Yesterday, Amtrak announced it created a new Northeast Corridor Infrastructure and Investment Development business line to streamline the railroad’s funding, policy and planning decisions for the corridor, and ensure high-speed rail is a critical element of the future plans.
The business line is part of Amtrak’s new strategic plan, which aims to align the railroad’s organizational structure and resources with the company’s goals and priorities, according to Amtrak. The national intercity passenger railroad will integrate planning and development efforts for the existing Northeast Corridor (NEC) and a proposed 220 mph next-generation high-speed rail system.
“The NEC is Amtrak’s premier asset, and expanding high-speed rail service is essential to maximizing its success,” said Amtrak President and Chief Executive Officer Joseph Boardman in a prepared statement. “The NEC requires more capacity, greater connectivity and increased operating speeds for all corridor users. Improving and expanding our high-speed rail capabilities is central to achieving those goals.”
Leading the new division: Stephen Gardner, who was named to the newly created position of vice president of NEC infrastructure and investment development. He previously was Amtrak’s VP of policy and development. In his new role, Gardner will be charged with leading high-speed rail projects, advancing a state of good repair program, managing capacity allocation, and creating new capacity for existing and new rail services on the corridor.
“Stephen has extensive experience and understanding of the NEC and the needs of its customers, and is keenly aware that improving the NEC for all users and building a 220 mph system will require both public investment and private finance,” Boardman said.
In addition, Amtrak VP of High-Speed Rail Al Engel announced he will depart the railroad in December to pursue other opportunities. In the meantime, he will assist with the transition to the new business line.
“Al has performed tremendous work to develop, advance and bring national and international recognition and credibility to the Amtrak high-speed rail program,” said Boardman. “As a direct result of Al’s leadership, Amtrak is well-positioned and has developed a strong path forward to realizing world-class high-speed rail on the Northeast Corridor.”
Meanwhile, Amtrak officials by year's end plan to release an update of the NEC vision plan, which integrates planned improvements to the existing corridor with the proposed development of the next-generation high-speed system. The updated report will incorporate “significant advancements” in planning and conceptual development that have occurred during the past year, as well as a new analysis of the conceptual alignment, ridership, revenue, operations and maintenance costs projections, and capital investment needs, according to a press release.
Amtrak also will “set forth an ambitious and realistic plan for the phased implementation of true world-class high-speed rail in the Northeast by incrementally upgrading existing NEC infrastructure, enhancing capacity at key chokepoints and building new infrastructure,” according to the company.
Amtrak is continuing to work on a NEC high-speed rail business and financial plan that would address a variety of project financing issues and identify strategies for financing, including opportunities to maximize private investment in the NEC’s future development.
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