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Rail News: Amtrak

Amtrak organizes panel to study Chicago rail gridlock


Amtrak announced yesterday it is establishing the Chicago Gateway Initiative, a blue ribbon panel of rail and transportation leaders that will address the rail congestion in and around Chicago that's causing major delays for Amtrak and freight trains.

Initiative members include Jack Quinn, a former U.S. congressman who served on the House railroads subcommittee; Linda Morgan, the former Surface Transportation Board chair; and Tom Carper, an Amtrak board member and past chairman.

Representatives from the freight railroads that operate in Chicago and other stakeholders will be invited to participate in panel activities and will be key to implementing recommended solutions, Amtrak officials said in a press release.

The panel will be charged with identifying and evaluating infrastructure investments and operational actions that will optimize Amtrak's on-time performance and improve freight-rail service. Objectives include finding ways to minimize disruptions and delays, as well as accelerate construction of infrastructure projects. Final recommendations will be expected by the end of May 2015.

"The rail gridlock in Chicago is causing unacceptable delays for Amtrak passengers while reducing revenues and driving up [our] operating costs," said Amtrak President and Chief Executive Officer Joe Boardman.

Amtrak officials attribute the Chicago-area congestion to a combination of rising demand on the East Coast for more intermodal and freight, and crude oil shipments that originate west of Chicago, as well as "underinvestment" in critical rail infrastructure and short-term capital projects that create additional temporary bottlenecks.