Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Congressional Subcommittee meets in Chicago to discuss HSR

The Congressional Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials met yesterday at the James R. Thompson Center in Chicago to discuss the high-speed intercity passenger rail grants that were recently awarded under the stimulus act and the impact the grants will have on the region. Among the notable attendees were:
  • Wisconsin Gov Jim Doyle reiterated the positive effect that HSR projects will have on Wisconsin's construction, engineering, and design & supply industries. Gov Doyle's testimony can be found here.
  • Illinois Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky stated that rail funding would create more than 57,000 jobs, while making a long neglected national investment in rail transportation.
  • Illinois Congressman Dan Lipinski said Amtrak and Metra users should notice a difference in commuter times within two years.
  • Our own Rick Harnish testified on the importance of 220 mph service.
  • FRA Administrator Joe Szabo's testimony can be found here.

*After the hearing, Administrator Szabo stated that Positive Train Control, which under federal mandate must be implemented by 2015, could have prevented the tragic accident in University Park.
"Positive train control is probably the most significant safety initiative in the history of railroading and certainly something that would have the ability to prevent a tragedy like this,''

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Monday, April 19, 2010

Chicago's Auto Train and Madison's downtown station

The Tribune discusses the benefits enjoyed by the increasing number of riders on Amtrak's Auto Train between Lorton, VA and Sanford, FL (near Orlando). The Midwest is being factored into expansion plans for the unique service. According to Amtrak spokeswoman Karina Romero, "We would love to go east to west and also head from Florida to Chicago."

Future routes are examined on the basis of vacation and retiree markets, according to the Auto Train's operations supervisor, Larry Vollten. Besides Florida to Chicago, Chicago to Arizona and Chicago to Texas are being considered. Routes like these will only move closer to realization as more and more passengers, and in this case motorists, shift to Amtrak.

Vollten went on to say, "The fascinating thing about this crowd is that we did a feasibility study in Chicago and it found there is the same clientele in Chicago as there is in the Northeast United States."

Meanwhile, The Wisconsin State Journal mentions the progress that is being made to bring the city's HSR station closer to downtown. Alderman Mike Verveer, District 4, says it best,“From my perspective, the closer we can get Amtrak to downtown and the campus, the better."

Amtrak has also committed to servicing La Crosse, WI regardless of La Crosse's inclusion or exclusion on the HSR route between Milwaukee and Madison.

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Sunday, April 11, 2010

Amtrak ridership thrives in the Middle West

An Amtrak press release this past Thursday (4/8/10) states:
In the Chicago hub, ridership on Lincoln Service (Chicago – St. Louis) showed significant growth with an 18 percent jump in March and 11.6 percent for the six month period. Hiawatha Service (Chicago – Milwaukee) continues to grow with a 14.3 percent increase in March and up 4.8 percent fiscal year to date. Elsewhere in the Midwest, the Missouri River Runner (Kansas City - St. Louis) is up 24.2 percent for March and 15.8 percent for the first half of the Amtrak fiscal year, while the Blue Water (Chicago - Port Huron) increased by 21.7 percent in March and 5.2 percent for fiscal year to date.

This increase is due in part to:

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