Thursday, December 3, 2009

100 Percent On Time!

One-hundred percent on time! That’s the exciting news MoDOT gets to report for Amtrak trains during the Thanksgiving holiday week. All four Missouri River Runner trains that carry passengers from Kansas City to St. Louis and vice versa arrived safely and on time from Tuesday, Nov. 24 through Monday, Nov. 30. Nearly every single person to whom I announced this news had the same reaction, “One-hundred percent on time? I’ve never heard that before.”

Exactly. Rodney Massman, Administrator of Railroads for MoDOT told me that in his entire career (which spans more than a decade) he has never been able to report a 100 percent on-time performance. In fact, Massman told me that in as recent as last year, the on-time performance was hovering in the 60 percent range.

So how in the world can this be? How can Amtrak trains crossing the entire show me state arrive on time and do this during the busiest travel week of the year?

The passenger-friendly answer is called the California Siding Project. MoDOT, Union Pacific, and Amtrak found the place that created the biggest bottleneck problem along the entire 275-mile rail corridor -- California, Mo. It was there that a 25-mile-long stretch of single track rested that forced delays due to trains not being able to pass one another. Well, not anymore. The California Siding Project laid down 9,000 feet, nearly two miles, of additional track next to the main corridor. This will now allow freight trains to be set aside in California so that Amtrak passenger trains can glide through without stopping.

The really neat thing about this is the California Siding Project was just finished on Nov. 20… meaning its first test was the super-busy Thanksgiving holiday week! Talk about a promising project! Its first time on the job and already it hits a 100 percent on-time performance. That's a great talking point for MoDOT Director Pete Rahn, who is scheduled to officially announce the opening of the California Siding Project on  Dec. 8 at 10 a.m.

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