Ernesto lays tracks
For Florida peninsula
Tropical storm Ernesto churned over mountainous parts of Cuba on Monday, but its future path remained unclear, although it appeared to be headed toward Florida after skirting along Cuba’s north coast.
It had diminished to a tropical storm, but was expected to reintensify overnight. At about 5:00 p.m. it was moving northwest at 13 mph with winds up to 40 mph.
The National Weather Service’s Hurricane Center in Miami issued tropical storm Ernesto advisory No. 17 at 5:00 p.m.
A tropical storm warning was issued for Florida from Vero Beach southward on the east coast, from south of Chokoloskee southward on the West Coast, for Lake Okeechobee, and for all of the Florida Keys from Ocean Reef to the Dry Tortugas.
All those places also remained under a hurricane watch, as did the Bahamas.
Amtrak told American Railroads on Monday that two Florida service trains from New York would terminate in Orlando instead of Miami on Tuesday.
Media Relation director Cliff Black said southbound “No. 91 and No. 97, departing New York on Monday will terminate in Orlando, with bus service to Tampa (and Kissimmee).”
Those trains’ names are “Silver Star” and “Silver Meteor.”
He said Tuesday’s northward counterparts, “No. 92 and No. 98, will operate from Miami, but we understand CSX will be shutting down the railroad in South Florida shortly after those two trains pass northward.”
In a late afternoon press release on Monday, Amtrak stated The Auto Train, No. 53 originating in Lorton, Va., and Palmetto train 89, originating in New York, would operate as scheduled today to Sanford, Fla., and Savannah, Ga.
The carrier added that on August 29, the Silver Star, train 91 and Silver Meteor, train 97, would terminate in Orlando.
“No alternate transportation will be provided south of Orlando,” Amtrak stated.
Northbound Silver Star train 92 and Silver Meteor train 98 will operate as scheduled from Miami to New York.
On August 30, Silver Star train 92 and Silver Meteor train 98 will originate in Orlando.
“Currently, Amtrak does not plan to provide alternate transportation connecting from points south of Orlando for these two trains.”
CSXT stated in a service advisory issued Monday afternoon that Ernesto “is projected to strike southern Florida overnight on August 29-30.”
The railroad stated it has “plans in place to discontinue freight service northbound out of the Miami area, including the Miami and Homestead subdivisions, at noon on Tuesday, August 29. At that time, all service inbound or outbound from Miami will be discontinued.”
The freight hauler added that” Service out of CSXT’s Auburndale Sub will be discontinued at 8:00 p.m. on August 29. Signal crews will proceed along those routes securing rail signals and rail crossing gates in advance of the storm.”
Service north of Auburndale – in Lakeland, Tampa and Orlando – “will continue as normal until further notice.”
CSX added, “Tri-Rail commuter service will not operate Tuesday and until further notice.”
Amtrak passenger trains will depart as scheduled from South Florida early Tuesday morning, and then service will be discontinued from the Miami area. Southbound Amtrak trains will terminate in Orlando on Wednesday.
CSXT stated it is “currently staging equipment and supplies, including ballast and generators, outside the immediate storm area to aid in restoration of its network after the storm passes. Inspections of the network will begin as soon as weather conditions permit.”
Florida East Coast had not published their hurricane plans by the time AR went to bed at 8:00 p.m. Monday.
At 5:00 p.m. EDT, the storm center was located near latitude 21.3 north and longitude 76.9 west.
The National Weather Service is online at http://www.noaa.gov/
Amtrak is online at http://amtrak.com
CSX is online at http://csx.com
FEC is online at http://feci.com
Amtrak in California
earns record numbers
Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner achieved record ridership for the third quarter of fiscal year 2006. Ridership was up 4.1 percent during the April-June quarter with 703,857 passengers traveling along the route. Amtrak attributes much of the increase to consumer concerns over rising gasoline prices. More than 265,000 passengers rode the trains last month, an increase of 4 percent over July 2005. Overall on-time performance (OTP) for the route is 76.9 percent fiscal year to date.
“Continued ridership growth on the Pacific Surfliner is no surprise to those of us who have worked so hard to make this passenger service a success,” said William D. Bronte, Chief of Caltrans Division of Rail.
He explained, “More and more travelers are including Amtrak California intercity trains in their regular travel plans because Amtrak takes them where they want to go, when they want to go, and at a price they can afford.”
Rising fuel prices are also credited with turning travelers’ attention to more attractive options such as the Pacific Surfliner.
Surfliners operate 12 daily roundtrips between San Diego and Los Angeles, with five round trips extending to Santa Barbara and two continuing to San Luis Obispo.
Meanwhile, more than 148,600 passengers traveled on the Amtrak’s San Joaquins during the months of June and July than during the same period last year. Ridership was up 6.1 percent in June with 73,759 passengers traveling along the route. July’s ridership saw an increase of nearly 4 percent with 74,885 passengers.
San Joaquins offer four daily roundtrips between Bakersfield and Oakland and two daily roundtrips between Bakersfield and Sacramento.
“Continued ridership growth on the San Joaquins is no surprise to those of us who have worked so hard to make this passenger service a success,” said William D. Bronte, Chief of Caltrans Division of Rail.
“As the population of the Central Valley continues to grow, more and more travelers are including Amtrak California intercity trains in their regular travel plans. Amtrak takes them where they want to go, when they want to go, and at a price they can afford,” he said.
Longer Heartland Flyer journeys?
Claremore, Okla. may be right on track when it comes to train talk.
The Oklahoma Passenger Rail Assn. (OPRA) is now promoting talks with Amtrak to study the extension of rail service from St. Louis to Springfield, Mo., to reach even farther south into the Tulsa metropolitan area, reports The Claremore Daily Progress.
A route from Springfield to Tulsa would likely have stops in Neosho, Vinita and Claremore, according to Matt Dowty with OPRA.
Last Thursday, the Tulsa City Council approved a resolution asking for the study saying, “The timing is right.”
Tulsa officials are asking the Oklahoma Department of Transportation to request Amtrak expand the current study into Oklahoma.
In June, Missouri Department of Transportation officials announced they had initiated talks with Amtrak about bringing train service to the Interstate 44 corridor between St. Louis and Springfield as a response to high fuel prices, growing traffic levels and increasing population in Springfield.
Amtrak is currently evaluating the line, Dowty said. Tulsa is the fifth-largest metropolitan area in the United States without passenger rail service.
The Tulsa Metropolitan Transit Authority is conducting a feasibility study for commuter rail service from Broken Arrow to downtown Tulsa.
“Initial results show very strong support for the concept,” the Tulsa Council resolution states. Meanwhile in Claremore, city officials have authorized a study by TranSystems to determine the feasibility of elevating the BNSF tracks that traverse the city north to south.
While the objective of Claremore’s study is directed toward safety and development issues, preliminary documents from TranSystems indicate the railroad right-of-way through town would also be adaptable for a dual rail line.
The AP reported that a route leading from Tulsa to St. Louis was the focus of an Amtrak study more than a decade ago, but was not pursued due to the costs. Amtrak has indicated money is still a major block when it comes to talking about expanding services.
Amtrak’s Heartland Flyer, which runs out of Oklahoma City to Ft. Worth, Texas, already costs the State of Oklahoma $3.9 million in annual operating costs.