Posts Tagged ‘Michigan’

MDOT Names New Head of Rail Office

January 13, 2021

Peter Anastor has been named director of the Office of Rail at the Michigan Department of Transportation.

The appointment, which is effective Jan. 25, involves ensuring that the state’s rail system meets the economic needs of the state and is safe for the motoring public, rail passengers and railroad employees, MDOT said in a news release.

Among Anastor’s duties will be oversight of intercity passenger rail operations, grade crossing funding programs, rail grade separations, safety of light-rail systems, state-owned rail line management, rail-related economic development programs and international border crossings.

He is currently with the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and began his career in the State Budget Office in 1995.

Anastor later worked in the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

Michigan Passenger Proposal Still Alive

November 10, 2020

Michigan transportation officials say they continue to pursue a proposal to institute rail passenger service between Ann Arbor and Traverse City, Michigan.

But their efforts have been hindered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hans Voss of the Ground Center for Resilient Communities said the tracks to be used by the train, which has been dubbed ARTC, largely have been upgraded to accommodate passenger trains.

Funding for the service remains unresolved. Voss said the long-term effects of the pandemic on rail passenger travel are also a major question mark.

Initially, the service is envisioned as being operated as excursions for major events, such as the events like Traverse City’s National Cherry Festival, and for fall foliage excursions.

Michigan Lawmaker Wants to Divert Amtrak Funding to Road, Infrastructure Projects

June 6, 2019

A Michigan lawmaker has proposed ending state funding of Amtrak service in the state as a way to free up money for road and infrastructure repairs.

Rep. Matt Maddocks, a Republican from Oakland County near Detroit, also has suggested selling the Blue Water Bridge in Port Huron that links the state with Canada.

Michigan funds Amtrak service on three routes that link Chicago with Grand Rapids, Port Huron and Pontiac (Detroit).

“Should we continue to subsidize passenger rail? It’s for Amtrak $186 per ticket and at the state level for Amtrak another $40-70 per ticket. Is that right?” he said.

Maddocks estimated that selling the Blue Water Bridge would yield between $500 million to $800 million.

“That can be used to repair the infrastructure, money into replacing lead pipes in our cities and repair our underground infrastructure in cities,” he said.

Maddocks also has proposed selling state-owned airports in Plymouth, Romeo, Linden and Houghton Lake.

He acknowledged that his ideas would be controversial and it is not clear if he could roundup enough votes in support of them.

Selling state assets has drawn disapproval from Rep. Jon Hoadley, the Democratic vice-chair of the House Budget Committee.

Hoadley said the sales would not raise the $2.5 billion a year needed over next 10 years to repair the roads.

“If you’re going to piecemeal a solution like the Republicans are proposing, that’s selling off assets one year and hoping that’s going to take care of our long term solution,” Hoadley said. “I’d say driver beware.”

Amtrak, MDOT at Odds Over Bridge Repairs

November 29, 2018

A conflict between Amtrak and the Michigan Department of Transportation has halted a bridge repair project in Kalamazoo.

At issue are the northbound and southbound U.S. Route 131 bridges over KL Avenue and tracks owned by Amtrak.

MDOT spokesman Nick Schirripa said the dispute centers on a construction agreement.

He said Amtrak has been making “unreasonable” demands.

“There is some consideration being given to Amtrak here, we are going to have an impact on their railroad, that is fair. But I think it’s only fair they make reasonable requests of us. And so far, the requests Amtrak is making of MDOT are unreasonable,” Schirripa said.

One of Amtrak’s demands is a clause to let Amtrak add anything to the project they it wants and to charge MDOT for anything the passenger carrier deems necessary.

The bridge were to be replaced in 2019, but that has been moved back to 2023.

In the meantime, workers have installed netting and screens beneath the bridges to catch any falling debris.

The 55-year bridges are in fair condition but structurally deficient.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said the carrier is working with MDOT to solve the dispute, but declined to offer any further information.

Schirripa said the bridges handle 50,000 vehicles a day. He said that the bridges will be closed if MDOT engineers see that the structures may be failing.

Detroit Diamonds Replaced

August 23, 2018

Amtrak, the Michigan Department of Transportation, Norfolk Southern and CSX teamed up to replace a four-diamond crossing at Wayne in the Detroit area this week.

Work at 7:45 p.m. Aug. 14 after an NS freight passed through.

Workers removed the old diamonds and installing a prefabricated unit. Complicating the work was that the diamond has four crossings, making it a heavy lift and requiring precision alignment to reconnect to existing rail lines.

During the work, Amtrak’s Wolverine Service trains terminated at Ann Arbor, Michigan, with passengers riding a bus to stations at Dearborn, Detroit, Royal Oak, Troy, and Pontiac.

CSX and NS trains were rerouted or halted.

The project was completed at 4 p.m. on Aug. 15. Amtrak resumed using the route over the crossing on the morning of Aug. 16.

The project received 75 percent of its funding from CSX and 25 percent from MDOT.

Boarding in Durand

August 12, 2018

Passengers board Amtrak’s westbound Blue Water in Durand, Michigan, with most of them en route to Chicago.

The tracks used by Amtrak here are owned by Canadian National but their ancestry is Grand Trunk Western.

GTW’s trains to Chicago were discontinued with the coming of Amtrak in 1971, but later revived with funding from the State of Michigan.

Group Wants Michigan Demonstration Trains

April 25, 2018

A Michigan environmental group is pushing for special demonstration trains to operate in summer 2019 between Traverse City and Ann Arbor, Michigan.

The Ground Center for Resilient Communities has been seeking intercity rail passenger service on the route for several years.

The group has raised $100,000 to conduct a study of the route’s potential that it expected to be completed this summer.

Preliminary findings have shown that the A2TC route as it has been dubbed could generate enough ridership to support a passenger train.

Much of that is based on the projection that tourism in Traverse City is expected to double from 6 million a year to 13 million by 2045.

“It could provide options for baby boomers moving up to the region and for college students at Baker, Alma, CMU, U of M,” said Jim Bruckbauer, deputy director of the Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities. “We see the potential for what this can do for the downtowns between Traverse City and Ann Arbor — Owosso, Clare, Cadillac.”

Permanent rail service on the route is years away, but the group is eyeing operating some specialty trains in summer 2019.

Michigan Trains Running Faster Now

January 24, 2018

Most Amtrak trains serving Michigan have faster running times, the Michigan Department of Transportation said this week.

Wolverine Service trains between Chicago and Detroit (Pontiac) have seen 20 minutes cut from their schedules. Blue Water service between Chicago and Port Huron, Michigan, has seen a smaller running time cut.

Both lines use rails owned by Amtrak between Kalamazoo, Michigan, and Porter, Indiana.

Amtrak dispatchers control the Chicago-Detroit line as far east as Dearborn except for a portion of track in Battle Creek that is owned by Canadian National.

MDOT acquired 135 miles of track from Norfolk Southern in 2012 that are used by Amtrak between Kalamazoo and Dearborn except for the CN track in Battle Creek.

The top speed between Porter and Kalamazoo 110 mph. The maximum speed is 79 mph on the MDOT-owned track, but that is expected to rise to 110 mph this year after the completion of positive train control testing and assignment of Siemens Charger locomotives to the route.

The State of Michigan has used $347 million in federal funds to replace rails, smooth curves, upgrade crossings and signals and improve train signaling and communication systems. These improvements are expected to result in higher running speeds.

MDOT funded a connection in West Detroit for a faster route to a CN line that serves Amtrak stations in Detroit, Royal Oak, Troy and Pontiac.

“At MDOT’s direction, Amtrak work crews have corrected years of deferred maintenance and have taken over dispatching,” said Joe McHugh, Amtrak vice president of state-supported services in a statement. “We have created the longest railroad segment outside the northeast that is being made ready for an even more reliable and faster Amtrak service.”

Sanders Presents at Michigan Conference

September 28, 2017

Craig Sanders, author of Amtrak in the Heartland, gave a presentation at the 14th Michigan Railroad History Conference titled Michigan’s Boostrap Campaign: Passenger Rail Development in the Amtrak Era.

The conference was held on Sept. 23 at the Maas Conference Center of Hope College in Holland, Michigan.

Sanders described how the now-named Michigan Department of Transportation sought to improve rail passenger in the state following the inauguration of Amtrak on May 1, 1971.

Michigan’s intercity rail service in the early Amtrak years was limited to two daily roundtrips between Chicago and Detroit.

Since then service in the state has expanded to three routes linking Chicago with Detroit, Grand Rapids and Port Huron. The Detroit corridor also reaches north to suburban Pontiac.

The state also has purchased much of the Chicago-Detroit corridor within the state, buying the 135 miles between Kalamazoo and Dearborn and landing $511 million in federal funding to upgrade the line for higher speed service.

The state and communities served by Amtrak have also invested in station rehabilitation over the years and many cities not served by Amtrak are linked to it by connecting bus service.

Despite these successes, the state has also had some misses. It ended funding of an Ann Arbor-Detroit commuter operation after ridership fell substantially, and a Detroit-New York train funded in part with the state of New York ended in 1979, in part due to lower ridership between Detroit and Buffalo, New York.

Several proposals to establish service between Detroit and Grand Rapids have failed to come to fruition.

The Michigan Railroad History conference began 30 years ago at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn as an educational outreach program of the Bluewater Michigan chapter of the National Railway Historical Society.

The conference features a full day of presentations on Michigan’s railroad history and is rotated among various cities in the state.

CSX Repairing Pere Marquette Route

September 27, 2017

CSX is repairing a broken seawall below the CSX railroad tracks in St. Joseph, Michigan, that hosts Amtrak’s Chicago-Grand Rapids, Michigan, Pere Marquette.

The break in the seawall had allowed waves to erode the bluff. A barge and giant crane are lowering rocks to fill the gap in the seawall.

CSX pulled permits from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to add stone to shore up the hillside, which local officials believe will last longer than a steel wall.

Nearby residents first noticed a gap in the wall in the 1990s. At that time it was about 20 to 30 feet wide, but today it is an estimated 120 feet.

The residents said they have been communicating with CSX about the problem for 15 years, but the railroad has not taken action until now.

St. Joseph City Manager John Hodgson said CSX officials told him they did not think the bank was in danger of collapse or that the tracks, 45 feet from the edge, were at risk.

Hodgson, though, insisted that this type of slope can fail without warning and that it has occurred in the past.

In May 1943 heavy rains washed away the bluff, derailing a freight train.