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 » January 15th, 2020, 4:50 pm

Silophant wrote:
January 15th, 2020, 4:24 pm
I don't quite get how there can be $10M of environmental and design work for extending two Hiawatha trips from Milwaukee to St Paul (according to the feasibility study from like a decade ago), but, hey, potential progress!
Many years ago I talked to the MNDOT head of passenger rail operations on the phone for something like an hour about all the various plans and challenges of the various corridors. He told me that the "second train" to Chicago wasn't really so much about the second train per se - in a political climate where new rail projects are super difficult, they were using the "second train" project to make speed and reliability improvements on the Minnesota sections of the track, which meant removing many grade crossings, fully signalizing others, straightening curves, rebuilding track, etc. It was tied to the second train project because a non-Empire Builder service would have to be reasonably reliable in terms of schedule to be successful, and all these little improvements could be made without massive environmental reviews and big funding requests - they could be knocked off individually as funding became available. Mind that's my recollection of what he said, many years later, so the details may be slightly off.

But anyway, my guess would be that "environmental and design work" mainly means the design and engineering to finish off those projects, which can more efficiently be done in one contract, even if the individual improvements are meted out over time as funding allows. At some point, with or without any big formal process, the Minnesota portion of the line will have reached a level of quality where time and reliability aren't harmed on Minnesota tracks. At that point, they can start rolling a second train, assuming the Wisconsin section isn't so bad as to prevent the line's feasibility.

Mod note: fixed formatting

Silophant
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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby Silophant » January 15th, 2020, 5:05 pm

That makes sense. Thanks for the info!

Korh
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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby Korh » January 15th, 2020, 8:42 pm

talindsay wrote:
January 15th, 2020, 4:50 pm
Silophant wrote:
January 15th, 2020, 4:24 pm
I don't quite get how there can be $10M of environmental and design work for extending two Hiawatha trips from Milwaukee to St Paul (according to the feasibility study from like a decade ago), but, hey, potential progress!
Many years ago I talked to the MNDOT head of passenger rail operations on the phone for something like an hour about all the various plans and challenges of the various corridors. He told me that the "second train" to Chicago wasn't really so much about the second train per se - in a political climate where new rail projects are super difficult, they were using the "second train" project to make speed and reliability improvements on the Minnesota sections of the track, which meant removing many grade crossings, fully signalizing others, straightening curves, rebuilding track, etc. It was tied to the second train project because a non-Empire Builder service would have to be reasonably reliable in terms of schedule to be successful, and all these little improvements could be made without massive environmental reviews and big funding requests - they could be knocked off individually as funding became available. Mind that's my recollection of what he said, many years later, so the details may be slightly off.

But anyway, my guess would be that "environmental and design work" mainly means the design and engineering to finish off those projects, which can more efficiently be done in one contract, even if the individual improvements are meted out over time as funding allows. At some point, with or without any big formal process, the Minnesota portion of the line will have reached a level of quality where time and reliability aren't harmed on Minnesota tracks. At that point, they can start rolling a second train, assuming the Wisconsin section isn't so bad as to prevent the line's feasibility.
So assuming this is still the case and all those little improvements tied with the second train are added and the train itself begins service, would that mean that they would be a much lower hurdle to add additional trains afterwards if the service proves popular enough to support it

Mod note: fixed formatting

EOst
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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby EOst » January 16th, 2020, 8:17 am

The project assumes comparable improvements to the Wisconsin tracks if/when Minnesota finds funding. WisDOT has been putting a lot of pressure on MnDOT to get this going while the political climate there is relatively favorable.

The big construction projects are new sidings and a new station in Winona, and big improvements to River Junction near La Crescent.

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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby mattaudio » January 16th, 2020, 1:36 pm

IMO there should be something like 3-4 trains PDEW CHI-MSP in addition to the Empire Builder. If the eastbound EB is on time, it lashes up with the regional train. If not, it lashes up with the next train and so on.

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Nick
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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby Nick » January 16th, 2020, 2:02 pm

What does PDEW stand for

twinkess
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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby twinkess » January 16th, 2020, 2:27 pm

It's what happens after you've drank too much Mt Dew.

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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby NickP » January 16th, 2020, 2:33 pm

Per day each way, but I liked the pun :-)

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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby Didier » January 21st, 2020, 9:31 am

Not totally sure where to post this, but searching for keywords "St. Louis Chicago Rail" mostly pulled up this thread.

A few weeks ago family from the St. Louis area mentioned that the upgrade to supposed high-speed rail to Chicago still wasn't finished. I was initially skeptical, because I know that process has been going on forever, but a quick search found a handful of articles suggesting exactly that -- the process is basically creeping along very slowly with no real end date in sight.

What? How is that even possible? This was one of those corridors considered a low-hanging fruit, so if we can''t upgrade this line from 79 to 110 mph in 10 years, do we have any hope at all of ever developing a real rail network here? Seriously, what are we doing? Curious if there's some nuance I'm missing here or something.

This is the latest article I found about the delays.

https://www.stltoday.com/news/local/gov ... 558f1.html
Guy Tridgell, a spokesman for the Illinois Department of Transportation, said the agency now hopes that 90-mph speeds will be in place for Amtrak from the Granite City-Alton area to south of Springfield by the end of the year.

IDOT last December had projected that to happen by this summer as part of a $1.95 billion, eight-year upgrade of the St. Louis-to-Chicago corridor. As of now, passenger trains still are allowed to go no faster than 79 mph.

As for most of the rest of the route, Tridgell said, the 90 mph speeds are expected to be implemented sometime next year, along with resulting schedule changes.

The agency isn’t offering any particular target date on when a more significant increase — to 110 mph — will be reached.

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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby VacantLuxuries » January 21st, 2020, 9:56 am

I think a number of transit projects got slow walked or worse when Illinois had a Republican governor in recent memory.

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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby JT$ » January 21st, 2020, 2:33 pm

mattaudio wrote:
January 16th, 2020, 1:36 pm
IMO there should be something like 3-4 trains PDEW CHI-MSP in addition to the Empire Builder.
At current speeds I can't imagine there is nearly enough demand for 3-4 trains per day to Chicago from Minneapolis-St.Paul. 9-10 hours by train or 1.75 hours by plane. Even with 2 hours for airport security, it's still so much faster to fly and you won't capture the business traveler with that kind of time discrepancy.

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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby DanPatchToget » January 21st, 2020, 4:20 pm

JT$ wrote:
January 21st, 2020, 2:33 pm
mattaudio wrote:
January 16th, 2020, 1:36 pm
IMO there should be something like 3-4 trains PDEW CHI-MSP in addition to the Empire Builder.
At current speeds I can't imagine there is nearly enough demand for 3-4 trains per day to Chicago from Minneapolis-St.Paul. 9-10 hours by train or 1.75 hours by plane. Even with 2 hours for airport security, it's still so much faster to fly and you won't capture the business traveler with that kind of time discrepancy.
But these trains would serve more than just the Twin Cities and Chicago. Optimally Madison would be included in these plans and then there would definitely be demand for multiple departures throughout the day and an overnighter that arrives in Chicago in the morning and another that arrives in the Twin Cities in the morning.

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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby Bob Stinson's Ghost » January 21st, 2020, 7:58 pm

Also note that after you arrive at Ohare you still have to get downtown, but when you get off the train you already *are* downtown.

Tcmetro
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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby Tcmetro » January 21st, 2020, 9:03 pm

I think the main benefits to additional trains in the corridor would be for connectivity to towns along the way. Flying is still going to be the primary option between Chicago and Minneapolis, because so many people are flying the route for connections. Extending the Hiawatha service to Madison and perhaps along Fond du Lac-Oshkosh-Appleton-Green Bay will have the biggest impact on ridership.

Connections to/from the airports in Chicago are quite decent. Blue Line from O'Hare is ~45 mins and Orange Line from Midway is ~25 mins. The big problem with flying is the time for the security process, but the big airport redevelopment plans will hopefully address that.

Real HSR in the corridor would be huge, especially if it connects to the airport in Minneapolis and in Chicago. The rail could be a big benefit for those flying internationally as well, as it would be a lot quicker to get to O'Hare.

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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby Korh » January 21st, 2020, 10:30 pm

Didier wrote:
January 21st, 2020, 9:31 am
Not totally sure where to post this, but searching for keywords "St. Louis Chicago Rail" mostly pulled up this thread.

A few weeks ago family from the St. Louis area mentioned that the upgrade to supposed high-speed rail to Chicago still wasn't finished. I was initially skeptical, because I know that process has been going on forever, but a quick search found a handful of articles suggesting exactly that -- the process is basically creeping along very slowly with no real end date in sight.

What? How is that even possible? This was one of those corridors considered a low-hanging fruit, so if we can''t upgrade this line from 79 to 110 mph in 10 years, do we have any hope at all of ever developing a real rail network here? Seriously, what are we doing? Curious if there's some nuance I'm missing here or something.

This is the latest article I found about the delays.
Iirc the main hold up with the Chicago to St. Louis line has been because of some issues with PTC and they where supposed to get new cars that could better handle the speed but the original manufacturer ended up failing to make a car up to safety standards.
Assuming the NLX still gets built it might give a good indication for how long it would take to upgrade the line in MN since unless they reduced the top speed again it should have a section where it goes 90mph.
Maybe the project in Florida might speed the process up a bit since they plan on upgrading a good portion of track rated for 79mph for passenger cars up to 110 by 2022.

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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby WhoaCanyonero » May 5th, 2020, 12:30 pm

The FRA has granted $12.5 million to WISDOT for a second St. Paul to Chicago train. Link https://railroads.dot.gov/newsroom/pres ... ore-and-0

I don't know if more money and planning is necessary (see Walz's $10 million bonding request in previous reply), but this promising news for getting the second train up and running before century's end.

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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby Tcmetro » May 5th, 2020, 1:36 pm

I just looked at the 2015 feasibility study and the construction estimate is $95 million, $46 million of which is for equipment. Perhaps the equipment cost could be brought down by using locomotives and coaches that Amtrak will be retiring soon.

talindsay
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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby talindsay » May 5th, 2020, 3:51 pm

They'll probably soon be retiring the locomotives purchased contemporaneously with when the original second-train studies began, so they'll even be the same thing originally specified.

[edit to note this is wry humor, not a serious suggestion]

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Re: Amtrak Empire Builder and Intercity Rail to Chicago

Postby Silophant » May 15th, 2020, 7:21 am


twincitizen
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Re: Empire Builder

Postby twincitizen » May 15th, 2020, 10:03 am

mulad wrote:
August 19th, 2013, 11:23 am
The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel has an article on potential expansion with the "second Empire Builder" and Chicago-Milwaukee Hiawatha line. It implies that MnDOT has decided on running the second train to Minnesota as far as St. Cloud, apparently with an intermediate stop in Fridley -- does anyone know if they've actually decided on St. Cloud as the terminus yet?

Apparently 3 (round-?)trips may be added to to the Hiawatha. They would be express trips, running about 11 minutes faster (the article also claims they would be 90-mph vs. 79 for the regular Hiawatha, but that doesn't make a whole lot of sense).

http://www.jsonline.com/news/wisconsin/ ... 33441.html
I'm quoting a tweet from 2013 here, but was it ever concluded that the second train will be SPUD to Chicago? Has the idea of terminating in Fridley or St. Cloud been discarded years ago now? You'd think that could help win support of a couple more legislators and local business/lobbying groups. Even just going to Fridley would be more convenient than SPUD for like >40% of the metro population (entire north/northwest metro, NE/N Minneapolis, etc.) That said, I can see how it just isn't efficient in terms of operating costs.


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