As Amtrak, the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, approaches its golden anniversary in 2021, it is quite apparent that it has squandered opportunities to mature into a stable and useful transportation entity, given the plethora of internal issues that have historically crippled Amtrak operating under the federal umbrella as a state-owned enterprise. Adding to this position is the impact from a shortage of experienced senior management.
At a legislative hearing on Aug. 16, 2018, Gateway Program Development Corp Interim Executive Director John D. Porcari said, “There is no Plan B.” He was wrong. At the same hearing, this writer (as Chair of the Lackawanna Coalition, a New Jersey-based advocacy organization) outlined the “Plan B” that some rider-advocates had formulated and submitted, in the event that the entire $30 billion-plus Gateway program as currently proposed fails to attract sufficient funding. Porcari stuck to his story that the existing North River Tunnels are deteriorating so quickly that they constitute a disaster waiting to happen but, under his proposal, they would not be repaired until 2030 or some time shortly thereafter.
Around 1900, sharp operators in New York City would fleece tourists by offering to sell them the Brooklyn Bridge. The bridge, which still impresses and inspires New Yorkers and visitors today, was a marvel of its age and towered over everything else on the Manhattan or Brooklyn sides of the East River when it opened for service in 1883. Today, there are still people who have a bridge to sell us; two bridges, in fact. They want transit riders and taxpayers in New York and New Jersey to spend more than $3 billion to replace one bridge with two. They also say that replacing a two-track bridge with another two-track bridge will expand capacity sufficiently to qualify for a grant program established specifically for that purpose.
WATCHING WASHINGTON, JUNE 2019 – Here we go again with Amtrak. While complaining that host freight railroads unreasonably impair its legal right to passenger-train priority handling, Amtrak is employing thug-like tactics to escape federal law and extract greater rents and other concessions from commuter-train operators utilizing Amtrak infrastructure including track and stations.
RAILWAY AGE AT THE ALSTOM MANUFACTURING FACILITY, HORNELL, N.Y., JUNE 12, 2019: Alstom Transportation is building the next generation of high-speed trainsets for Amtrak‘s Northeast Corridor Acela Express service. The new equipment is scheduled to enter service sometime in 2021 between Washington, D.C. and Boston.
On June 6, the nation commemorated the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion of Normandy, a critical event along the path to victory in World War II. That day has been called “The Longest Day,” especially since the motion picture about the battle by that name was released in 1962. On June 7, hundreds of riders on Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited and Capitol Limited experienced what, to them, may have felt like one of their own longest days, at least in recent memory. That experience was a trip on Amtrak between Chicago and the East Coast.
The Midwest High Speed Rail Association (MHSRA) is celebrating funding commitments for new Amtrak routes and a new dedicated fund for transit projects in its home state of Illinois.
The Amtrak Board of Directors recently approved two leadership changes, as new-hire Tracie Winbigler has been tabbed to serve as the company’s Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, and Amtrak veteran Stephen Gardner has been named Chief Operating and Commercial Officer, a new title.
Amtrak recently unveiled plans for a $72.5 million program, Customer Now, which aims to “improve the customer experience at stations across the network.”
Failure to provide an effective mitigation method for a hazardous curve and inadequate training of a locomotive engineer is what led to the derailment of an Amtrak passenger train that hurtled off a railroad bridge and onto a busy highway in DuPont, Wash., on the morning of Dec. 18, 2017, according to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).