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Rail News: Amtrak

Amtrak seeks federal grant for Chicago Union Station project; speeds up Acela trains

Each year, Chicago Union Station hosts nearly 20,000 trains and serves more than 3.3 million riders.
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Amtrak is applying for a federal grant to help fund Chicago Union Station upgrades as part of a larger series of projects aimed at improving routes into and out of Chicago.

"The project would create new ways of accessing Chicago and Union Station in a more reliable, time-efficient manner," according to Amtrak's grant application. 

Each year, Chicago Union Station hosts nearly 20,000 trains and serves more than 3.3 million riders.

If funded, the project's estimated investment would total $850 million. In addition to Amtrak and the federal government, funding partners would include the Chicago Department of Transportation (DOT), Cook County, Illinois DOT, Michigan DOT and Metra.

"This is huge news, with implications far beyond Chicago," High-Speed Rail Alliance leaders said in a June 13 blog post, noting that the proposal calls for things the alliance has supported for some time.

"The upgrades, if funded, would improve train travel not only in the city, but across America," they said.

Station improvements, according to the alliance, would include:

• removing walls and other barriers in the station concourse to improve traffic flow;

• new express escalators from the concourse to street level to reduce crowding;

• widening the BNSF Railway Co. line platforms to reduce overcrowding on the platforms during rush hours;

• rebuilding the former mail platforms to allow through-running and level boarding; and

• improving ventilation to remove diesel exhaust from platform areas.

Moreover, Amtrak is proposing a group of projects to make use of the St. Charles Air Line, which is a half-mile stretch of track south of the station.

"Through-running at Union Station and improvements to the St. Charles Air Line open up a variety of new routing options," alliance leaders wrote.

The blog post can be read here, and Amtrak's grant document here.

Meanwhile, Amtrak announced yesterday it is increasing Acela train speed in New Jersey, as recent infrastructure improvements along a 16-mile segment of track between New Brunswick and South Brunswick can accommodate speeds of up to 150 mph. 

The project is part of the New Jersey High-Speed Rail Improvement program and a $450 million investment by the U.S. Department of Transportation. It is the first of many speed upgrades anticipated in the Northeast Corridor that lays the framework for future trip-time reduction and improves service reliability, Amtrak officials said in a press release.

The recently completed improvements included installation of new signal power cables, new catenary supports and wire renewal, installation of high-speed turnouts and renewed power substations. An additional 8 miles of catenary between South Brunswick and Trenton, New Jersey, are also being upgraded, with completion and speed increases expected in 2024, Amtrak officials said.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 6/15/2022