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Published: Thursday, 4/18/2002

Amtrak to alter Toledo stops for Pennsylvanian

Amtrak's Pennsylvanian will run five hours earlier eastbound and 95 minutes later westbound, pushing its local stops into darkness during most of the year.

The changes, slated to take effect April 28, could benefit local travelers seeking to make day trips from Toledo to Cleveland, thanks to the 11-hour spread between the eastbound train's scheduled arrival in Cleveland and the westbound's scheduled departure.

When the train was extended across Ohio to Chicago in 1998, it was touted as a “day train” for Toledo.

But the 6 a.m. departure time is much closer to the wee-hour schedules of Toledo's other two eastbound Amtrak trains, the Lake Shore Limited to New York and Boston and the Capitol Limited to Pittsburgh and Washington. Those trains' Toledo times, and those in Fostoria of the New York-Chicago Three Rivers train, have relatively minor changes in the April 28 schedules.

Under the new timetable, all Amtrak stops in Toledo will be scheduled between 9:45 p.m. and 7 a.m.

Robert Greenlese, director of surface transportation and logistics for the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority, fears that such a bunched schedule will tempt Amtrak to close the station during the middle of the day, when no trains will be due. It also may mean that a tardy train would occupy the station track at a time when another train is scheduled, causing delays.

“I am not pleased with Amtrak doing this,” Mr. Greenlese said. “These are desperate moves that are being made in the name of survival.”

Howard Riefs, an Amtrak spokesman in Chicago, said changing the Pennsylvanian's eastbound schedule will provide better connections from trains serving the western United States. Amtrak's western trains are primarily scheduled to arrive in Chicago during the afternoon, but they are often hours late.

Amtrak has threatened to eliminate all of its long-distance trains, including all services through Ohio, after Oct. 1 if its fiscal 2003 budget makes it impossible to continue operating them.

The company has conceded that it cannot meet a congressional mandate to be profitable by the end of this year, and recently closed or reduced hours at scores of stations across the country.

While the Toledo station remained open 24 hours a day, Amtrak laid off a local marketing representative. Mr. Riefs said he did not know if station hours here will change after April 28.

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