Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

Durbin answers Chicago Daily Herald editorial

TFA commented on this opinion piece a few days ago. You may scroll down to see our reaction and here is what the Senator says in a letter to the editor.

Your editorial “Let’s do more with stimulus …” fails to recognize key facts about the economic recovery bill and the proposed high-speed rail route from Chicago to St. Louis.

First, the bill was never designed to be the primary source of funding to remedy every problem in every community. Instead, it was designed to create or save millions of jobs; provide tax relief for middle-class families; and make investments in our economic future.

The bill includes $8 billion for high-speed passenger rail nationwide. If Illinois doesn’t tap into those funds, other states will happily take the dollars. Your contention that those dollars can be reallocated to non-rail projects is just plain wrong. That said, I will work to maximize the funding Illinois receives through every account in the economic recovery bill, including construction and improvements for local roads, highways and schools.

Passenger rail has largely been ignored for the past eight years. Your opposition to improving a train route serving Joliet, Bloomington-Normal and our state’s capitol is shortsighted. President Obama understands that investing in passenger rail will provide jobs while improving our transportation options.

That’s a vision I wholeheartedly support.

High-speed rail won’t become a reality overnight. On the Northeast Corridor, the most successful route in the nation, speeds were increased incrementally and ridership followed. The same will be true for the Lincoln line in Illinois, where gradual improvements in recent months have made the line the most viable candidate for high-speed rail service.

In regard to flood control projects for local communities along the Des Plaines River, I’ve continued my commitment to make these improvements in yearly appropriations bills, including the omnibus bill President Obama just signed into law. Incidentally, the only way to make sure there was timely flood abatement funding for Illinois was to secure it with an earmark – a process which some have condemned.

You express disappointment that Governor Quinn and I focused on high speed rail when touting the benefits of the bill for Illinois. I was disappointed that you didn’t contact my office to fill in some of the gaps in your knowledge first.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin

Assistant Senate Majority Leader


Filed under: Uncategorized

Stimulating Amtrak

Progressive railroading reports what is generally understood.

Projects to be funded with stimulus dollars include: replacing the 102-year-old Niantic River Bridge, a project that’s been delayed more than 20 years because of a lack of capital funding ($105 million); rehabilitating and returning to service 68 passenger cars ($82 million); repairing facilities nationwide, such as roof replacements, plumbing repairs, and heating and air conditioning improvements ($105 million); restoring the Wilmington, Del., station ($21 million); rehabbing the Lamokin frequency converters in Chester, Pa. ($63 million); constructing a new station for the Auto Train in Sanford, Fla. ($10.5 million); and installing positive train control between Porter, Ind., and Kalamazoo, Mich., and New York City and Washington, D.C. ($60 million).

Let’s not make this “us against them.”

The projects are all good, however, the work at Beech Grove will be a big assistance to those of us out here west of Philadelphia.

Here is some additional info. Scroll down if you don’t want to read every word because there are some hints therein.

Replacement of the movable bridge over the Niantic River on the Northeast Corridor in Connecticut – $105 million. In the largest single Amtrak project to be funded through the Recovery Act, Amtrak will replace the 102-year-old drawbridge which carries the Northeast Corridor over the Niantic River near East Lyme, Connecticut. The replacement of this aging bridge has been planned for over 20 years, but has been repeatedly deferred due to a lack of capital funding for Amtrak. Any further delay in replacing the bridge would result in the imposition of significant speed restrictions over the bridge (with resulting increases to passenger’s travel times), and potentially a major disruption to passenger rail service between New York and Boston were the bridge’s moving machinery to fail in the open position. Amtrak estimates that the bridge replacement will result in 860 person-years of work for those directly employed in the bridge construction.

Rehabilitating and returning to service 68 stored or damaged passenger cars – $82 million. With $82 million in Recovery Act funding, Amtrak with rehabilitate and return to service 68 passenger cars that are have long been in storage due to damage and lack of funding for necessary repairs. Once returned to service, many of the cars (which include among them both corridor and long-distance equipment types) will be used to alleviate capacity constraints on heavily-traveled trains, while others may be made available for new State-supported Amtrak services. The cars will be repaired at Amtrak’s maintenance of equipment facilities in Beech Grove, Indiana and Bear, Delaware, both located near recently closed manufacturing facilities in areas that have been hard hit by the economic downturn. Amtrak anticipates hiring 125 workers to work on this project.

Rehabilitation of the Lamokin frequency converters in Chester, Pennsylvania – $63 million. Using $63 million in Recovery Act funding, Amtrak will entirely rebuild three rotary frequency converters, which form a key element of the power supply system for the Northeast Corridor, located in Chester, Pennsylvania. Known as the “Lamokin Converters,” they were placed in service in the 1920’s as part of the Pennsylvania Railroad’s electrification of its mainline between Philadelphia and Wilmington, Delaware (on what has since become Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor (NEC)). Since that time, the three 16 megawatt motor-generator sets located at the site have been in continuous use to convert commercial electric power, which operates at 60 Hertz alternating current, to the 25 Hertz alternating current that powers Amtrak and commuter trains along the NEC south of New York City.

After over 80 years of continuous use, the Lamokin frequency converters are in dire need of major rehabilitation to ensure their future reliability. As demonstrated by the power outages that crippled Amtrak and commuter rail service in the Northeast on several occasions in 2006 (the causes of which were traced to frequency converting equipment), the reliable supply of electric power is essential to the NEC remaining one of the county’s most energy-efficient examples of transportation infrastructure. Through this project, the three rotary converters will be entirely rebuilt with rewound motor coils, new stator coils, and new collector rings, allowing them to continue to serve passengers on the NEC for generations to come. Amtrak estimates that the project will result in 504 person-years of work for those directly employed in the rehabilitation of the frequency converters.

Repairs to Amtrak facilities nationwide – $105 million. In the most wide-reaching of Amtrak’s Recovery Act-funded projects, dozens of aging Amtrak facilities throughout the country will be the target of significant repairs, such as roof replacements, plumbing repairs, heating and air conditioning improvements. Throughout the recent history of inadequate capital funding for Amtrak, these projects, which include work on stations, maintenance facilities, crew facilities, and warehouses, have been repeatedly deferred due to more pressing investment requirements. The additional capital funding provided through the Recovery Act will allow these projects (plans for many of which have been sitting on the shelf for years) to move forward quickly. Amtrak anticipates using local contractors throughout the country to perform this work, resulting in an estimated 860 person-years of work.

Restoration of the Wilmington, Delaware station – $21 million. With $21 million in Recovery Act funding, plus additional funding from the State of Delaware and other sources, Amtrak will make restorations to Wilmington, Delaware’s historic century-old Victorian train station. The project will incorporate the rebuilding and restoration of the interior of the station buildings, improvements to make the buildings entirely accessible for those with disabilities, restoration of the building’s terracotta façade, and the replacement of the track and supporting infrastructure which runs through the station. In addition to increasing comfort and convenience for passengers using Amtrak’s eleventh busiest station, the project includes the construction of a third high-level platform, which will significantly increase the capacity of the station. Amtrak estimates that the project will result in 168 person-years of work for those directly employed in the restoration of the station.

Construction of a new station for the Auto Train in Sanford, Florida – $10.5 million.

With $10.5 million in Recovery Act funding, Amtrak will construct a new station at the Auto-Train’s southern terminus in Sanford, Florida. The Auto Train, one of Amtrak’s best performing long-distance services, and one of the nation’s most innovative forms of intermodal passenger transportation, transports passenger together with their private automobiles non-stop from Lorton, Virginia (15 miles south of Washington, DC), to Central Florida. The new station will replace temporary facilities that have been in place since the destruction of much of the previous station by the 2005 hurricanes, and will provide Auto Train passengers with a more comfortable waiting area and allow for faster, more efficient boarding operations. Amtrak estimates that the project will result in 84 person-years of work for those directly employed in the construction of the new station.

Installation of Positive Train Control on the Amtrak-owned Michigan Line (Porter, Indiana – Kalamazoo, Michigan) and the south-end of the Northeast Corridor (New York – Washington). Amtrak will invest $60 million in Recovery Act funding in installing Positive Train Control (PTC) on its Porter, Indiana to Kalamazoo, Michigan line (used by Chicago – Detroit trains) and on the south-end of the Northeast Corridor (between New York and Washington). PTC is an advanced signaling technology that can prevent train-to-train collisions, over-speed derailments, train incursions into roadway work zones, and movement over switches improperly lined. The installation of PTC by 2015 on all routes used by intercity passenger trains is mandated by the recently enacted Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008. The Recovery Act funding will allow for the acceleration of the installation of PTC on lines owned by Amtrak, and will result in an immediate safety benefit, along with potential trip-time reductions where the advanced signaling system will allow for increased speeds.

Now a bit of analysis, and you’te not going to like it.

The section dealing with Beech Grove is revealing. It perhaps tells us more than the administration had planned. Specifically, the restored rolling stock will be used  “to alleviate capacity constraints on heavily-traveled trains, while others may be made available for new State-supported Amtrak services.”

This is more damn nonsense.

Which are the “heavily traveled trains?” Does this mean that only the Empire Builder and Zephyr will get new equipment? The language seems to implicitly exclude the Sunset. The case need not be stated again. You can do a search on this site (above right hand column) and see every word that has been written about this route.

The Sunset is an essential part of the national system. Amtrak operates a national system which should be augmented by state services. It is, furthermore, true that there are limits to this national grid. Nonetheless, Florida, and passengers throughout the south and southwest, should not be held hostage.

Idaho also got a faw deal on the Pioneer, which must be restored. It serves a region that needs and will patronize a reliable passenger train.

The Northeast Corridor is Amtrak’s backbone. The long distance trains are, taken together, equally important.

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

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March 2009