Trains For America

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Amtrak believes in a place called Hope, Arkansas

Henley: Amtrak stop looks positive

By STEPHANIE HARRIS-SMITH
Published: Friday, October 17, 2008 1:38 PM CDT
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Hope Star Writer

Hope may soon be part of the Amtrak Texas Eagle’s record breaking growth among long distance trains for fiscal 2008.

Plans to have the Amtrak make a stop in Hope are still in the works and all is positive, according to Hope Parks and Tourism Secretary Paul Henley.

 

The Texas Eagle route connects Chicago and San Antonio, making stops across Arkansas and would also be the train to pick up Hope travelers. It experienced the fastest growth among long-distance trains by up to 15.2 percent, according to the National Railroad Passenger Corp. The train carries a total of 251,518 passengers, according to Henley.

Henley informed the Parks and Tourism commission earlier this week of the details on a recent Amtrak meeting he attended in New Orleans.

“I was able to talk directly to the right person with Union Pacific, and Union Pacific is who will ultimately make the decision on our Amtrak stop because they own the property. He directed me to get the plans and the specifications,” Henley said.

 

The response was very positive according to Henley, so positive in fact, that Henley was able to go ahead with ordering Amtrak signage for the area.

“The number one intent is to have the tourists that go by on the train to actually get off in Hope and see the Clinton attractions and other things they may have interest in. That was our number one goal, but the other effect, of providing additional means of transportation for our local folks, is even more important,” Henley said.

Henley said he has seen a huge display of interest among the citizens of Hope.

 

“Since we got the information out that there was interest in having Amtrak stop in Hope, I have had more people express excitement that we are going to have a stop, because of what it is going to mean to their families. Many of them are older people who can’t drive anymore and they want to see their kids,” he said.

He said they can get on the train in Hope and go to Little Rock or Dallas, or their parents can get on in Dallas and come to Hope,” he said.

Henley said it is an exciting time to be in the midst of plans with Amtrak due to the high cost of other means of travel. Henley said his sister recently made the trip from Texarkana to Dallas for $26.

 

Plans for a loading platform have been completed. The platform is 612 feet long and would go from Elm Street to Walnut Street, according to Henley.

“We have showed those plans to the tourism commission yesterday and we will, in turn forward, those plans to Amtrak and they will in turn forward them to Union Pacific,” Henley said.

Henley said he was surprised to find out at the meeting that a loading platform had been in place at one time and taken up when Union Pacific purchased the track from Missouri Pacific.

 

“We would just be replacing one that was there before,” he added.

Henley said the downside to Amtrak travel is the fact that they are not known to be on schedule due to the fact that freight trains have priority over passenger trains.

“The key is to know that on the front end, but you will get there and it will cost you a lot less than going by car or other ways. Most folks interested are not in a hurry, they will just be visiting someone. They are not going for a business trip,” he said.

 

Henley said once Amtrak approves the loading platform plans, construction time should be relatively short.

Filed under: Amtrak, Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy, Regional USA Passenger Rail

More Ohio developments

I have been falling behind lately. Here is an item I should have moved to the front a few weeks ago. Please keep your regional news items coming.

Ohio Can Benefit From Just-Passed Rail Bill

HR-2095 Boosts Both Rail Safety & Passenger Rail

Passage of a major rail safety and passenger rail bill is a very important and positive first-step toward moving people and freight in Ohio better, faster and safer.  HR-2095, a comprehensive railroad safety and passenger rail bill was passed by a veto-proof 74-24 margin in the U.S. Senate last week and awaits President George W. Bush’s signature.

“At a time when Ohioans most need relief from high gas prices, the passage of this bill has the potential to create critically-needed transportation options for individuals and business in Ohio”, says Governor Ted Strickland.“ Further developing passenger rail can help Ohio families save money while at the same time addressing crucial issues such as climate change and the need to reduce our dependence on oil.”

Ohio Rail Development Commission Executive Director Matt Dietrich calls the bill “a major boost for rail safety and the advancement of passenger rail and right in line with the collaborative efforts of both ORDC and the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) to better balance Ohio’s transportation system.”

The ORDC is currently working on two passenger rail initiatives:

•The Ohio Hub:  the State of Ohio’s long-range, high-performance passenger rail plan that calls for 110 mph trains in seven corridors. The plan carries a potential economic impact of over $17-billion dollars to Ohio and the region, as well as the creation of over 16,700 new jobs when fully implemented.

•Amtrak 3-C Corridor: ORDC is also working with Amtrak on Governor Strickland’s request to explore establishing conventional passenger rail service in the Cleveland-Columbus-Cincinnati corridor. Amtrak’s planning staff is preparing to survey the corridor and develop a ridership and revenue report.

Provisions of HR-2095

The bill provides $13.1-billion over five-years for Amtrak and development of high-performance passenger rail corridors by the states. It marks the first time Amtrak has been funded on a multi-year basis in its 37 year history. This can allow Amtrak to plan for new and better services. Ohio is currently served by three Amtrak long-distance routes.

Included in the $13.1-billion authorization is a first-ever, $1.9-billion federal matching grant program for states to develop innovative new services, increase capacity on heavily used rail lines, and attract new riders. ORDC’s Ohio Hub Plan would be an eligible project under this program.  Under the program, the state would have to match an 80-percent federal funding with 20-percent of state and local dollars.

Other passenger rail provisions include:

•High-Speed Rail Corridors:  Grants are provided to plan and develop 11 federally-designated high-speed rail corridors. The Federal Railroad Administration has previously designated the 3-C Corridor as well as the Chicago-Toledo-Cleveland and Chicago-Cincinnati corridors as future high-speed rail corridors. Also included is an extension of Pennsylvania’s “Keystone Corridor” from Pittsburgh to Cleveland.

•On-Time Performance: DOT and the Surface Transportation Board (STB) must investigate Amtrak delays and determine if they are the fault of the host railroad. If so, host rail carrier may be ordered to pay Amtrak monetary damages.

HR-2095 would also require installation of positive train control (PTC) by Dec. 31, 2015, on all main-line tracks where intercity passenger and commuter railroads operate, and where toxic-by-inhalation hazmat is transported.  This provision follows the recent, tragic and fatal collision of a commuter and freight train in California.  PTC would automatically stop trains from entering on to a track with another on-coming train.

Quick Ohio Rail Facts:

Ohio ranks 5th in total railroad miles (5,275 miles) in the United States and is served by 36 railroads including three Class-1 carriers.  In 2006, almost 67-million tons of rail freight originated in Ohio and over 100-million tons of rail freight terminated here.

Amtrak serves Ohio with three long-distance trains:

• The Capitol Limited (daily Chicago-Cleveland-Pittsburgh-Washington, D.C.)

• The Cardinal (tri-weekly Chicago-Cincinnati-Washington, D.C.-New York)

• The Lake Shore Limited (daily Chicago-Cleveland-Buffalo-Boston/New York)

In 2007, over 110-thousand boardings and alightings were made at Ohio Amtrak stops.

The last train to serve Columbus was Amtrak’s National Limited on October 1, 1979.

(The Ohio Rail Development Commission is an independent agency operating within the Ohio Department of Transportation.  ORDC is responsible for economic development through the improvement and expansion of passenger and freight rail services and railroad grade crossing safety. For more information about what ORDC does for Ohio, visit our website at http://www.dot.state.oh.us/ohiorail/)

Filed under: Amtrak, Passenger Rail Politics, Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy, Regional USA Passenger Rail, United States High Speed Rail

City of New Orleans service restored (under budget) to Memphis Central Station

OWNTOWN MEMPHIS 
Amtrak’s City of New Orleans train service will return to Memphis Central Station at 6a.m. today with the scheduled arrival of the southbound train. In April, a sinkhole that spread to within a foot of the train track forced Amtrak to t bus passengers to temporary boarding locations. Repairs were delayed much of the summer while the city, Canadian National Railroad, which owns the tracks, Amtrak and Sprint Nextel worked out liability and cost issues. 
The project, first estimated at $1 million, ended up costing $750,000. The city will pay about $345,000 and the railroad will pay the rest, said Pete Aviotti Jr., special assistant to Mayor Willie Herenton. 
— From staff reports 
Memphis Commercial Appeal 10/17/08

Filed under: Amtrak, Regional USA Passenger Rail

Bush OKs $13B for Amtrak upgrades

Generally, this is good news. It is interesting, however, that old lies live on. The northeast corridor is not by any means covering operational expenses. Scroll down and observe the ridership and revenue growth on the long haul routes. 

Friday, October 17, 2008
BY HERB JACKSON
WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT  

 

President Bush reversed his seven-year opposition to a nationally subsidized railroad Thursday and signed a bill authorizing more than $2.6 billion a year over five years to upgrade and expand Amtrak.
The law requires that Amtrak upgrade the Washington-to-Boston Northeast Corridor, which crosses New Jersey from Trenton to North Bergen, to a “state of good repair.” That means replacing or upgrading aging tracks, switches, signals and even bridges that frequently cause delays on the corridor, which NJ Transit uses to carry roughly 100,000 commuters daily.
Without comment, Bush bowed to broad bipartisan support for a bill sponsored by Sen. Frank Lautenberg that combined Amtrak funding with new railroad safety standards.
“New Jersey commuters depend on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor every day, and this law will make sure our trains run more smoothly and reliably,” said Lautenberg, D-N.J., the chairman of the Senate’s surface transportation subcommittee.
The law also includes a provision sought by Lautenberg and others requiring trash-handling facilities run by railroads to comply with state fire safety, air pollution and water pollution regulations.
T he issue became a federal case in the Meadowlands in recent years. New Jersey had tried to punish railroads that did not seek state permits before opening transfer stations in North Bergen that were accepting truckloads of garbage and construction debris for loading onto railcars.
Operators appealed and won a court ruling that said only the federal Surface Transportation Board, not state regulators, can control such operations.
New safety standards include limits on hours worked by signal workers and train crews and mandatory controls to automatically stop trains carrying passengers or hazardous materials if something happens to the engineer. The law requires Amtrak to build partnerships with states to establish rail service between major cities, but advocates were unsure if that would mean new routes in New Jersey.
The last long-term federal commitment to Amtrak was signed by President Clinton and expired in 2002, requiring the railroad to wait for Congress’ annual appropriations each year to know how much money it could spend.
“After a decade of starvation diets by the Bush administration and inaction of the Republican-controlled Congress, we stand together to rebuild Amtrak and provide the necessary resources to construct a network of high-speed rail corridors across America,” said Rep. James Oberstar, D-Minn., chairman of the House transportation committee.
The Northeast Corridor covers its operating expenses and has gained riders, but critics have said the law does not do enough to force Amtrak to drop money-losing long-distance lines in the South and West.
E-mail: jackson@northjersey.com

 

From the United Transportation Union…

Filed under: Amtrak, Passenger Rail Politics, Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy, Regional USA Passenger Rail

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