AASHTO Journal

Four State DOTs, Amtrak Unveil New-Era, High-Tech Locomotives for Midwest Routes

Amtrak and departments of transportation in four states are unveiling faster, more efficient locomotives branded specifically for service on state-supported routes in the Midwest.

The passenger rail system said the first "Amtrak Midwest" locomotives have begun operating out of Chicago to serve customers in Illinois and Wisconsin, and as deliveries of all 33 units continue they will operate on state-supported routes in Michigan and Missouri as well.

amtrakmidwest.jpg Blankenhorn speaks at Chicago introduction of Amtrak Midwest locomotives. / Siemens

They are new-generation Siemens Charger diesel-electric models, built to operate at speeds of up to 125 mph with qualities that allow them to start and stop faster than previous models to deliver better on-time reliability.

And, the announcement said, "they also are the first higher-speed passenger locomotives to meet the highest federal environmental standards, meaning a 90 percent reduction in emissions and a reduction in fuel consumption of up to 16 percent compared to the previous locomotives" used in those corridors.

Amtrak said the locomotives "will please customers with enhanced smoothness, speed capability and safety features – along with reduced exhaust emissions."

The Illinois DOT, which was the lead agency for the purchase, said 12 of the 33 have been delivered so far with the rest coming by January, paid for with $216.5 million in federal funds. All the locomotives will be owned by the states and leased to Amtrak, the state DOT said.

"We are proud to have led the effort to bring these attractive, modern locomotives to Illinois and our other state partners," said Illinois Transportation Secretary Randy Blankenhorn. "Passenger rail customers will benefit the most by enjoying a ride that's more reliable and more comfortable as they travel between our state's great communities, institutions and attractions."

IDOT also said the new models will have lower maintenance costs, and provide quieter operation than units they will replace.

Amtrak said they "will be deployed from Chicago on trains that served more than 2.6 million Amtrak customers in the last year." They will run on train routes for the Lincoln Service, Illini/Saluki and Illinois Zephyr/Carl Sandburg to and from downstate Illinois; Hiawatha Service in Illinois and Wisconsin; Wolverine Service/Blue Water/Pere Marquette to and from Michigan; and Missouri River Runner between Kansas City and St. Louis.

dollarpump.jpg"We look forward to the improved efficiency and reliability that the Siemens Charger locomotives bring to intercity passenger rail services across the Midwest," said David Simon, director of the Bureau of Transit, Local Roads, Railroads and Harbors at the Wisconsin DOT.

Tim Hoeffner, director of the Office of Rail at the Michigan DOT, said: "This procurement with partnering Midwest states has shown we can work together for a common goal. In the coming weeks, Michigan will begin the replacement of older engines with brand new, high-tech locomotives operating on all of our passenger rail corridors, which will complement our 110-mph service."

From the Missouri DOT, Multimodal Operations Director Michelle Teel said that agency "is proud to be a partner welcoming safer, cleaner, faster and better locomotives to the Amtrak Midwest fleet. Missouri River Runner passengers will benefit from improved performance when the locomotives go into operation soon between St. Louis and Kansas City."

Armin Kick, Siemens' mobility vice president for locomotives, said that company is "building these locomotives in California, for the U.S., bringing the latest technologies to life for riders. These are among the nation's cleanest locomotives and we're proud to have not only worked closely with Amtrak and the state DOTs to bring these to the Midwest, but also our robust chain of suppliers from across the country."

Questions regarding this article may be directed to editor@aashtojournal.org.

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