UP: New Track Adds Capacity and Reduces Delays for Amtrak Missouri River Runner Trains

OMAHA, Neb. — Representatives of the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT), the City of California, Union Pacific Railroad and Amtrak officially opened a new $8.1 million, 9,000-foot railroad side track that adds capacity and will reduce delays on the route used by Amtrak Missouri River Runner trains between Kansas City and St. Louis.

The new siding, located just west of California, Mo., helps unclog a major “bottleneck” that was caused by a 25-mile stretch of single-track and enables slower freight trains to move off the main line. This allows faster Amtrak trains to pass and is estimated to annually reduce passenger train delays by nearly 17 percent.

“We heard loud and clear Missourians’ cry for better passenger rail service,” said Pete Rahn, director of the Missouri Department of Transportation. “Today we are proud to deliver one of the key projects that will ensure rail passengers continue to arrive on time and our freight moves more efficiently. Working as one, Union Pacific, Amtrak and MoDOT are making great strides toward building a faster and more reliable rail corridor.”

“Freight rail traffic growth on the Kansas City to St. Louis rail corridor has been steady over the years and caused that the corridor to experience capacity constraints. Union

Pacific has invested more than $400 million in track capacity and maintenance projects since 1999 to help increase capacity on this corridor,” said Ben Jones, Union Pacific Railroad’s director – public affairs – Missouri and Kansas. “All of us at Union Pacific look forward to working with MoDOT on more public/private partnerships like this one, which benefits everyone across Missouri.”

“Amtrak and MoDOT have been partners since 1979 and our passengers over that time have endured delays caused in many cases caused by too little infrastructure for too many trains. This is the first step – in concrete and steel — in changing things for the better between Kansas City and Jefferson City,” said Steve Strachan, Amtrak Chief Transportation Officer. “We are supporting Missouri’s pending application for additional funds through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to relieve other bottlenecks on this route and look forward to working together to improve passenger train operations while accommodating growth in freight traffic.”

This location was chosen after a University of Missouri study estimated that building a siding in this single-track area would annually reduce delays to Amtrak trains by the largest amount on the rail line between Kansas City and Jefferson City. Two other future improvement locations are in the Knob Noster and Strasburg areas.

MoDOT commissioned the study to determine where rail line capacity enhancements should be made to improve train velocity. The Mizzou study helped Union Pacific’s engineering and network planning groups make solid choices where capacity projects should be considered across the 275-mile rail corridor.

The siding enables the mile-and-a-half long Union Pacific trains that haul low-sulfur coal from Wyoming to electric utilities in the St. Louis area and eastern power generation facilities to clear the way for Amtrak trains. MoDOT secured $4.8 million in state funds for this project, complemented with a $3.3 million grant from the Federal Railroad Administration.

According to MoDOT, more than 90 percent of the Missouri River Runner trains arrived at their end-points of St. Louis or Kansas City on-time or ahead of schedule. These same passenger trains were operating an average of 64 percent on-time, during the first 10 months of 2008. These service improvements are directly linked to the capital investment – capacity and maintenance – Union Pacific has invested on the corridor.

In the 12 months ending September 30, 2009, there were 150,870 passengers on the two daily Amtrak Missouri River Runner round-trips, about even with the previous year and almost 30 percent higher than 2007. Amtrak is offering a 50% off companion fare (discount code V665) when traveling through December 16, 2009.  Also, beginning after the New Year, there is a 20% discount for individual travelers (discount code V328) with 3-day advance booking. Visit www.morail.org for more information.