VERMONT: Amtrak service on the eastern side of Vermont would double to two round-trips daily if the state legislature approves a service demonstration that includes $17.5 million to purchase five new diesel multiple unit (DMU) railcars. A Joint House Resolution (JRH 17) to purchase the railcars is now in the Senate Transportation Committee. The fleet to be purchased by the state includes three self-propelled cars and two passenger cars. The cars would be built by Colorado Railcar and would each have the capacity to carry 60 passengers. Assuming an agreement is worked out with Amtrak to operate the trains, the new service could begin in January 2009.

CALIFORNIA: Amtrak ridership continues to rise in California. In the first four months of this fiscal year (Oct. 2006-January 2007), ridership and revenues rose as follows:

Pacific Surfliner Service: Nearly 819,000 passengers rode the Surfliner trains in the first four months of this fiscal year, up 2% over the same period last year and ticket revenues were up 11%;

Capitol Corridor Service: Over 465,000 riders rode the Capitol Corridor trains In the first four months of this fiscal year, up 11% over last year and ticket revenues rose 18%.

San Joaquin Service: Ridership was down slightly on the popular San Joaquin Service due to track construction work that has been taking place.

BOSTON-WASHINGTON D.C. NORTHEAST CORRIDOR: Ridership on the Acela Express service was up significantly in the first four months of fiscal year 2007. Ridership exceeded 1 million (note: this does not include Acela Regional service, only the high-speed service), up 20% over the same period last year and ticket revenues rose 22%. Over the last few months, Amtrak assumed maintenance responsibility for the Acela Expess trains (taking over from manufacturer Bombardier), upgraded meal service and completed track and signal improvements.

ILLINOIS: The state of Illinois doubled its investment in Amtrak service in the state which led to increased ridership on key corridors. The results in the first four months of fiscal year 2007 show increased ridership and revenues with big gains on some corridors. “These numbers demonstrate the demand for Amtrak in Illinois and tell us we did the right thing when we doubled state support for passenger rail,” stated Governor Blagojevich.

Chicago –St. Louis: Ridership is up 2% over the same period last year and ticket revenues also rose. Train frequencies rose from 6 to 10 daily trains.

Chicago-Carbondale: Ridership increased 35% on this corridor and ticket revenues also rose. The number of trains rose from 4 to 6 daily.

Chicago-Galesburg: Ridership increased 25% on this corridor and ticket revenues also rose. Train frequencies increased from 6 to 8 daily.

WASHINGTON STATE: Ridership on the Cascades trains topped 200,000 in the first four months of FY 2007, an increase of 5% over the same period last year and ticket revenues were up 18%.

Amtrak ridership continues its upward climb in the state of California, as travellers and commuters seeking sound alternatives to highway congestion and high gasoline prices. California has been a strong partner with Amtrak, investing substantial state funds to improve the quality, frequency and speed of intercity passenger rail service. The results show: ridership has steadily risen and exceeded 4.5 million in FY 2005 on the three state-supported rail corridors.

  • San Joaquin Corridor: Ridership on the San Joaquin corridor, that operates between Sacramento-Oakland-Bakersfield, was 755,861 in FY 2005. It has grown since then. Ridership was up 4% in July 2006 over the same period last year.
  • Pacific Surfliner Corridor: Ridership on the San Diego-Los Angeles-Santa Barbara Pacific Surfliner corridor was over 2.5 million in FY 2005, up 7% from the prior year. Ridership continues to grow: the service had record ridership of 703,857 in the 3rd quarter of this fiscal year (April-June) and July, ridership was up 4% over July 2005.
  • Capitol Corridor: Ridership on the Sacramento-Oakland-San Jose Corridor totaled 1.26 million in FY 2005, up 8% from the year before. And, service was recently expanded again: six new round-trip weekday trains started operating between Oakland and San Jose, following completion of $72 million invested by Amtrak in upgraded infrastructure. An additional two round-trips are planned in the future between San Jose and Oakland.

Oklahoma and Missouri
The Tulsa City Council approved a resolution asking Amtrak to study extending passenger rail service to Tulsa, Oklahoma’s second largest city and the nation’s 5th largest metropolitan area without Amtrak service. About 10 years ago, Amtrak studied service between Tulsa and St. Louis but didn’t pursue it due to cost factors. In June, the Missouri Department of Transportation met with Amtrak to discuss extending service along the I-44 Corridor between St. Louis and Springfield. The service could then be extended to Tulsa. Amtrak is currently evaluating the Missouri DOT request.

The Portland-Boston Downeaster rail service has been a great success since its inception. More than $15 million in new business sales in Maine and New Hampshire can be attributed to the Downeaster service, according to Maine Dept. of Transportation. The rail service supports over 200 jobs and nearly $5 million in wages. By the year 2015, total benefits may exceed $100 million/year. Ridership and revenues in May 2006 rose dramatically over May 2005: ridership rose 22% to 27,158 riders and revenues jumped 26% to nearly $350,000. For more information about rail service in Maine, visit: www.trainridersne.org.

The Illinois FY 2007 state budget, signed by Governor Blagojevich, doubles the state’s commitment to Amtrak rail service in the state. Funding will increase to $24 million in FY 2007, up from $12.1 million currently. The state plans to add one more frequency to both the Chicago-Carbondale and Chicago-Quincy route and two more frequencies to the Chicago-St. Louis route. The funding increase represents the first time in more than a decade that a Midwest state expanded Amtrak service and puts Illinois second only to California in state-supported Amtrak service. Signing the budget, Governor Blagojevich stated, “I’m proud we were able to keep our commitment to maintaining passenger rail over the last three years. And now this year, we were able to increase funding.” State Senator Jeff Schoenberg (D-Evanston), lead sponsor of the measure, stated, “When it comes to passenger rail, Illinois is no longer the Little Engine that Could.” U.S. Senator Richard Durbin played a key role in helping the state to achieve this. Amtrak ridership in Illinois has been growing: the state-supported Illini, Illinois Zephyr and State House, as well as the Chicago-Milwaukee Hiawatha service, all recorded ridership gains in the first five months of FY 2006, on top of strong gains in FY 2005.

In February 2006, the Ohio Rail Development Commission embarked upon two major studies that will advance the Ohio Hub Plan to improve and expand passenger rail service and increase rail freight capacity. One study will analyze the potential statewide economic impacts of the Ohio Hub Plan and update the preliminary economic projections that were in the initial Ohio Hub report (6,000+ construction jobs; 1,500 permanent railroad jobs; $1 billion increase in property values and $28 million in new tax revenues). The other study will examine the addition of two new routes to the Master Plan. For more information on Ohio passenger rail, visit: www.allaboardohio.org.

New York State
At the end of December 2005, New York State Dept. of Transportation released “Transportation Strategies for a New Age: New York’s Transportation Plan for 2030.” The Master Plan report is designed to create a more seamless, customer-friendly statewide transportation network. In the section on passenger rail, the Master Plan notes that rail ridership on the New York-Albany-Buffalo Empire Corridor has increased 26% since 1995 to nearly 1.2 million passengers in FY 2005. The Master Plan includes discussion of strategies to improve passenger rail transportation in both upstate and downstate New York. In another development, the New York State Senate High Speed Rail Task Force issued its Action Program for incremental upgrades to the Empire Corridor. For further information on New York State passenger rail, visit: www.esparail.org.

Chicago-Seattle/Portland "Empire Builder"
Amtrak’s Empire Builder service that travels along the country’s northern tier from Chicago to Seattle and Portland has the highest ridership of any of Amtrak’s fifteen long-distance trains. In August 2005, the service celebrated a relaunch with improved service quality and refurbished rail equipment. Ridership in FY 2005 reached 476,531. A study conducted for the Montana Dept. of Transportation documents the significant economic value the Empire Builder provides for cities and communities in the state (see below).

Virginia Establishes Dedicated Source of Funding for Rail
For the first time in Virginia’s history, legislation was signed into law by Governor Mark Warner on June 17, 2005, creating a dedicated source of funding for rail investments. The legislation, which becomes effective July 1, 2005, creates a Rail Enhancement Fund that will provide $23 million annually for investments in intercity, passenger, commuter and freight rail throughout the state. Use of the funds will require a matching contribution of at least 30% which must come from non-state sources such as local government, regional authorities or freight railroads. First proposed as part of Governor Warner’s Transportation Partnership Act of 2005 and championed by Delegate Joe May, the Rail Enhancement Fund legislation passed the General Assembly with strong bipartisan support. Projects will be selected by the Commonwealth Transportation Board based on the recommendations of a newly created Rail Advisory Board. Signing the legislation into law, Governor Mark Warner stated, “People have been talking for years about the critical need for us to reinvest in rail. Today, we are putting money behind the promise with a predictable, stable funding source for improvements to our rail infrastructure.”

Milwaukee Opens New Air-Rail Terminal at General Mitchell International Airport
On January 18, air-rail intermodalism took an important step forward. Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle, U.S. Senator Herbert Kohl, Amtrak Vice President Barbara Richardson, state and local dignitaries dedicated a $6.8 million new rail terminal at the Milwaukee County General Mitchell International Airport. The station will serve rail passengers connecting to the airport along with rail only passengers utilizing Amtrak’s Hiawatha Service that provides 7 round-trips daily between Chicago and Milwaukee. A free bus shuttle service, funded by the County and the airport, connects the airport and rail station. “Today as we open this new passenger rail facility, we’re also opening a new chapter in Wisconsin’s interconnected transportation and a new doorway to new economic opportunities that will benefit the entire state,” stated Governor Jim Doyle. Governor Doyle commended Senator Kohl for his success in getting federal funds for the new facility. The new air-rail terminal is based on the successful model that operates at BWI International Airport in the Washington DC-Baltimore region. Ridership on Amtrak’s Hiawatha Service continues to increase and offers the best on-time performance of any of Amtrak’s routes.

Montana Finds Rail Delivers Significant Economic Benefits to the State
A study commissioned by the Montana Department of Transportation found that Amtrak’s Empire Builder service that travels across the northern tier of the U.S. from Chicago to Seattle provides significant economic benefits to Montana. The study found that the Empire Builder provides an essential and valued transportation service for Montana residents, generates $7.6 million annually in transportation benefits to the state, brings out-of-state residents to visit Glacier National Park and other areas of the state, generates significant state and local tax revenues by non-resident Empire Builder passengers and other benefits.

Southeast High Speed Rail Corridor
A Tier II Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Petersburg, VA to Raleigh, NC segment of the Southeast High Speed Rail Corridor is underway and expected to be completed in the Fall 2004. Public hearings on the EIS are planned for November-December 2004. The states of North Carolina and Virginia, the Federal Railroad Administration and Federal Highway Administration completed the first part of the two-tier environmental study for the Washington DC-Charlotte, NC portion of the Corridor. The Tier I study examined the need for the project and potential impacts on the natural and man-made environments for nine possible routes. High speed rail in the Southeast is being developed incrementally, with the rail service to attain top rail speeds of 110 mph and average speeds of 85-87 mph.

Boston to Montreal High Speed Rail Corridor Study
The Federal Railroad Administration has approved a Boston-Montreal High Speed Rail Study, Phase II Scope of Work. Federal funding for Phase II was secured in 2003. The states of Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts will provide the local match. Phase II is expected to move forward by summer 2004 when the local shares of funding from the three states have been committed. Vermont and Massachusetts have committed funds; funds from New Hampshire await the outcome of a challenge now in court on whether state highway funds can be used for this purpose. The Corridor is about 325 miles long and utilizes existing right-of-way from Boston to Nashua, NH to Montpelier, VT and north to Montreal. Phase I examined institutional and infrastructure issues, including the integration of passenger with freight rail operations, stations and other issues.

Wisconsin: Milwaukee to Madison High Speed Rail Environmental Assessment
Wisconsin DOT and Amtrak, in cooperation with the Federal Railroad Administration and input from two regional freight railroads, completed an environmental assessment on the proposal to return passenger rail service between Milwaukee and Madison, an 85-mile corridor. The goal is to achieve top speeds of 110 mph. The EIS evaluated potential station locations and locations were recommended. The service is projected to begin with 6 roundtrips daily and increase to 10 roundtrips. The Milwaukee-Madison rail link is part of the larger nine-state Midwest Regional Rail Service. The EIS found no significant environmental impacts are expected. Also in Wisconsin, a new Amtrak rail station at the Milwaukee airport that will open in the months ahead will provide an important air-rail connection for travelers. Separately, a Milwaukee Intermodal Terminal in downtown Milwaukee is under development. The $5.4 million public-private partnership will rehabilitate the existing station and convert it into a multi-modal facility serving intercity passenger trains, intercity and regional buses, local transit, taxis and limousines. The State of Wisconsin signed a contract with the Milwaukee Intermodal Partnership to remodel, redevelop and manage the intermodal facility. The new facility is expected to open by mid-2005.

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