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Bicycles soon to be welcome on Amtrak trains

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Bicycle racks will be available in the new baggage cars Amtrak will place into service on the Capitol Limited after testing.

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Bicycle racks on Amtrak trains may soon become a reality.

Amtrak said it will begin to introduce new baggage cars equipped with bicycle racks on all of its long-distance trains, including the Capitol Limited serving the Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C., route, by the end of the year.

Officials in Connellsville are happy to see that the service may finally come to fruition.

“This is a service and amenity that we want to make sure we can offer,” Amtrak spokesman Craig Schulz said.

Amtrak held a test of the roll on, roll off bicycle rack system in October, but little has been heard until recently.

The delay has come about because new baggage cars are being built. Before the new baggage cars with the bicycle racks go into regular service, Amtrak will test the cars on long-distance routes, possibly including the Capitol Limited.

“The field testing program has several elements, including compatibility tests, to ensure the baggage car couples cleanly with, and can operate through a curve without interference with, numerous types of Amtrak cars and locomotives,” said Schulz in an email. “In addition, there are tests for speed, stability, braking, noise, interaction of the wheel sets with the rail as well as actual baggage handling.”

Schulz said Amtrak has formed a task force comprised of several Amtrak departments as well as representatives of the cycling community to look at these factors, issue recommendations and develop a comprehensive policy that they can roll out system wide.

The service could send more guests to the new Cobblestone Inn, expected to be constructed by the end of 2014 on Connellsville's West Side.

“It is a good opportunity for Connellsville to be able to have guests stay overnight coming from (Washington) D.C. to use the bed and breakfast and hotel facilities, then ride back (on their bicycles on the Great Allegheny Passage),” said Michael Edwards, executive director of the Connellsville Redevelopment Authority.

However, Edwards said there aren't likely to be many people who would take the train to Connellsville from Pittsburgh, then stay overnight before heading back to Pittsburgh.

It is not known when the first tests on the Capitol Limited will take place.

Karl Polacek is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at kpolacek@tribweb.com or 724-626-3538.

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