Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

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talindsay
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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby talindsay » May 17th, 2016, 12:29 pm

Almost certainly grade separations, track upgrades, etc. to ensure better on-time performance and safety improvements. I know they've been doing the safety improvements anyway, but my understanding is that they've been working on signalizing existing grade crossings rather than removing them. Mind, the total amount here is quite small so it's likely just a few grade separations or else a lot of very small improvements.

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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby mulad » May 18th, 2016, 7:16 am

I don't know if they're even worrying about that. The last document I saw pointed out some choke points along the line where the railroads want investment to add/upgrade switches and other equipment at major junction points, such as around La Crosse where there are yards and the Canadian Pacific and BNSF mainlines cross each other. Passenger trains run at up to 79 mph, while freights are limited to somewhere around 60 mph on the line, so there's potential need for more sidings and other changes, even with a small number of trains going through.

Both companies have been making investments in the area already due to increases in freight traffic (although that's been on the decline again), so I'm not sure what's needed now. It's a moving target, and I don't think MnDOT's passenger rail office has had enough resources to keep up with the changes.

This is something that would probably be easier if the freight companies could just agree to some reasonable track access fee that would cover the cost of upgrades in a general sense without being too fine-grained about it.

Of course, keep in mind that this route is over 400 miles long, so even relatively minor things will produce significant numbers.

Regardless, this is something that would be a lot easier if we had a funding source in place and could jump at good opportunities rather than lagging behind and trying to scrounge for cash. If we were getting $100 or $200 million a year from a fractional sales tax like we talked about in the transportation funding thread, this could be instantly agreed to, and we could add several round trips over the course of five years or so.

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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby twincitizen » May 18th, 2016, 7:37 am

HiawathaGuy wrote:2nd rail line to Chicago gaining steam
http://finance-commerce.com/2016/05/2nd ... ing-steam/
I'm still surprised no one here has nitpicked about the use of "Line" in the headline (in print too!). Or is "line" technically correct since it is a separate/shorter route than the Empire Builder? My gut is that she should have said "2nd Trip".

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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby FISHMANPET » May 18th, 2016, 9:26 am

Well technically technically there's already a separate "route" between Chicago and St Paul, because Amtrak detaches a couple cars going west out of St Paul and reattaches them going east. If you try and book between St Paul and Chicago you'll see you actually have the choice of two different "routes" even though they run identically.

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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby mulad » May 18th, 2016, 9:39 am

Yeah, getting too technical can be messy. It may have been the choice of an editor rather than the reporter, of course.

When getting specific, I would probably use "line" to refer to physical infrastructure, then "route" or "train" to refer to a particular service over a particular line or set of lines. Of course, it's common to use "line" for a route when referring to routings of rapid transit (LRT/subway/etc) services. We have the Green Line and Blue Line here in the Twin Cities, of course, and that same naming pops up elsewhere.

There are railroading people and railfans who like to refer to the Empire Builder by its train numbers (primarily #7 westbound and #8 eastbound, though as FMP said, it also has 27/28 for the Portland section and 807/808 for the extra car that gets added between Chicago and the Twin Cities during peak periods).

We are technically talking about adding two more trains/trips per day, or one round-trip (a pair of trains/trips).

mattaudio
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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby mattaudio » June 20th, 2016, 1:40 pm

Does someone more patient than me wish to step in and correct all the misinformation here?
http://forums.e-democracy.org/groups/mp ... RAbKOfvDq/

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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby SkyScraperKid » June 20th, 2016, 8:53 pm

twincitizen wrote:Why exactly would it require $95MM in infrastructure improvements to add another train between St. Paul and Chicago?

This info may already be widely known, but the article also states that only St. Paul to Chicago is being moved forward at this time. Extensions to Mpls (Target Field) and St. Cloud could be considered in the future. This makes the most sense to get the 2nd train running ASAP for as few dollars as possible.
Wow, if they have a Minneapolis to St. Paul Amtrak route with 2 big lovely stations... what would be preventing them from running an hourly (during rush hour only) train back and forth from Minneapolis to St. Paul as a sort of "express bus"? Maybe even with limited service whiles they have an Amtrak train in layover until the next day? Or would the express bus STILL be faster?

Maybe by 2040 there would be enough density and transit users to make it possible?

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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby twincitizen » June 21st, 2016, 10:32 am

It would almost certainly be slower than the 94 bus (due to slower operating speeds on many portions of the tracks), cost an arm and a leg to operate as a separate service, and would deposit passengers too far from the center of each downtown, requiring a 10 minute walk or transfer to LRT to reach one's actual destination. In short, it just wouldn't make a whole lot of sense. We'd be far better off "branding" the 94 bus, giving it nice aBRT-style stations, etc, both on dollars and usefulness.

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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby mattaudio » June 21st, 2016, 10:43 am

And not charging express fare for the 94. \mymissioninlife

Anyways, I do very much see value in having any future regional and intercity rail services serve both SPUD and Minneapolis, through-routing one to reach the other. But figuring out how to do that should not hold up an obvious second train to Chicago.

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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby jebr » June 21st, 2016, 11:29 am

For east-of-the-Twin Cities travel, an easy connection to light rail and buses would be a much better use of money than trying to have the train run through to Minneapolis. Most customers would still have to transfer anyways, so making sure a transfer to the Green Line, 54, and 94 are easy and a good experience would be better than spending $$$ initially to get to Minneapolis.

That being said, for any through-running service we'd need to either make a connection at Fridley super-easy as well (for those coming from west-of-the-Cities and not wanting to go all the way to St. Paul) or spend the money through-running.

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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby mulad » August 19th, 2016, 8:15 am

It appears that Michael Portillo will be in the region next month to film a segment for the BBC's Great American Railway Journeys. The Friends of the 261 have announced a round-trip to Chicago and back with their equipment on the end of the Empire Builder on September 10th and 12th. It's not clear which days/segments he'll be riding, though.

https://261.com/excursions/windy-city-iiii/

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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby twincitizen » January 30th, 2017, 7:26 am

Chicago train study comes up short on state funding [locked]
A $23 million funding request from the Minnesota Department of Transportation to finish studies of the route and other future passenger rail in Minnesota came up short in Gov. Mark Dayton’s bonding proposal released Jan. 4. The proposal lists $1 million to go to work being done by MnDOT’s Passenger Rail Office
Not really any news here other than to say that the route needs about $95MM in infrastructure improvements, 80% of which could come from the federal government, before this could start operating. It would seem the bonding request is less for "studies" and more to have state matching funds at the ready, if the federal funds become available.


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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby David Greene » May 1st, 2017, 11:59 am

twincitizen wrote:
January 30th, 2017, 7:26 am
[Not really any news here other than to say that the route needs about $95MM in infrastructure improvements, 80% of which could come from the federal government, before this could start operating. It would seem the bonding request is less for "studies" and more to have state matching funds at the ready, if the federal funds become available.
What is that $95MM going to? Grade separation? Trackage? Signaling? Why aren't freight companies contributing part of this?

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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby mulad » May 5th, 2017, 10:28 am

Here are a few bullet points from page 11 of the first PDF Grant found:
  • Automate switches and signal sidings
  • Install crossover switches
  • Extend existing sidings
  • Reconfigure track alignment to improve operations
That's still pretty vague, though.

I would expect most of the line to have good signaling and automated switches, but it's always surprising to see how many manual switches are out there. I think a lot of them are getting upgraded due to the federal government's mandate to go to Positive Train Control signaling.

The second bullet point makes it sound like they've identified some spots along double-track segments that would be good for crossover switches. They might also be thinking of replacing existing switches (turnouts) turnouts with higher-speed models. They might have some that are only good for 15-30 mph operation while exiting the main track. It'd be good to have at least #20 switches installed to ensure trains can exit the main track at 40 mph or better. Since traffic is still dominated by freight, it probably doesn't make sense to add really fast switches, though -- they'd just get damaged by the heavy freight cars.

I made a map a couple years ago which identified the sidings that were then visible via Google Maps' "Satellite" view along the whole Empire Builder route. There are only a couple sidings that really seemed short relative to the others.

https://www.google.com/maps/d/u/0/edit? ... r_1m8Kyq7c

The distance between sidings is typically 10 or 11 miles, which is about as close together as it makes sense to have a single-track freight line with sidings. Once they get that close, it makes the most sense to start filling in the gaps with double-track. The route used to be well over 90% double-tracked, so it shouldn't be too difficult to fit it in again. Someone just needs to find the money.

I'm not sure what they mean by reconfiguring track alignment. I think there may be some rail yard areas where through traffic needs to switch between tracks -- it'd make sense to shift tracks around in the yards so that doesn't need to happen anymore.

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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby David Greene » May 5th, 2017, 11:39 am

I'm really wondering how much of that is needed to simply run a second passenger train.

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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby David Greene » May 15th, 2017, 11:56 am

Millennials are all aboard for passenger rail

http://www.startribune.com/millennials- ... 422215583/

Too bad the Strib went with the Millennials angle, as it downplays the support for this. I know plenty of us Gen-Xers want it!

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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby jebr » January 10th, 2018, 8:41 am

High-speed rail study halted. Not sure if this also impacts the study for a second daily train, but wouldn't be surprised if it does.

http://www.startribune.com/not-everyone ... 468357413/

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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby DanPatchToget » January 10th, 2018, 8:58 am

Does Paul Torkelson actually have transportation experience, or was he just thrown into the transportation finance committee even if he doesn't know squat? And how the hell do two people get to decide the fate of this? They don't even represent a district on the proposed route.

Sure would be nice to bring back that 400 minute travel time that the railroads advertised back in the day. I would certainly choose it over flying assuming its reliable most of the time.

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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby the other scott » September 24th, 2018, 11:15 am

MnDot has completed a study for adding a second train. No funding of course.

http://www.startribune.com/additional-t ... 494081611/


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