Posts Tagged ‘Wisconsin’

New Hiawatha Equipment Will Increase Train Capacity

December 16, 2019

The new equipment that Wisconsin expects to buy for use in the Hiawatha Service corridor will be phased into service between 2020 and 2024.
The equipment will expand the capacity of the route where during the peak summer months some trains operate with as many as 50 standees.

“The Hiawatha line currently experiences standing room only conditions on an average of 19 trains per month, mostly on weekdays,” said a report from the Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau, a nonpartisan state agency that provides the legislature with program information and analysis.

The new equipment will cost $39 million with a federal grant covering some of the cost.

Arun Rao, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation passenger rail manager, said the existing service uses six passenger cars and a cab car.

Rao said the existing train consists can seat up to 408 passengers, while the most current estimates for the new cars — which still have some equipment in the design phase — are 468 to 475 passenger seats.

The existing cars are 30 to 40 years old and approaching the end of their life cycle fiscal bureau report said.

“The new trains will help address overcrowding, but not solve the issue completely as we do have trains with 500-plus passengers,” Rao said.

“Ridership has seen sharp increases — 4.5 percent year-over-year for the federal fiscal year. If that rate continues, although the new equipment will help significantly, we may continue to have capacity issues.”

The Hiawatha Service is funded by WisDOT and the Illinois Department of Transportation.

IDOT passenger rail and transit communications manager Scott Speegle said the new cars will have wider aisles and built-in wheelchair lifts.

The equipment assigned to Hiawatha Service at present uses wheelchair lifts on the platform at each station.

Speegle said the cars will be paired in sets of two, which will allow for easier movement between the two cars for passengers with disabilities.

Each new car will have one wheelchair space but the armrest at each seat will go up thus allowing passengers in a wheelchair the opportunity to transfer to any seat in the car, if they are able.

Rao said restroom facilities aboard the cars will be fully ADA compliant.

The Wisconsin purchase is in addition to new passengers being acquired and paid for by IDOT.

Illinois is buying 88 passenger rail cars for Amtrak Midwest corridor service at a cost of $112.6 million.

Speegle said six of those cars are earmarked for assigned to Hiawatha Service.

He said the cars are expected to be delivered between 2020 and 2023.

In fiscal year 2019 Amtrak’s Hiawatha Service trains carried 882,189 passengers, an increase of 4.5 percent over FY2018 and an increase of 8.9 percent over FY2015.

Ridership of the Hiawathas is not evenly distributed and Amtrak charges a premium to ride some peak travel time trains.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said the premium is designed to encourage riders who don’t need to travel during rush hour to pick a different time to travel.

Orphan Wisconsin Talgos May Find Home in Pacific NW

December 11, 2019

The Talgo equipment built for but never used in Amtrak service in Wisconsin was moved last week to Milwaukee from the Beech Grove Shops near Indianapolis.

Trains magazine reported that the equipment might be poised to be sent west for use in the Pacific Northwest.

The magazine said a Talgo spokesman said the company is working with Amtrak to prepare the equipment for service in the Amtrak Cascades corridor.

This includes the installation of positive train control and “features to align with the service provided in the Amtrak Cascades Corridor.”

The Talgo Series 8 train sets were built in 2012 in Milwaukee for use in Wisconsin-funded service to Madison that never materialized.

Trains said Amtrak released a statement saying that the Talgo equipment in question is being considered by the carrier for use in the Pacific Northwest.

The Wisconsin-built Talgos have been sitting at Beech Grove since 2014.

They were moved to Chicago on Friday, Dec. 6 over the route of the Cardinal between Indianapolis and Chicago.

Trains reported that the ferry move was hindered by freight train interference.

The Wisconsin Talgo train sets include three cab cars, three bistro cafes, three baggage-coach end cars and 22 coaches.

Although Talgo equipment has been used in Cascades service for years, it became the subject of controversy after a Talgo Series VI trainset was involved in a Dec. 18, 2017, derailment in DuPont, Washington, that left three dead.

A National Transportation Safety Board report concluded, among other things, that the design of the Talgo equipment played a role in the consequences of the wreck.

Talgo has disputed that and asked the NTSB to reconsider that finding.

In the meantime the Washington State Department of Transportation has said it wants all Talgo VI equipment removed from service as soon as possible, citing the NTSB report.

Amtrak is responsible for providing replacement equipment for the service.

The Trains report noted that a contract between Amtrak and Talgo has yet to be finalized and that the “interim” nature of the equipment use might be a point of contention.

The equipment would also need a waiver of Federal Railroad Administration crashworthy rules.

The State of Oregon, which also funds Cascades Service, plans to keep in service its two Talgo Series 8 train sets that it purchased in 2013.

The Trains report speculated that the Wisconsin Talgos will be reconfigured into two train sets with some equipment being kept for backup service as needed.

Wisconsin OK’s Funding for New Passenger Equipment

November 5, 2019

A Wisconsin legislative committee has approved added funding for additional equipment for Amtrak’s Hiawatha Service between Chicago and Milwaukee.

A budget committee approved $13.2 million to match a $25.7-million Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair grant the state had received earlier this year.

The money will be used to purchase six coaches and three cab coaches that will be built by Siemens at its plant in Sacramento, California.

This equipment is an add on to an order for 137 cars in production that will be assigned to corridor trains in the Midwest and California.

Wisconsin Passenger Rail Manager Arun Rao said the cab cars have 58 to 62 revenue seats and will replace converted locomotive cabs that have no revenue seating.

The new equipment is expected to arrive in about three years and enable Amtrak to create a third train set for use in the Chicago-Milwaukee corridor.

That equipment is expected to allow for an expansion of Hiawatha Service, although one of the host railroads in the corridor, Canadian Pacific, has said it won’t approve additional Amtrak service until capacity expansion projects are undertaken.

The latter has triggered fierce opposition in north suburban Chicago, particularly the plan to build a holding siding for CP freight trains waiting to get onto the Union Pacific, which CP uses to reach its yard in Bensonville, Illinois.

Wisconsin had planned to buy new Talgo Series 8 equipment for Amtrak service, but that equipment has yet to enter revenue service.

The Talgos are sitting at Amtrak’s Beech Grove shops in Indianapolis.

Amtrak currently operates seven weekend Hiawatha Service roundtrips using Horizon and Amfleet equipment.

WisARP Seeks Support for Another Amtrak Train

February 22, 2019

The Wisconsin Association of Railroad Passengers recently held town hall meetings in an effort to drum up support for a second Amtrak daily train between Chicago and Twin Cities.

West of Milwaukee Amtrak’s only service is the Chicago-Seattle/Portland Empire Builder.

Wisconsin passenger rail supporters have said a second train is needed to provide more reliable service.

The westbound Empire Builder is usually on time when it reaches Milwaukee, but its eastbound counterpart is often late, sometimes by hours when it arrives in the dairy state.

WisARP Presdient Terry Brown said that makes it difficult for passengers traveling from the central and western parts of the state.

“Its schedule has become crazy,” Brown said. “It is unreliable, it is chronically late.  But it’s not late in a predictable pattern.”

The group favors a second train that would be scheduled to reach Milwaukee in mid-morning westbound and during the evening hours eastbound.

The departments of transportation of Wisconsin and Minnesota have studied supporting a second Chicago-Twin Cities train, but not commitments to fund it have been made.

The town hall meetings were held in Tomah and Portage.

Transportation Heads Picked in Wisconsin, Minnesota

December 28, 2018

The incoming governors of Minnesota and Wisconsin have announced their picks to lead their states’ transportation departments.

Minnesota Gov.-elect Tim Walz appointed Margaret Anderson Kelliher as the commissioner for the state’s transportation department.

She served two terms as the Minnesota House Speaker and 10 years on the Transportation Policy and Transportation Finance committees.

During her time as speaker, Kelliher oversaw the successful Transportation and Transit Funding package in 2008, which created an investment of new and dedicated funds into Minnesota’s bridges, roads and transit systems.

“Margaret understands the importance of addressing the diversity of transportation needs across our state. She is an accomplished leader who will bring people together to improve Minnesota’s transportation system,” said Walz in a statement.

Wisconsin Gov.-elect Tony Evers picked Craig Thompson as the next secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation .

Thompson was most recently executive director of the Transportation Development Association of Wisconsin.

He also served as the legislative director for the Wisconsin Counties Association.

Milwaukee Talgo Plant to Rebuild Transit Cars

July 18, 2017

A factory in Milwaukee built to manufacture Talgo trains has been converted into a shop to overhaul public transit cars.

The Spanish company Talgo created the facility to assemble its passive-tilt equipment that was to be used in high-speed service.

The high-speed rail program was killed by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker shortly after he was elected in November 2010.

The state had been granted $810 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding for two Talgo trainsets and infrastructure development.

Walker pledged during his campaign to end the project, raising objections to the state’s obligation to cover ongoing maintenance and operating costs.

The Milwaukee Talgo plant built four trainsets before it closed. Two of them are in service on Amtrak’s Cascades Service route while two others are being stored in Amtrak’s Beech Grove shops near Indianapolis.

The stored Talgos were intended to be used in Wisconsin, but never turned a wheel there in revenue service.

The former Wisconsin Talgo trainsets might be sent to California for use between Los Angeles and San Diego if a service plan by the LOSSAN Rail Corridor Agency is implemented.

In the wake of Wisconsin’s refusal to accept the two Talgo trainsets, the manufacturer sued the state. That litigation was eventually settled out of court with Talgo receiving a $10 million settlement and the right to sell the completed trainsets.

Talgo’s Milwaukee plant is now being used to rebuild transit cars used on the Los Angeles Metro Red Line and built between 1992 and 2000 by Breda Costruzioni Ferroviasrie of Italy.

The car will receive updates to their propulsion equipment, braking, signaling, and other components under a contract worth nearly $73 million.
The Talgo plant is located on the city’s north side in a former A.O. Smith factory, which built automobile frames.

The Los Angeles rebuilding project is expected to create 18 to 20 new jobs.

Eau Claire Support Rail Service — Again

March 31, 2017

The Eau Claire city council this week voted to support a proposal to establish passenger-rail service between the Wisconsin city and St. Paul, Minnesota.

The vote came after a presentation by the West Central Wisconsin Rail Coalition, which is supporting a private section plan to start the service.

It is the third vote by the council in support of passenger rail, but other resolutions went nowhere due to lack of funding.

Eau Claire has never had intercity rail passenger service during the Amtrak era.

Group Eyes Eau Claire-St. Paul Rail Service

January 28, 2016

A group of western Wisconsin residents is seeking to bring back intercity rail passenger service to Eau Claire, which has not seen a passenger train in 52 years.

The West Central Wisconsin Rail Coalition was formed in 1999 and is seeking to convince transportation officials in Wisconsin and Minnesota to develop an Eau Claire-Menomonie-Hudson rail passenger corridor.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation has been studying development of rail passenger routes from the Twin Cities to Duluth, Rochester and Eau Claire.

WisconsinThe Wisconsin Department of Transportation has been focusing more on improving the Amtrak Hiawatha Service between Milwaukee and Chicago, but has also collaborated with Minnesota officials in seeking to develop addition intercity rail passenger service between Chicago and the Twin Cities.

The West Central group hopes to persuade transportation officials to route trains through Eau Claire via a Union Pacific route that once  hosted the famed Chicago & North Western 400 trains between Chicago and Minneapolis/St. Paul that ran 400 miles in 400 minutes.

They have pointed to information from MnDOT showing that more than 100,000 vehicles cross the St. Croix River at Hudson every day with many of those drivers coming from the St. Croix and Chippewa valleys.

MnDOT has estimated that rail service could attract 1,000 to 1,400 passengers a day, which would be 5 percent of the travel market and potentially enough to cover the daily operating cost of rail service.

The West Central group believes that there is a market for four daily roundtrips between Eau Claire and St. Paul. Fares would range between $25 to $40. With an 80-mph speed limit, trains could cover the distance in an hour and 15 minutes.

A public-private partnership might be needed to make the service a reality.

The West Central group formed an organizing council last year that will explore financing options as well as capital needs to rebuild the track between Eau Claire and the Twin Cities.

The service would not necessarily be provided by Amtrak. The West Central group pointed to the public-private partner behind All Aboard Florida and noted that Iowa Pacific Holdings took over from Amtrak the Chicago-Indianapolis Hoosier State.

To learn more about the coalition, go to http://www.westwisconsinrail.org, or http://www.facebook.com/westcentralwisconsinrail, or twitter.com/WestWisRail

Talgo, Wisconsin Settle Contract Lawsuit

August 20, 2015

Wisconsin and Talgo, Inc., have reached a $9.7 million settlement of the Spanish rail equipment builder’s lawsuit over a canceled contract.

The state has agreed to pay Talgo to end the dispute, which began when current Gov. Scott Walker voided a contract for two Talgo trainsets.

As part of the agreement, Talgo will retain title to the two train sets it built for Wisconsin, but which have yet to be used in revenue service.

The equipment was originally intended to be used on Amtrak’s Hiawatha route between Chicago and Milwaukee and on a never-developed route between Milwaukee and Madison, Wisconsin.

“The state signed contracts with Talgo and then absolutely walked away from that,” said Lester Pines, an attorney for Talgo. “(Talgo) didn’t like this litigation and it’s happy it’s over. They’re not in the business of suing people.”

The Talgo trains were built under terms of a 2009 contract negotiated by former Gov. Jim Doyle.

After Walker voided the contract, Talgo filed suit in November 2012, naming Walker and Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb.

In May 2014, a state arbitration board rejected Talgo’s financial claims against the state.

The two completed trains are now in storage at Amtrak’s Beech Grove, Indiana, heavy maintenance facility.

There have been reports that the state of Michigan has expressed interest in acquiring or leasing the Talgos for use on state-funded routes.