Author Topic: Amtrak expansion includes Jacksonville. Are we ready?  (Read 34864 times)

thelakelander

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Amtrak expansion includes Jacksonville. Are we ready?
« on: April 02, 2021, 07:59:14 AM »
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Amtrak has announced an ambitious plan that will expand its passenger rail operations in Florida. Is it time for Jacksonville's leaders to get serious about putting money behind a 20 year dream to bring passenger rail back to Downtown Jacksonville?


Read More: https://www.thejaxsonmag.com/article/amtrak-expansion-includes-jacksonville-are-we-ready/
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Charles Hunter

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Re: Amtrak expansion includes Jacksonville. Are we ready?
« Reply #1 on: April 02, 2021, 10:29:01 AM »
Yes - divert some of that U2C money to restoring Amtrak to downtown.

blizz01

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Re: Amtrak expansion includes Jacksonville. Are we ready?
« Reply #2 on: April 02, 2021, 10:51:01 AM »
I just want to go West. Hard to believe that there's zero rail service in Florida's state capitol too.

jaxlongtimer

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Re: Amtrak expansion includes Jacksonville. Are we ready?
« Reply #3 on: April 02, 2021, 01:13:06 PM »
I just want to go West. Hard to believe that there's zero rail service in Florida's state capitol too.

I found the interesting explanation below for no service from Jax to Pensacola and beyond in the comment section of this linked article:  http://www.northescambia.com/2021/03/amtrak-service-returning-next-year-to-the-gulf-coast-but-not-to-pensacola-or-atmore

Emphasis added.
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That’s not true. Amtrak made a survey of the rails through Pensacola on 2/19/2016 as part of a larger survey of 28 cities by the Southern Rail Commission. Federal Regulations require the railroads to undertake a great deal of expense and install positive train control, which is not installed between Pensacola and further east and south down to Orlando and Jacksonville (at least that was the case as of 2016). Following that, CSX sold the rail line between Pensacola and Jacksonville to a regional railroad concern – RailUSA – in mid-2019. I am only speculating here, but since RailUSA is not a Class 1 railroad (the largest size), I am guessing they will never be able to afford to upgrade to positive train control, nor do they desire to. This is probably the biggest reason Amtrak won’t be seen through Pensacola any time soon. The only thing that would probably change that is the railroad, state and/or federal government dumping a ton of money on improving the line and upgrading to positive train control. I’m guessing that will never happen.

acme54321

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Re: Amtrak expansion includes Jacksonville. Are we ready?
« Reply #4 on: April 02, 2021, 01:22:06 PM »
This is what I said in the other thread.  The line was sold to a class III.  It's 400 miles long and doesn't have a bunch of traffic.  The condition of the line isn't going to get better unless an outside entity funds it.

jaxlongtimer

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Re: Amtrak expansion includes Jacksonville. Are we ready?
« Reply #5 on: April 02, 2021, 02:50:13 PM »
^ In my experience, capitals (starting with Washington, DC) usually get superior infrastructure due to the "decision makers" living there wanting to take care of themselves above all others.  So, it would seem that Tallahassee could get this rail line and associated service in place if they wanted to.  Doesn't seem it would be that much of a reach politically speaking.  May just need someone to get eyes on it.

This might be a much better project ROI than building those west central Florida expressways for billions that almost no one asked for.

marcuscnelson

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Re: Amtrak expansion includes Jacksonville. Are we ready?
« Reply #6 on: April 02, 2021, 03:15:25 PM »
^ In my experience, capitals (starting with Washington, DC) usually get superior infrastructure due to the "decision makers" living there wanting to take care of themselves above all others.  So, it would seem that Tallahassee could get this rail line and associated service in place if they wanted to.  Doesn't seem it would be that much of a reach politically speaking.  May just need someone to get eyes on it.

This might be a much better project ROI than building those west central Florida expressways for billions that almost no one asked for.

Challenge seems to be that the "decision makers" here don't care about using rail to take care of themselves. DeSantis has a state private jet. Scott had his own private jet. Legislators are generally more concerned about building highways through their districts to satisfy their developer donors than rail through a place they only stay in 3-4 months out of the year. They probably could get a service, but there's likely zero interest in getting one.
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thelakelander

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jaxlongtimer

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Re: Amtrak expansion includes Jacksonville. Are we ready?
« Reply #8 on: April 02, 2021, 05:44:02 PM »
^ Ennis, this is behind a paywall.  We need you to please cut and paste the article.  Thanks!

Todd_Parker

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Re: Amtrak expansion includes Jacksonville. Are we ready?
« Reply #9 on: April 02, 2021, 05:51:05 PM »
Any estimates on cost and how much work would be needed to make the PO capable of handling passanger rail again? Does any track infrastructure exist around the location currently?

thelakelander

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Re: Amtrak expansion includes Jacksonville. Are we ready?
« Reply #10 on: April 02, 2021, 06:45:08 PM »
^ Ennis, this is behind a paywall.  We need you to please cut and paste the article.  Thanks!

I'd hate to cut and paste their entire article since that's how they survive, so here are a few parts. You can also see the article by signing up for a free account.

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The White House's latest attention to the nation's infrastructure needs could mean more rail lines expanding out from Central and South Florida’s metro areas.

But the renewed focus on investing in passenger rail service also has spawned optimism that a suspended train route through the Panhandle may soon roll again.

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But the hope is that securing more federal funding will eventually help Amtrak grow infrastructure out from hubs in Jacksonville, Miami, Orlando and Tampa as it seeks a partnership with the state to make it happen.

“To start service, you need adequate infrastructure and a way to pay to operate service,” Magliari said. “We’d like to engage Florida and other states to build on the existing network to run more lines.”

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There are still hurdles for restoring passenger rail to the Gulf Coast.

Ross said there are large swaths in mostly rural communities labeled “dark territory” where road crossing signals and positive train control systems raise safety concerns for operating passenger trains. The designation also limits a train’s speed to 59 mph, not ideal for passenger travel.

Additionally, the track's ownership is divided which would require both companies be engaged: CSX owns the line from New Orleans to Pensacola. In late 2018, the company sold the remaining 373 miles of track between Pensacola and Jacksonville to Florida Gulf and Atlantic Railroad, a subsidiary of Boca Raton-based Rail USA.

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He said there are several different ways to approach restoring train service to Tallahassee, including prospects of running a line between the capital city, Jacksonville and Orlando as a pilot that could lead to it being extended across the Panhandle. 

“What’s achievable? What can we do?” Ross said. “What we feel like is, if that is successful that will bring people to the table.”


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jaxlongtimer

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Re: Amtrak expansion includes Jacksonville. Are we ready?
« Reply #11 on: April 02, 2021, 07:16:47 PM »
^ Thanks, Ennis.  Agree about protecting the paper but it is impossible to pay everyone or register for one-off's.  FWIW, it looks like this paper is a sister to the Times Union of which I am a print subscriber so the overall company has my support  8).

I note that it appears the Wall St. Journal does let paid subscribers email articles to others at no charge.  It's a great way to promote the paper and maybe attract additional subscribers. Short of that, the one-offs are still eyeballs the papers can hit advertisers for.

I wish locally intense sites like papers could find a way to discriminate based on the locations of IP addresses so maybe locals pay and the rarely visiting far away readers can visit more freely.  Just a thought.

thelakelander

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Re: Amtrak expansion includes Jacksonville. Are we ready?
« Reply #12 on: April 02, 2021, 09:05:29 PM »
^I agree it was a pain, but I did register by phone to read that one article. It's crazy to see so many media outlets talking about the Amtrak plan and what it may mean for their community, but the whole thing has been crickets locally.

Cleveland seems to be in a similar boat to Jax. They currently get 4 trains a day. According to their coverage of the Amtrak expansion plan, they'd go from 4 to 22 trains per day. Locally they are talking about brining Amtrak back to their old downtown terminal as well. I'd like to see Jax start to have these types of discussions. I doubt we'll ever see commuter rail anytime soon but a Pacific Surfliner type service in Florida could open the door for satellite stations in the region, making the system a potential commuting option between the burbs and downtown.

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CLEVELAND, Ohio — Amtrak is planning a major expansion of passenger rail service through Cleveland and Ohio, part of the massive infrastructure investment outlined by President Joseph R. Biden this week.

If implemented, passenger rail service through Cleveland could jump from the current four trains per day to 22, according to All Aboard Ohio, a lobbying group that advocates for expanded train service in the state.

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Despite his optimism, Nicholson cautions against impatience – any plan to bring new Amtrak service through Ohio will take years, even after initial funding is approved.

In many cases, communities – including Columbus – will have to rebuild train stations. Tracks and other infrastructure will have to be upgraded, as well, he said.

Cleveland, he said, may want to consider whether it should keep its passenger train station along the lakefront, near FirstEnergy Stadium, or possibly relocate it back to Terminal Tower, which last hosted passenger trains in the mid-1970s.

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Another possibility being floated for Northeast Ohio: The addition of an Amtrak stop at or near Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.

Ken Prendergast, public affairs director for All Aboard Ohio, said Amtrak brought up the idea of a multimodal stop near the airport during a February meeting with the organization and city officials. The stop would connect train passengers from across the region with air service options.

Nicholson said he’s thrilled with the possibilities. “I know there will be people out there who call this just another boondoggle,” he said. “This isn’t. This is a serious national transportation plan.”

https://www.cleveland.com/business/2021/04/major-amtrak-expansion-in-cleveland-and-ohio-included-in-biden-infrastructure-plan.html#:~:text=Major%20Amtrak%20expansion%20in%20Cleveland%20and%20Ohio%20included%20in%20Biden%20infrastructure%20plan,-Updated%20Apr%2001&text=CLEVELAND%2C%20Ohio%20%E2%80%94%20Amtrak%20is%20planning,Joseph%20R.%20Biden%20this%20week.
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marcuscnelson

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Re: Amtrak expansion includes Jacksonville. Are we ready?
« Reply #13 on: April 05, 2021, 08:30:48 AM »
The Times-Union finally cross-posted the article.

https://www.jacksonville.com/story/news/2021/04/02/biden-infrastructure-rail-train-amtrak-florida-tallahassee-pensacola-jacksonville-system-map/4838310001/

Any estimates on cost and how much work would be needed to make the PO capable of handling passanger rail again? Does any track infrastructure exist around the location currently?

I looked but didn't find any specific estimate for the terminal design proposed in 2004. It's also unclear whether any further work with Amtrak has occurred since then. Right now, all that really exists are the rotting, half-century old remains of a few platforms, and the FEC's connection to the rest of the country passing by at the edge of the ROW.

Seeing as this concept from MJ largely centers the cost as being platform, canopy, and track construction, all of which are relatively cheap. Going as far as building high-level platforms would only cost in the single-digit millions, based on projects in other cities. Track is about ~$3 million a mile, and building enough to connect the platforms to the existing rail lines (and build the turn onto the CSX line south) shouldn't be more than 2 miles or so. Covered walkways are cheap, and everything else is just a building out of the existing terminal building. Something in the neighborhood of ~$20 million should be more than enough to make it happen.

The only downside I see is that it might be considered a problem for Brightline to only have one side of a platform coming up from South Florida. But seeing as we haven't made a ton of progress towards commuter/regional rail anyway, it might make more sense to just build the closest 4 tracks & platforms to the building and leave everything beyond that to future expansion.
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bl8jaxnative

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Re: Amtrak expansion includes Jacksonville. Are we ready?
« Reply #14 on: April 14, 2021, 12:39:38 PM »

a) I have not seen anything from Amtrak committing to spending more money on long distance trains.    Any expansions of trains services would be for state funded trains.  That means state government's ponying up $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ to subsidize the trains.  Amtrak - being a corporation - gets to count those subsidies as "revenue".

b) Any increase in service for L-D trains is going to have problems with congestion on east coast mainlines, especially around DC and, down here,  the Folkston Funnel.  I'd imagine there's some others. 

Keep in mind, capacity expansion will chew through that capital very, very, very fast.  For example, Illinois + feds spent ~$2billion for Amtrak's Chi-STL train to improve tracks.  While it helped keep things running, it hasn't been enough to add trains nor run them faster.  The goals still is, someday, 110mph.