PIA About To Start On Int’l Terminal!

Sixteen months from now, it may be possible to board an international flight at Peoria Int’l Airport.

WEEK TV-25 is reporting that the airport authority board expects to approve a contract bid next month for construction of an international terminal.

So why would Peoria Int’l Airport need such a facility? It is believed that Allegiant Air has notified a number of cities that it would like to begin nonstop international flights to points in the Caribbean and Mexico. Peoria could be one of them.

An international terminal would take about 15 months to complete, so if work is approved in August, the terminal should be ready in November 2015.

– David P. Jordan

Canadian National’s Peoria Local 7-25-14

I received a call mid-afternoon Friday that Canadian National Railway’s Peoria Local was passing through Lincoln, Illinois on its way from Decatur to East Peoria. A description of the train piqued my interest, so I decided to intercept it.

I caught it at Pekin, though I missed my chance to shoot video before the train set out three boxcars at Pekin. But the remaining ten-car consist was pretty interesting. Three cars were loaded – one herbicide for Fort Transfer in Morton (via TP&W), a Caterpillar 627K wheel tractor scraper for BNSF (whether export or domestic I don’t know) and a scrap metal load, probably for Keystone Steel & Wire.

I shot the northbound train twice – first time in Pekin at Mechanic and Winter streets and the second along Wesley Road at Hilliards. I waited around for the train to depart back south with 28 cars. By this time, overcast and regular plans prevented me from watching it pickup then deliver those three boxcars to Amerhart Ltd’s Pekin distribution center.

– David P. Jordan

Frontier’s CIRA-Denver Route Goes Seasonal

IMG_2602 - Copy

As Peoria Int’l Airport’s passenger traffic soars, its closest competitor takes a hit.

Frontier Airlines is accepting bookings through March 1, 2015, but the airline doesn’t show any flights operating between Bloomington-Normal’s Central Illinois Regional Airport and Denver, Colorado after early January.

Current schedules show service on Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Sunday service continues through August 17, Saturday through December 13. While Sunday service returns on December 21, the final CIRA-Denver roundtrip will operate on Tuesday, January 6.

This is a strange development given celebrations last summer when incentive funds totaling $450,000 used to lure Frontier to CIRA were returned to donors. The airline’s Denver and Orlando flights proved profitable without them.

Flights to Orlando will continue for the foreseeable future. The same 138-seat Airbus A-319 is used for Denver flights, so days of operation are also the same. But with Denver flights being phased out, Orlando service transitions to Mondays and Fridays, the first flights to which operate December 15 and 19, respectively.

Frontier Airlines’ online route map shows both CIRA-Denver and CIRA-Orlando routes as seasonal. So Denver may return in the spring, but this will reduce service for at least two months. As a consequence, passenger traffic at CIRA will take a hit.

– David P. Jordan

PIA Posts Another Passenger Record

IMG_1216 - Copy

Peoria Int’l Airport will lose much of its cargo volume in the near future, but at least passenger airline traffic is booming.

On Friday, flypia.com posted a news release that 59,373 passengers passed through the local airport terminal during June. That’s a 10 per cent increase over June 2013. Interestingly, airport director Gene Olson told the Peoria Journal Star of his amazement that his facility continues to break records.

The surge in passengers has an air of mystery even to Olson, but he said PIA’s success could stem from an outlier not applicable to many other national airports. The four airlines at PIA – American, Allegiant, Delta and United – consistently have maintained or increased seats for Peoria flights in the past year. Olson said airlines will increase prices instead of adding seats, a term known as “capacity discipline” within the industry. The boost in seats reflects a confidence in PIA’s passengers, according to Olson.

Increased capacity is sort of true. American Eagle has been replacing American Connection flights on the Peoria to Chicago-O’Hare run, which so far has increased seats in that market by 18 in each direction (and another six each way in August). On two of three weekly St. Petersburg/Clearwater flights, Allegiant Air has been using A-320s, which have 177 seats, instead of 165-seat MD-80s. And it should be noted that the MD-80s have had their seating increased from 150 in the last few years. But as I wrote just last Wednesday, Delta Connection is reducing Peoria – Detroit service at the end of August. This action will reduce seating by 50 in each direction.

So why has PIA seen rising passenger numbers when others have been stagnant or decreasing? The truth is, passenger volume has been rising every year since 2010. The return of Delta Connection service to Atlanta and new Allegiant Air flights to Punta Gorda have contributed greatly to the rise. In fact, 2013’s figure is 62 per cent higher than 2003, when the effects of 9-11, SARS, the Iraq War and the loss of Denver and Detroit service made for a particularly tough period.

2003 – 368,835
2004 – 452,448
2005 – 520,034
2006 – 483,575
2007 – 543,619
2008 – 564,988
2009 – 493,856
2010 – 511,513
2011 – 513,573
2012 – 580,530
2013 – 592,101

Barring catastrophic events, 2014 will most certainly be another record year, the one which PIA cracks 600,000 passengers for the first time.

– David P. Jordan

How Dumb Are They? Part II

Nothing good can come from environmental alarmism or left-wing paganism. Combining the two gets you a forum letter by Dave Weiman, who was “Immediate past president of the Central Illinois Interfaith Alliance” in Peoria, and currently serves as Executive Director of Culture Change Coaltion of Peoria.

In it, he asserts that Ted Lindenbusch, who is plant manager for Dynegy’s E. D. Edwards Station, “didn’t take advantage of the opportunity in his Spotlight piece of June 23 to explain the plans his company – Dynegy – has for the Bartonville plant.”

Except that Mr. Lindenbusch did.

“We are continuing to reduce emissions and are implementing innovative technologies and recycling to reduce our environmental impact. Our SO2 emissions are at a rate 90 percent better than what state limits permit. For the past several months, we have tested and implemented a process that further reduces the mercury and NOx emissions from the coal that we use to generate electricity.

We are also investigating ways to recycle as much of our fly ash – a byproduct of coal combustion – as possible. Today, the ash that cannot immediately be put into beneficial reuse is dry handled and put into an offsite, lined landfill.”

Perhaps Mr. Weiman believes Lindenbusch is lying? Weiman has the right to his opinion, but by expressing it in a public forum, he must also accept scrutiny. His next assertion is also without merit.

What we know about the negotiations between Ameren and Dynegy indicate that Edwards had to be part of the five-plant package or Ameren wouldn’t agree to the sale. Neither company wanted it because it is old, using outdated environmental technology, and is inefficient. It would cost so much to clean up that Ameren admitted the plant wasn’t worth the upgrades.

Oh really? Recent EPA regulators have imposed unnecessary and artificial costs on coal-fired power plants. Yet these plants contribute to the national grid, and are not easily or quickly replaced. Peoria area residents are fortunate that Dynegy wanted the five Ameren plants.

Dynegy’s strategy is to expand its coal-fired generating base to take advantage of economies of scale, said [Robert] Flexon, and he confirmed his company wants the Ameren plants as badly as Ameren wants to get rid of them.

“It’s time to get big or get out,” said [Julien] Dumoulin-Smith. “That is really what’s going on here.”

Dynegy was granted the same pollution variance given to Ameren which allows them to delay costly soot-control upgrades until 2020. Lindenbusch’s letter indicates they’re following through with plans to meet this deadline.

Next, Weiman uses platitudes, cynicism and hyperbole to support his position.

Dynegy, instead of planning a transition to better-paying and more sustainable jobs, is going to use whatever political and regulatory means possible to drain the last penny from this plant until it produces its last kilowatt while families of Peoria continue to suffer harmful health effects.

Every day, the Edwards plant spews toxins into the air and releases acids into the ground and water, all of which makes our climate crisis worse and sickens a our children – including the children of the folks who are working there.

Wow…you’d think there’d be hundreds if not thousands of bodies piled up around this plant during its 54 years of operation…except that there aren’t.

There is a better way. I encourage Mr. Lindenbusch to work with those who want to protect his workers from a sudden loss of income, who want to stop the illnesses, who want to protect our planet, who want to use the unique qualities of this plant site to transition to a sustainable and clean source of energy.

What is this “better way?” Weiman never says. Wind and solar are no better than coal. Does he advocate nuclear power? Not likely.

Weiman’s problem is that he demands unconditional surrender of the coal power industry. Coal is evil, and there can be no negotiations. Who cares if there are no alternatives at this time. Quite a contrast to the “tolerance” that is the basis for his Interfaith Alliance.

– David P. Jordan

Delta Connection Reduces Peoria-Detroit Service

IMG_1216 - Copy

Airline cutbacks are slated for late summer 2014.

Endeavor Air dba Delta Connection’s schedule of three weekday roundtrips between Gen. Wayne A. Downing Peoria International Airport (PIA) and Delta Air Lines’ hub at Detroit Metropolitan Airport will end after Friday, August 29. Starting Monday, September 1, the airline will provide just two weekday roundtrips between the two markets.

Peoria isn’t the only downstate Illinois city to suffer service cuts. Bloomington Normal’s Central Illinois Regional Airport (CIRA) will lose one of two Detroit roundtrips effective Tuesday, September 2 while Moline’s Quad City International Airport (MLI) will see service reduced from three to two weekday roundtrips Wednesday, September 3.

A single daily roundtrip is typically offered on Saturday and Sunday to Detroit from these markets. All of these changes are shown on Delta Air Lines’ online flight schedules.

Although Delta Air Lines and its regional partners have begun replacing 50-seat regional jets with larger capacity airliners, namely 65-seat Canadair RJ700s, 76-seat Canadair RJ900s and even Delta’s own 110-seat Boeing 717-200s, the reduction in frequency planned for late summer will not be the result of larger aircraft being deployed into PIA, CIRA or MLI.

– David P. Jordan

IAIS 715 Visits Peoria on 7-15!

I certainly didn’t expect this one.

A regular contributor to the Iowa Interstate Railroad Facebook page has been posting photos of Iowa Interstate’s 700-series GP38-2s on corresponding dates in July, 701 on 7/1, 702 on 7/2, 703 on 7/3 and so forth.

So today, 7/15, he posts a photo of IAIS 715 pulling the regular Peoria-bound local train (BUSW, or BUreau SWitcher) through Chillicothe on January 6, 2007.

But guess what I saw on my lunch break today? None other than 715 leading that same local train bound for Peoria! It had 701 trailing with 33 ADM feed loads in tow.

The video shows today’s train just past noon as it rolls by the Fire Training Academy at San Koty off Rt. 29. A second scene from early this evening shows Tazewell & Peoria Railroad switchers 1521 and 1352 pulling these same cars toward Bridge Jct. in Peoria. The TZPR handles switching duties for local railroads, and this is a good example.

– David P. Jordan

Passenger Trains I’ve Ridden, Part XIII – Norfolk Southern OLS…7/9/14!

I had a great time riding Norfolk Southern’s Great Midwest Whistle-Stop Safety Train, also known as Operational Lifesaver Special (OLS), on July 9, 2014.

Myself and about 20 others boarded at the small NS railroad yard at Tilton, located just southwest of Danville, for a trip to Decatur. The train had started in Lafayette, Indiana that morning, but arrived late due to some issue with a westbound freight going into emergency, which delayed all other traffic.

Norfolk Southern’s so-called “Automotive Artery” was busy this day. Shortly after I arrived Danville, I saw a westbound autorack train stopped in town. After things cleared up, there was a meet between an eastbound freight (possibly Decatur, Ill. to Frankfort, Ind. 34Z) and a westbound auto parts train. Another westbound autorack train rolled by Tilton Yard as we waited for the OLS to arrive. Train consist was as follows:

NS 7140 (GP60)
NS 6344 (SD40E)
NS 28 Coach Powhattan Arrow
NS 29 Coach Powhattan Arrow
NS 27 Exhibit Car
NS 32 Research

We left Tilton around 1:30pm. Shortly afterward, we passed the westbound auto rack train, then the auto parts train. After that, we passed a double stack train and a Roadrailer, both eastbound.

We arrived Decatur late, but that was okay because I was able to ride where there haven’t been any scheduled intercity passenger trains since April 30, 1971 (Tilton – Tolono) or July 9, 1983 (Tolono – Decatur).

Starting about 4 minutes, 30 seconds, we focus on Decatur. This starts with a view from the stone arch bridge over Lake Decatur (note supports for Illinois Terminal RR interurban bridge). Then we see Archer Daniels Midland Co’s massive East Plant complex, several views of ADM’s West Plant and finally, Tate & Lyle’s plant.

Saving lives is the point of Operation Lifesaver. Sometimes, it is best to hear from those who made a tragic error but lived to tell about it. We heard a 9-1-1 call from a young man named Mark Kalina who on October 12, 2012 trespassed onto Norfolk Southern property in Columbus, Ohio and got run over by a train, severing parts of both legs. Mark related his experience to us during our ride. Click here to read his story.

We also viewed video showing the aftermath of motorists’ poor choice to try to beat a train at a crossing. Our hosts showed nose camera video of a truck that ignored crossbucks and crossed into the path of an Operation Lifesaver Special!

Riding the OLS required driving two hours in both directions, but the trip was worth it. Remember, never trespass onto railroad property and always stop, look and listen the next time you cross railroad tracks.

– David P. Jordan