Posts Tagged ‘Washington DC’

Amtrak Suspending Some Washington Service

January 18, 2021

In advance of the inauguration of president-elect Joseph Biden, Amtrak is suspending some services to Washington.

In a service advisory, the passenger carrier said it will not operate Northeast Regional service south of Washington on Jan 19 and 20.

The New York-Charlotte Carolinian will only operate in North Carolina between Raleigh and Charlotte on those dates.

Long distance trains operating to or through Washington will be unaffected, including the Chicago-Washington Capitol Limited.

Amtrak said passengers whose trips begin or end in Washington should be aware that there will be pedestrian and vehicle restrictions at and around Washington Union Station.

This includes the closure of DC Metro’s Union Station stop. Passengers are being directed to use Metro’s NOMA/Gallaudet station, which Amtrak described as being a short walk from Union Station. Metro will operate on a modified schedule.

MARC commuter trains to Maryland and West Virginia have been suspended and Virginia Railway Express said its trains will not run Monday through Wednesday.

The service advisory said there will be no access to taxi or ride share services at WUS.

Bridge Project Halts Rail Expansion Planning

May 2, 2019

A railroad bridge project in the Washington area has put on hold planning for additional Amtrak service to Virginia.

The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation said it has shelved for an indefinite period of time any thoughts about paying for additional intercity rail service.

The department is also taking part in the environmental impact study of rebuilding the Long Bridge, the only rail line between Washington and Virginia that feeds Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor.

Officials say the bridge in Arlington, Virginia, is at 98 percent capacity.

Virginia Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine said the study will examine expanding capacity of the two-track bridge, which is used by Amtrak, CSX, and Virginia Railway Express.

The project is being led by the Department of Transportation of the District of Columbia. Also involved in the project is the Federal Railway Administration.

Built in 1904, the bridge spans the Potomac River near the Pentagon.

A website devoted to the project notes that increasing the capacity of the bridge would also “improve the reliability of railroad service through the Long Bridge corridor.”

Virginia DRPT Director Jennifer Mitchell said the project is a high priority.

“All of the passenger rail service we have today — the service that does originate in Roanoke, the service that originates in Hampton Roads, anything that comes from North Carolina — everything funnels over that bridge.

“We can’t expand any more passenger rail or get any more slots until we’re able to expand that bridge, and the cost could be from $1.6 billion to $2 billion. It’s a big project, but we’re not going to fund it ourselves,” Mitchell said.

“We’ll clearly need other sources of funding, federal funding, other state funding. In this six-year plan, we’ve really prioritized that project and some of the Virginia approaches into that project because we recognize how important it is for the whole state. That’s really where we’ve directed a lot of our funding.”

The environmental study began in 2016 and hearing on a draft of it is expected to be held this summer with the final report released in early 2020.

One interested observer is Ellen Tolton, the community development block grant coordinator and the project leader for the efforts in Bristol, Virginia, to bring Amtrak service to that community.

Bristol has not had scheduled intercity rail passenger service since 1971.

“The city knew from the beginning this would be a long process and we will continue our efforts to advocate for bringing passenger rail back to Bristol,” Tolton said. “We do not know at this time how this new information will affect our progress, but we have demonstrated the benefits and need for rail in Bristol through the recent Economic Impact Study and we will continue to move forward, working with local stakeholders, state officials and vested localities.”

Bristol officials want to see an existing Northeast Regional train extended from Roanoke, where it now originates and terminates to Bristol.

A study found that extending service to Bristol would net between 75,400 and 99,300 additional passengers.

Although extending Amtrak service from Roanoke to Bristol would not be directly affected by the Long Bridge project, a decision by Norfolk Southern, the would-be host railroad between the two cities, to halt its involvement in the process has stymied the expansion.

NS said it was focusing on other parts of its business.

“We’re still working with Norfolk-Southern on the status of getting that advanced,” Mitchell said. “Right now, it is still something we’re looking very closely at — particularly incrementally to be able to get to the New River Valley as well.”

Oregon Rep. Heads House Transportation Committee

January 13, 2019

An Oregon Congressman has assumed the chairmanship of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

U.S. Rep Peter DeFazio has been a member of the committee since 1987 when he joined Congress.

He has served as the ranking minority member of the committee since 2015 and moved up to chairman after Democrats took control of the House.

“We are approaching a transportation crisis in our country, and with that in mind, I am especially honored to have the strong support of my colleagues to lead the caucus as the new chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee,” DeFazio said in a statement.

DeFazio said in the statement that he “will be a tireless advocate for the kind of infrastructure investment that results in job creation, increased economic growth, and decreased emissions” and that he “will work to build bipartisan agreement around legislation that strengthens the Federal responsibility for maintaining and providing access to transportation for all Americans.”

Florida Safety Patrol Trips by Rail Fading Away

May 30, 2017

Since 1948, members of the school safety patrol in Palm Beach County, Florida, have been riding the train from the Sunshine State to Washington in the spring on sightseeing trip that is a reward for the work the safety patrollers put in during the school year.

Some safety patrollers still ride the train, but increasingly they are flying to Washington or taking a bus.

School officials say the student like riding the train, but their parents prefer flying because it allows for more sightseeing time in Washington and doesn’t require as much travel time.

“The kids love the train, it’s a rolling slumber party,” said Jim Pegg, a school district administrator and the president of the Palm Beach County Safety Patrol Association.

It once required four trains to move the safety patrollers to Washington, but now it requires just two.

The number of students riding the rails has fallen from 4,800 to just over 1,000.

“It’s mostly because the adults don’t want to ride the train for two whole days,” Pegg said. The train leaves Thursday at noon and arrives Friday morning. The return trip is invariably longer, arriving in West Palm Beach about 5:30 p.m.

The Washington trips were initially organized the American Automobile Association as a reward for sixth-graders and their school service.

School officials segregate the children by gender with one car filled with boys and another car filled with girls.

They turn their seats into makeshift tents, play games, listen to music and give notes to teacher to pass to the girls or boys in the other car.

Three years ago, Principal Laura Green asked the parents if they preferred for their children to ride the train or fly to Washington. The cost of riding Amtrak versus flying was comparable.

“It was time spent in the city that swung the vote,” Green said. “On the train, you’re gone five days, but you’re in D.C. three.

If the student flew, they would arrive by 10 a.m. Tuesday and leave late in the day on Friday.

“The extra day gives us time to go to an extra Smithsonian,” Green said.

Another advantage of flying was the ability to pick dates that better fit the school schedule. “Nothing against the train, but there’s a set pattern to their itinerary. I can maneuver the trip through what I want to see. For the past two years, we’ve taken the children to the Pentagon and that’s a great trip. And you couldn’t do it on the train.”

Amtrak Find New HQ Site in Washington

February 24, 2017

The Washington Business Journal reported this week that Amtrak has agreed to a deal to move its corporate headquarters from Washington Union Station to a nearby office building.

Amtrak logoAmtrak has reportedly signed an 11-year lease for 85,000 square feet at One Massachusetts Ave. NW, which is about a block west of the current headquarters at 60 Massachusetts Ave. NE.

Amtrak is expected to begin using the first through sixth floors of its new space this fall in the building that is also known as the National Guard Memorial Building.

The space that the national rail carrier now uses is slated to be re-purposed into a boutique hotel.

Amtrak is currently leasing 106,000 square feet of space at Union Station and that lease expires this year.

In looking for a new home, Amtrak hired Savills Studley to study existing space and the possibility of building new structure.

Amtrak’s new landlord will be an affiliate of the National Guard Association of the United States. The lease give Amtrak access to a large conference center and a tenant-only fitness center.