Posts Tagged ‘Midwest Corridor trains’

Track Work to Affect NB Illini, NB CONO

March 16, 2018

On Monday through Friday of each week starting March 22 and extending through May 4, Amtrak’s northbound Illini will operate 30 minutes later at all stations en route due to track work being performed by Canadian National. Train 392 will operate on its normal schedule on Saturdays and Sundays.

Although it has not yet been announced, CN track work will also affect the schedule of the northbound City of New Orleans starting April 4.

No. 58 will begin departing New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal at 10:45 a.m., which is three hours earlier than the normal schedule. The train will be scheduled to arrive in Chicago at 6 a.m.

The revised scheduled will remain in effect through May 8 with the normal schedule resuming the next day.


Track Work Disrupts Chicago-St. Louis Trains

March 16, 2018

Select Amtrak Lincoln Service trains and the Texas Eagle will be disrupted by track work being performed by Union Pacific on March 18 and 20.

Train 303 will operate between Chicago and Bloomington-Normal, Illinois, with alternate transportation provided to missed stops at Lincoln, Springfield, Carlinville and Alton, Illinois, and St. Louis.

Train 304 will operate between Bloomington-Normal and Chicago with Bus service provided to passengers boarding or detraining at St. Louis, Alton, Carlinville, Springfield and Lincoln.

The westbound Texas Eagle will hold at the Bloomington-Normal station until 4:15 p.m. for an open track.

Amtrak said that buses 3103 and 3004 will operate non-stop express from Bloomington-Normal to St. Louis. Buses 5003 and 5004 will make limited station stops, serving Bloomington-Normal, Springfield, Alton and St. Louis on March 18.

Buses 6003 and 6004 will make all station stops, serving Bloomington-Normal, Lincoln, Springfield, Carlinville, Alton and St. Louis. Northbound buses will operate earlier and southbound buses will operate later than the train schedules.

Passengers should check with for updated schedules.

Proposed Minnesota Rail Route Clears Hurdle

March 9, 2018

The Federal Railroad Administration has found that a proposed passenger rail service between Minneapolis and Duluth, Minnesota, would have no significant impact on the environment.

That finding will enable the Minnesota Department of Transportation to seek federal and state funding for the 152-mile Northern Lights Express.

The proposed service, which would use BNSF tracks, is expected to cost between $500 to $600 million and make intermediate stops in Coon Rapids, Cambridge, and Hinckley, Minnesota, and Superior, Wisconsin.

Studies have projected the trains would generate 700,000 to 750,000 rides in the first year of operation.

“It’s a significant hurdle because we can now work on getting an agreement with Amtrak, BNSF, and funding for final design and construction,” said Frank Loetterle, MnDOT’s transportation department’s project manager,

Amtrak operated a state-funded train known as the North Star on this same route until 1985.

During the 1970s, the North Star originated in Chicago for a time.

Chargers Pulling Lincoln Service Trains

March 1, 2018

SC44 Charger locomotives have been assigned to Chicago-St. Louis Lincoln Service trains.

The first train to be pulled by a Siemens-built locomotives operated on Feb. 21.

Due to the lack of a device compatible with Union Pacific’s hybrid automatic train control-incremental train control system, trains pulled by Chargers are limited for now to 79 p.m.

The system allows for a 110 mph top speed between Dwight and Pontiac, Illinois, for trains with the proper PTC equipment.

In the weeks ahead the Feb. 21 trip, Chargers had operated on Lincoln Service trains but in the trailing position because of the need to pass “pre-revenue service acceptance” tests on the route.

Hiawatha Expansion Price Tag Set at $195M

February 14, 2018

The price of expanding Hiawatha Service between Chicago and Milwaukee has been put at $195 million by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.

A WisDOT official told the Milwaukee Public Transportation Review Board that is how much adding three roundtrips to the route would cost.

The board is pushing for expanded service in order to serve Foxconn Technology Group’s planned Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin, facility, which could employ up to 13,000 people. The facility is being built near a Hiawatha station in Sturtevant, Wisconsin.

Arun Rao, WisDOT’s passenger rail manager, said the $195 million figure includes $10 million for a second platform at Milwaukee’s Mitchell Airport station and $49 million for two projects at or near downtown’s Milwaukee Intermodal Station.

Amtrak currently operates seven roundtrips between Chicago and Milwaukee with much of the funding coming from grants provided by WisDOT and the Illinois Department of Transportation.

In fiscal year 2017, Hiawatha Service trains carried more than 829,000 passengers. Studies have projected that adding additional trains would boost ridership past 1 million.

Snow, Ice Pile Delay Wolverine Service Train

February 14, 2018

An Amtrak Wolverine Service train struck a pile of ice and snow left close to its tracks, damaging the locomotive and delaying passengers for more than four hours during which the train lacked heat and the restrooms were inoperable.

The incident occurred on Monday evening and involved Chicago to Detroit (Pontiac) Train No. 352.

The train struck ice and snow that a local snow plow crew had left close to the rails near Michigan City, Indiana.

A Chicago radio station said some passengers felt sick and one said she feared losing consciousness during the ordeal.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said the train was forced to stop after striking the snow and ice while Amtrak personnel re-aligned the snow plow on the locomotive.

That task took nearly two-and-a-half-hours and during that time the head-end power to the passenger cars was disconnected.

Magliari said that Amtrak police and managers distributed snacks to passengers during the delay and provided what help they could. Two other Amtrak trains using the route were also delayed.

Amtrak will discuss with the unnamed town involved the need to avoid piling snow next to railroad tracks, Magliari said.

Pere Marquette to Run Faster

January 30, 2018

Amtrak said in service advisory that the running time of the Chicago-Grand Rapids, Michigan, Pere Marquette will be shortened on Feb. 19.

The schedule changes have not yet been shown on the Amtrak website.

Amtrak said the changes are being prompted by higher speeds being allowed by host railroad CSX between Grand Rapids and Porter, Indiana.

That ’70s Look

December 22, 2017

It is the summer of 1978. Amfleet equipment and F40PH locomotives have been operating on Amtrak’s Midwest corridor trains for nearly two years so the equipment can’t be said to be brand new anymore.

Still it is relatively new enough to be the look of the future having come to pass.

Steam-heated passengers cars are a thing of the past on the corridor routes, but still see service on some long-distance trains in the region.

But on the Chicago-Carbondale-New Orleans route head-end power is the rule. Steam-heated equipment is not coming back.

Shown is the northbound Shawnee, train No. 392, arriving in Mattoon, Illinois, in early evening. The equipment is state of the art for its time with an F40, two Amfleet coaches and an Amcafe. The train will halt at Chicago Union Station in more than three hours.

IDOT Head Sees Top Speed of 90 mph for Trains by Summer 2018 in the Chicago-St. Louis Corridor

December 18, 2017

Illinois Secretary of Transportation Randy Blankenhorn said Amtrak trains in the Chicago-St. Louis corridor should be operating at 90 mph starting next summer.

The current top speed on the route is 79 miles per hour exception for a demonstration section between Pontiac and Dwight where 110 mph speeds began in fall 2012.

In an interview with the State Journal-Register of Springfield, Blankenhorn said a nearly $2 billion high-speed rail project to rebuild portions of the route for high-speed service is starting to wind down.

Although the route has an infrastructure for a 110 mph top speed, Blankenhorn said those speeds won’t come until 2019 after a positive train control system is put into operation.  “We are substantially complete,” said Blankenhorn.

Blankenhorn expects the project to finish on time and on budget with federal funding accounting for $1.65 billion of the estimated $1.95 billion final project cost.

The state is paying about $300 million of the project cost. IDOT has said that once the project is completed, Amtrak trains will have an 85 percent on-time guarantee.

Union Pacific, which owns the most of the track in the Chicago-St. Louis corridor used by Amtrak will be subject to financial penalties if the 85-percent, on-time guarantee is missed.

Nearly 590,000 passengers rode Amtrak between St. Louis and Chicago during the Illinois fiscal year that ended last June 30.

Patronage has fallen below 600,000 the last three fiscal years as a result of service disruptions caused by the high-speed project work.

One final phase of the project that is still underway is finishing track work in the Third Street corridor in Springfield.

“There’s some crossing work that needs to be done in Springfield, and that’s well underway,” Blankenhorn said.

The work will also include six-foot safety fencing on each side of the tracks. Safety, technology and accessibility improvements are planned for the Springfield Amtrak station.

Workers have made changes to 190 crossings in the Chicago-St. Louis corridor along 330 miles of track, closed nearly two dozen crossings and put up 90 miles of safety fencing meant to prevent trespassing.

The higher speeds are expected to reduce the 5.5 hour trip between St. Louis and Chicago by 11 minutes and by 20 minutes when a second set of tracks is competed near Joliet. Trains traveling 110 mph should cut the running time by 53 minutes.

However, the faster running times won’t address freight rail congestion in Chicago or St. Louis, which Blankenhorn said accounts for many of the delays now occurring.

Just over half of Lincoln Service and Texas Eagle trains ran late in the three years prior to high-speed rail work.

“It’s not so much about speed as it is reliability,” said Blankenhorn. “Passengers would use our trains a lot more if they knew they were going to be there when they need them and were not going to be an hour-and-a-half late.”

John Oimoen, chief of IDOT’s rail division said installation of the equipment needed for PTC in the Chicago-St. Louis corridor will be completed next spring.

“It’s the challenge of developing the software and getting that information back to (train) dispatcher,” he said.

Blankenhorn said the highest speeds initially will be allowed between Alton and Joliet while the state continues to work to fix the traffic bottlenecks in St. Louis and Chicago. He said those fixes will be “complicated and expensive.”

Lake Forest City Manager Spend Money Lobbying for Amtrak Without City Council’s Knowledge, Approval

December 18, 2017

The city manager of Lake Forest, Illinois, has acknowledged approving payments to a Washington lobbying firm to seek Amtrak service without getting approval of the city council

Bob Kiely said he approved spending nearly $200,000 in city funds in an effort to get Amtrak to make Lake Forest a stop for its Chicago-Milwaukee trains.

The payments were made between March 2016 and October 2017 to the lobbying firm Chambers, Conlon and Hartwell.

“It should not have happened, and it won’t happen going forward,” said Kiely, who has been city manager for 27 years.

At a recent council meeting, current Lake Forest Mayor Rob Lansing said that Amtrak is supportive of the city’s efforts to become a stop for its Hiawatha Service trains.

But it is unclear if Lansing knew all the details about the city paying a lobbying firm to push for the Amtrak service.

Some council members were miffed to learn the city had been paying a lobbyist with their knowledge or approval.

“This isn’t the way I want to learn things, and this isn’t the way I think information should be disseminated,” council member Prue Beidler said at the meeting during which Lansing revealed without detail that the city had hired a lobbying firm.

Member Jack Reisenberg said he was aware of an October trip Kiely and Lansing made to Washington, though he didn’t know why they were going.

“I didn’t like it,” Reisenberg said of the expenditures being made without council approval. “It should have been handled like other expenditures are handled, via city staff and approved by the council. But I wasn’t terribly upset because I believe the mayor and the city manager were well-intentioned. However, they did not follow longstanding practices of bringing this type of expenditure before the City Council for approval.”

Kiely noted he has authority to spend as much as $20,000 without council approval, although he said he should have brought the matter to the city council in May 2016.

“That was my error, and I did not bring it back to the council as it should have been brought,” he said, adding, “at that point in time, it was part of our regular payments and I quite frankly, I didn’t even think of it.”

Former Mayor Donald Schoenheider began the lobbying effort in March 2016.

Kiely said he and Lansing made the Washington trip to meet with federal agencies and elected officials about the Amtrak stop and to seek funding for a pedestrian underpass at the station.

Amtrak has said that it won’t begin serving Lake Forest until the underpass beneath tracks owned by Metra is installed.