A Hard Sell and a Long Shot

In October, I reported on three events that took place within three days, all of which concerned the possibility of more Amtrak-operated state-supported trains in the Midwest. The events are now over,

STB Schedules Hearings on Three ‘Significant’ Matters

The Surface Transportation Board (STB) in first-quarter 2022 will hold public hearings on three “significant” pending matters: CSX’s merger application to acquire Pan Am Systems, Amtrak’s application to operate Gulf Coast service, and proposed reciprocal switching regulations.

Starting Nov. 18, 2021, a total of eight trains—including Amtrak Cascades and Coast Starlight—will use the Point Defiance Bypass between Seattle, Wash., and Portland, Ore., each day “with additional trains added in the months ahead as COVID restrictions ease,” Amtrak said. In addition, operations in Tacoma, Wash., will move to the new Tacoma Dome Station (pictured), near Sound Transit’s Sounder commuter rail and light rail stations on East 25th Street.

Amtrak Service Returning to Point Defiance Bypass

Amtrak will resume Cascades service on the Point Defiance Bypass between Seattle, Wash., and Portland, Ore., on Nov. 18, nearly four years after an overspeed derailment stopped service there.

More than 300 people rode Amtrak’s Gulf Coast Inspection Train (pictured) from New Orleans to Jacksonville, Fla., in February 2016, as part of an ongoing effort to restore passenger rail service along the Gulf Coast, which was disrupted by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and never resumed. (Marc Glucksman, Amtrak)

CSX, NS to STB: Deny Gulf Coast Service If No Infra Improvements (Updated)

Gulf Coast service would “impair unreasonably” freight operations unless Amtrak agrees to fund improvements necessary to support its proposal, host freight railroads CSX and Norfolk Southern wrote in a joint filing to the Surface Transportation Board (STB) on Nov. 3.

MTA Metro-North Railroad President Catherine Rinaldi (pictured, center) helped unveil the $95 million White Plains, N.Y., station renewal project on Nov. 1. (Marc A. Hermann / MTA)

Transit Briefs: Amtrak, Metra, MTA Metro-North, Trinity Metro

Amtrak is introducing new ticket kiosks. In addition, Chicago’s Metra has broken ground on the Peterson Ridge Station; MTA Metro-North Railroad has completed a $95 million renewal of its White Plains, N.Y., station; and Texas’ Trinity Metro has appointed Paul J. Ballard interim President and CEO.

Amtrak, NABTU Sign Workforce MOU

Amtrak and North America’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU) have signed a workforce MOU that promotes a “pipeline of U.S. union construction workers to build and expand” passenger rail, they reported on Oct. 28.

Amtrak Arbitration Amputation Attempt

House Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials Chair Donald M. Payne Jr. (D-N.J.), with Reps. Conor Lamb (D-Pa.) and Committee Vice Chair Marilyn Strickland (D-Wash.) on Oct. 27 introduced the “Ending Passenger Rail Forced Arbitration Act” (EPRFAA), the purpose of which is “to give customers the right to sue Amtrak to resolve disputes” by “eliminating the current arbitration clause for dispute resolution that passengers are forced to accept when they purchase an Amtrak ticket.”

Pictured: NTSB Vice Chairman Bruce Landsberg at the scene of the Amtrak derailment near Joplin, Mont. (Photograph: Courtesy of NTSB, Sept. 26)

NTSB Issues Preliminary Report on Amtrak Empire Builder Derailment (UPDATED)

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has released a preliminary report on its investigation into the Sept. 25 derailment of Amtrak’s Empire Builder train 7/27 near Joplin, Mont.

President Joe Biden on Oct. 25 attended a groundbreaking ceremony for the new Portal North Bridge in New Jersey. (Photo Courtesy of Craig J. Coughlin, Speaker of the New Jersey General Assembly, via Twitter)

President Biden Joins in Portal North Bridge Groundbreaking Ceremony

President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. on Oct. 25 helped mark the official start of Portal North Bridge construction in New Jersey.

UTA on Oct. 25 is celebrating the grand opening of the Salt Lake City International Airport station on the TRAX Green Line. (Photo Courtesy of Mike Christensen, Executive Director, Utah Rail Passengers Association, via Twitter)

Transit Briefs: Amtrak/PennDOT; MTA Metro-North; Metrolinx; UTA

Construction of a new Coatesville, Pa., station, serving Amtrak’s Keystone Corridor and Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), will soon be under way. In addition, MTA Metro-North Railroad has launched the TrainTime app for Apple Watch; Toronto-area regional transit agency Metrolinx is running a contactless payment option pilot on UP Express; and Utah Transit Authority’s (UTA) TRAX light rail now stops at the Salt Lake City airport.