to Help Amtrak Services

June 13, 2019

Amtrak travelers in Illinois will benefit from a recently enacted capital spending program approved by the Illinois General Assembly and Gov. J. B. Pritzker, but it will be years before those benefits can be seen.

There remains much work to be done on engineering studies and land acquisition. Some of those efforts have been on hold since 2015.

In some cases, negotiations have yet to begin between the Illinois Department of Transportation and a host railroad.

That includes a project to improve on-time performance and reliability of Amtrak service using Canadian National tracks between Chicago and Carbondale, Illinois.

An IDOT spokesman told Trains magazine that his agency needs to agree on the details with CN, but the project is expected to include some sidings, universal crossovers and other unspecified improvements.

The capital project has earmarked $100 million to improve service on the route used by the City of New Orleans and the state-funded Saluki and Illini.

Amtrak sued CN in 2012 over poor on-time performances of its trains in the Chicago-Carbondale corridor, but that litigation has become bogged down in the courts.

Trains reported that IDOT and CN have already held talks about how to alleviate some sources of delay to Amtrak trains.

IDOT and Union Pacific also need to agree on the nuts and bolts of what it will take to implement a long-discussed plan to reroute Amtrak and UP freight trains onto a grade-separated double-track line in Springfield.

Amtrak’s Lincoln Service and Texas Eagle trains now use a former Gulf Mobile & Ohio route that runs parallel to Third Street and which has numerous grade crossings.

The Illinois capital program has set aside $122 million to move Amtrak and its Springfield station to a corridor along 10th Street that will also be used by Norfolk Southern.

One downside of the move is that the Amtrak station would be further from the heart of downtown Springfield and the statehouse complex.

The capital funding program is expected to give a boost to two proposed new Amtrak routes.

One involves service between Chicago and Rockford using Metra’s Milwaukee West District to Big Timber Road west of downtown Elgin and thence over a UP line via Belvedere to Rockford.

A connection needs to be built at Big Timber to connect the Metra and UP routes.

The IDOT spokesman told Trains that there is no federal funding or service frequency plan for the service.

“The new infusion of funding will require us to re-engage with UP, Amtrak, and the local communities on scope, budget, and schedule after the hiatus,” the spokesman said, making reference to a decision by former Gov. Bruce Rauner to revoke funding approved earlier for development of the route.

Another new Amtrak route would link Chicago and the Quad Cities region of Illinois and Iowa.

The City of Moline, Illinois, has created a station for the service, but engineering and property acquisition needs to be done on a connection near Wyanet, Illinois.

The plan is to use the BNSF route now used by Amtrak’s Illinois Zephyr, Carl Sandburg and California Zephyr, to Wyanet and then switch to the Iowa Interstate for the remainder of the trip into Moline.

“Negotiations with the railroad will proceed on the construction, operating, and maintenance agreements,” the IDOT spokesman said, noting that IDOT and Iowa Interstate have yet to discuss “scope, budget, and timelines” that must precede an environmental assessment and preliminary engineering.
The capital funding program allocated $225 million to match a route-specific federal stimulus grant that is set to expire on June 30, 2019,

However, IDOT is talking with the FRA about extending the deadline for the grant.

IDOT had not given a timeline for when the service to Rockford or Moline would begin.

Rockford was once served by Amtrak’s Chicago-Dubuque, Iowa, Black Hawk, before it was discontinued on Oct. 1, 1981.

Although Amtrak has never served Moline, the former Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific offered intercity rail passenger service between Chicago and nearby Rock Island, Illinois, until Jan. 1, 1979.

Rail Benefits From Illinois Capital Plan

June 4, 2019

The Illinois General Assembly has approved the first capital spending plan in 10 years and intercity rail service is expected to benefit from it.

The legislature approved the plan on Saturday and it is expected to be signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

It includes $2.7 billion for transit and $500 million to fund passenger service on two intercity routes.

This includes $225 million toward establishment of Amtrak service between Chicago and the Quad Cities region of Illinois and Iowa, and $275 million to develop service between Chicago and Rockford.

Other rail passenger projects funded by the plan include $100 million to extend of Metra service on a BNSF line into Kendall County, and $400 million for CREATE projects designed to alleviate Chicago-area railroad bottlenecks.

Some funding was earmarked for repairs and upgrades at specific Metra stations.

The last capital spending plan in Illinois had been adopted in 2009.

Transportation officials said many projects were delayed due to lack of capital funding.

The latest capital funding bill was approved with bi-partisan support in the legislature.

It also had the support of various business groups including the Illinois Chamber of Commerce and the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association.

Susan Massel, a spokeswoman for the Regional Transportation Authority, said her agency is pleased that $2.7 billion was approved for transit capital funding through bonding.

She also noted that the plan also contains annual, sustainable revenue, or “pay as you go” funding for public transportation capital funding.

To pay for the capital spending, the Illinois motor fuel tax will increase from 19 cents per gallon to 38 cents.

“This is the type of long-term, stable capital funding that public transportation needs and riders deserve to address our long term capital need of $30 billion over the next decade,” Massel told Trains magazine.

Illinois Amtrak Expansion Hinges on Inclusion in Bill

March 29, 2019

The head of the Midwest High Speed Rail Association said that expansion of Amtrak service in Illinois will hinge upon funding for it being included in the state’s capitol bill.

Rick Harnish said a route to the Quad Cities region won’t materialize soon without the funding for capital develop projects on the routes being included in the capital bill.

A Senate subcommittee plans to meet on April 8 at Bradley University in Peoria to discuss what funding requests should be included in the capital bill.

It will also meet in Chicago on April 16 and in Elgin at a date to be announced.

Harnish noted that funding for the Quad Cities route that was approved in a previous session of the Illinois General Assembly will need to be re-appropriated.

IDOT Survey to Ask About Amtrak Service

December 13, 2018

The Illinois Department of Transportation is conducting an online survey that will seek public views on various topics, including Amtrak service in the state.

IDOT funds Amtrak corridor trains linking Chicago with Milwaukee, St. Louis and the Illinois cities of Quincy and Carbondale.

Responses to the Illinois Traveler Opinion Survey are being accepted through Dec. 31 at http://www.idot.illinois.gov.

The survey is being conducted in a partnership with the University of Illinois Springfield and covered such other areas as road conditions, ice-and-snow removal, commuting habits and driving behaviors.

The survey has been conducted annually since 2001. A copy of the 2017 survey and results, along with data collected from past years, can be viewed at bit.ly/2Uu4DnF.

Illinois Passenger Car Plant Closing

August 16, 2018

A passenger car manufacturing plant that was expected to build the next generation of rail cars has been closed by its owner and put up for sale.

Nippon Sharyo opened the plant eight years ago in Rochelle, Illinois, with the expectation that it would build 120-bilevel passenger cars to be used on Amtrak corridor routes in Illinois and California.

But when a prototype built at the plant failed to pass federal crashworthiness tests, the contract was given to Siemens in 2017.

The plant did, though build 160 Highliner cars for Metra, the Chicago commuter rail agency. The last of those cars was delivered in 2016.

At one time, the plant employed 800 workers but the payroll has been declining in recent year as car orders dried up.

Although Nippon Sharyo did not say when the plant would close, production has already ceased.

The only workers left handle administrative duties, field service, and maintenance services for customers.

The $371 million contract for the Amtrak route cars was awarded to Nippon Sharyo in September 2012 with delivery between the end of 2015 and early 2018.

In September 2015, the prototype car buckled during an 800,000-pound compression test.

Work on the cars halted and 98 workers were laid off. Nippon Sharyo has never publicly disclosed the reasons why the prototype car failed the compression test.

In a statement, the company said the complexity of the project prevented it from completing it.

“This result brought significant losses, which severely impaired our financial conditions to the extent that we can no longer build rail cars at the Rochelle factory,” the statement said.

Judge Find Man Who Shot Amtrak Conductor Had Intended to Kill Him

January 9, 2018

An Illinois judge has determined that an 80-year-old Wisconsin man was trying to kill an Amtrak conductor last May during a station stop at Naperville, Illinois.

As a result Edward Klein faces confinement in a mental health facility. In an earlier court hearing, Klein had been found unfit to stand trial.

But DuPage County Judge Jeffrey MacKay ruled that Klein was “not not guilty” and “not acquitted” of the multiple charges against him despite being found unfit to stand trial.

MacKay said that prosecutors have proven the charges against Klein beyond a reasonable doubt.

Klein was charged with attempted murder in the shooting of Amtrak conductor Michael Case, who had prevented Klein from disembarking from the eastbound Southwest Chief at Naperville.

Klein was ticketed to travel to Milwaukee, which is near his West Allis, Wisconsin, home.

Amtrak personnel had become concerned about Klein’s behavior during the trip from Kansas City and had been keeping a watch on him.

MacKay found that Klein knew he was doing wrong and intended to kill Case after becoming angry that the conductor would not let him get off in Naperville.

Case had testified at an earlier hearing that he was aware of a plan to escort Klein at Chicago Union Station and get him home safely to Wisconsin. He therefore closed and locked the doors to the car where Klein was located.

Case, who was shot in the abdomen as he assisted other passengers, described Klein as “enraged and belligerent.” He also said Klein was disoriented and frustrated because the crew refused his demand to get off the train in Naperville.

Evidence introduced in court proceedings show that doctors have diagnosed Klein as having an impaired cognition disorder and dementia. He is reportedly suffering from a major neuro-cognitive disorder.

During a court hearing last week, Klein appeared to spend much of the time staring up at the lights while occasionally shaking his head.

Klein has been held on $1.5 million bail after being charged with two counts of attempted first-degree murder and one count each of aggravated battery, aggravated discharge of a firearm and aggravated unlawful use of a weapon.

Police said Klein reached out an open window and fired at Case with a .38 caliber revolver.

Case was hospitalized for six weeks while recovering from his injuries.

Faded Slide, Faded Amtrak Glory

January 6, 2017

ann-rutlege-at-joliet-on-october-3-1981

Maybe it is just as well that this slide of Amtrak’s Ann Rutledge at Joliet, Illinois, is faded. The Chicago to Kansas City train is just a faded memory in the minds of those who remember it.

Originally, a Chicago-St. Louis train of the Gulf, Mobile & Ohio, Amtrak reprised the name in the 1970s.

After the State of Missouri funded a restoration of Amtrak service between St. Louis and Kansas City, Amtrak extended the Ann Rutledge to K.C. on Oct. 29, 1979.

Originally, Amtrak Nos. 301 and 304 were turboliner trains, departing Chicago in the morning and St. Louis in the late afternoon.

In December 1976, they became the first Midwest corridor trains to receive Amfleet equipment. They were named the Ann Rutledge on Feb. 15, 1976.

The Ann Rutledge name vanished from the Amtrak timetable on Oct. 31, 1976, when the Inter-American was extended to Chicago.

But the Ann Rutledge name returned a year later when Amtrak dropped the Abraham Lincoln name for the evening train from Chicago to St. Louis.

With the April 2, 2007, timetable change, Amtrak renamed all of its Chicago-St. Louis trains Lincoln Service. But Ann Rutledge remained as a name for a St. Louis-Kansas City roundtrip until Oct. 27, 2008.

This image of the outbound Ann Rutledge was made on Oct. 3, 1981.

Amtrak to Fund Macomb Station Upgrade

November 21, 2016

Amtrak has said it will provide some funding for plans to upgrade the station in Macomb, Illinois, to make it ADA compliant.

IllinoisThe renovations will include adding a ramp on the south side of the building, rehabilitation of the indoor restrooms, and a reconfiguration of the indoor seating to make the space more easily navigable.

Macomb is served by the Chicago-Quincy, Illinois, Carl Sandburg and Illinois Zephyr.

Local officials said that Santa Claus will riding into town on Amtrak on Dec. 2 and 3.