You are here

Intercity Passenger Rail

Niagara Falls train station promises better access, greater mobility

When is a train station not just a train station? Ask the people who gathered Monday to celebrate the groundbreaking for the third and final phase of the Niagara Falls International Railway Station and Intermodal Transportation Center, and you could get a wide range of answers:

When it represents a wide range of partners coming together and cooperating to get a needed project off the ground. When it increases the transportation options available to local residents as well as international tourists. When it stimulates economic development. And when it also houses U.S. Customs operations for the Department of Homeland Security as well as a museum celebrating the rich history of the Underground Railroad.

And they would all be correct. In addition to the Customs inspection center and the Underground Railroad museum, the new station will offer a more convenient downtown location, upgraded tracks and signals, dedicated passenger rail siding to eliminate conflicts with freight traffic, and improved passenger rail platforms. The LEED Silver passenger rail terminal building will also accommodate multi-modal operations like bus, taxi, and park-and-ride services, making it a true transportation hub for the region...

Rendering of the proposed Niagara Falls, N.Y., rail station

On National Train Day, celebrating a mode on the move

It's quite a week for the transportation world. In addition to National Transportation Week and Infrastructure Week, last Saturday, at stations across the country, passenger rail fans across the country celebrated the 7th annual National Train Day, an opportunity to appreciate a mode of transportation that makes a real difference to many towns, communities, and people from coast to coast.

National Train Day banner image

Passenger train ridership has increased more than 50% since 2000. In fact, Amtrak has now set annual ridership records in 10 out of the last 11 years. As Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph C. Szabo told the National Train Day crowd at Portland Oregon's Union Station, "Travelers today have choices –and they're choosing trains in record numbers."

Not that long ago, in regional markets like Portland-Seattle and New York-Washington, DC, inter-city travelers chose air over rail. But today those numbers are reversed. In 2012, 69 percent of travelers between Portland and Seattle chose rail. And between New York and Washington, Amtrak now carries three times as many passengers as all the airlines put together...

GROW AMERICA keeps rail passengers moving forward

Last Tuesday, it was a privilege to be able to send Congress the GROW AMERICA transportation bill, our comprehensive plan to create millions of good new jobs building the transportation system America will need to remain competitive in today’s economy. And it was an honor to cap the day by addressing the National Association of Rail Passengers (NARP) annual citizen advocacy event, "NARP Day on the Hill."

NARP members know as well I do that America will be home to 100 million more people by 2050, so we need to make sure we give people as many transportation options as possible – including rail.

Amtrak and American jobs rolling forward with new locomotives

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of riding Amtrak from Washington, DC, to Philadelphia with the president of the Amtrak Fan Club. Of course, that title is unofficial and it comes with very few responsibilities because Amtrak's number one fan, Joe Biden, is already very busy as our nation's Vice President.

As Vice President Biden knows, it’s a good time to be in the Amtrak fan club. And it's not just because Amtrak has broken ridership record for ten of the past eleven years, reaching nearly 32 million riders in 2013.

It's because yesterday in Philadelphia--thanks to DOT support--Amtrak put into service the largest fleet of new electric locomotives built in the United States since World War II.

Photo of V.P. Biden and Secretary Foxx in the cab of the new Amtrak locomotive; photo courtesy Phildelphia Inquirer, Tom Gralish
Photo courtesy Philadelphia Inquirer, Tom Gralish

Missouri Railroad Bridge Completed Early, Under Budget

In preparation for another record Thanksgiving holiday week, Amtrak is running every available passenger rail car in its fleet, while adding additional service in the Northeast Corridor, the Chicago hub, the Pacific Northwest, and in California.

This is hardly a surprise.  As I wrote on this blog recently, Amtrak has set annual ridership records in 10 out of the last 11 years, fueled by a growing demand in more than 500 communities nationwide.  That includes Missouri, where Amtrak’s Missouri River Runner – operating on a 238-mile rail line serving eight cities between St. Louis and Kansas City – has set six consecutive annual ridership records. 

Photo of F.R.A. Administrator Joe Szabo at the rail bridge opening
FRA Administrator Joe Szabo; photo courtesy Cathy Morrison, Missouri Department of Transportation.

Yesterday, in Osage City, I joined Missouri DOT, Union Pacific, and Amtrak at a ribbon cutting for a new railroad bridge that will eliminate the rail line’s last chokepoint between Jefferson City and St. Louis. And in addition to benefiting four daily passenger trains, the new railroad bridge also reduces delays for 60 daily freight trains, which is great news for Missouri’s farmers, manufacturers, and businesses...

Amtrak ridership breaks 10th record in 11 years

You might have noticed that a number of my recent blog posts have reached a similar conclusion:  that rail deserves a predictable and reliable federal funding stream.  The most recent news supporting this comes from Amtrak, which recently announced their 10th annual ridership record in 11 years.  Amtrak carried 31.6 million passengers in Fiscal Year 2013.  And as you can see from this chart below, the railroad’s ridership has grown more than 50 percent since 2000.

New Amtrak locomotives in rigorous testing

DOT's Transportation Technology Center puts American-made Cities Sprinter through its paces

In May, the first of Amtrak's new fleet of electric locomotives, called Cities Sprinters, rolled out of the Siemens plant in Sacramento. They were manufactured in America by Americans, and they featured parts and materials from more than 70 different American suppliers in 60 different U.S. cities. They are faster, more reliable, more sustainable, and easier to maintain  than the locomotives they'll replace.

And, at the DOT Transportation Technology Center (TTC) in Pueblo, Colorado, the Federal Railroad Administration is making sure that they are--first and foremost--safe.

Photo of Amtrak Cities Sprinter on test track as observers watch

DOT using innovative financing to move passenger rail forward

In cities and towns across the country, rail investments lead to more jobs, increased private sector buy-in, and better infrastructure for everyone. It’s a true win-win-win situation. And to fully realize the potential for rail in America, we must continue investing federal resources and leveraging them with our public and private sector partners.

That's the essence of what I said at a House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure hearing on Innovative Rail Financing earlier this week. Funding the passenger rail investments America needs is an important challenge; fortunately DOT has a lot to build on.

Photo of new Amtrak Cities Sprinter locomotive built by Siemens in the U.S.

U.S. Transportation Deputy Secretary Porcari Announces $120 Million for Connecticut to Increase Train Service and Improve Travel Times

U.S. Transportation Deputy Secretary John Porcari today announced that the state of Connecticut will receive $120 million in High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail program funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation to complete construction on the Hartford segment of the New Haven to Springfield, Mass. passenger rail corridor.  Once the project is complete in 2016, 11 additional round-trip trains will travel between Hartford and New Haven, for a total of 17 trains traveling the line, compared to six today.

News Digest

  • U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary LaHood Awards $400,000 to Develop Hybrid Road Locomotive Technologies. 
  • U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary LaHood Awards more than $400,000 to Improve Track Safety 
  • MassDOT Receives $2.7 Million to Improve Freight and Passenger Service
Subscribe to RSS - Intercity Passenger Rail