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Rail News: High-Speed Rail

Amtrak unveils updated Northeast Corridor planning, investment strategy

Today, Amtrak issued an updated report summarizing its ongoing efforts to expand capacity on the Northeast Corridor (NEC) and upgrade the system to accommodate faster trains.

“The Amtrak Vision for the Northeast Corridor: 2012 Update Report” outlines the current stage of conceptual development and planning for the future NEC rail network, on which Amtrak is proposing to operate 220 mph trains. The report details steps Amtrak and other NEC stakeholders have taken since two NEC planning reports were issued in 2010, and highlights key findings of a recently completed NEC business and financial plan. It also provides input for a new NEC environmental analysis being led by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).

Among the report’s highlights:
• The FRA is expected to complete a Passenger Rail Corridor Investment Plan — which will include service plans, an environmental analysis and projected investment needs over the next 30 years — by 2015.
• After receiving feedback from states, commuter-rail agencies and other NEC stakeholders and users, Amtrak has made several changes to its 2010 NEC master plan, including: adding the Gateway Program to increase track, bridge, station and tunnel capacity from Newark, N.J., to New York’s Penn Station; revising the alignment of the proposed next-generation NEC high-speed rail route to travel through Providence, R.I., rather than Woonsocket; and changing various proposed stations.
• The new business and financial plan shows there is greater-than-anticipated ridership demand and associated revenue for future planned Amtrak service levels.
• The schedule and large capital expenditures in the peak period of planned construction should be modified to strengthen opportunities for public and private-sector funding.
• Amtrak should pursue a phased approach to NEC improvements, strategically advancing specific elements that have the biggest impacts on improved reliability, increased capacity and reduced trip times as quickly as funding allows. The approach will help the railroad strengthen its financial performance and provide additional capital funding to support other elements of the program.
• A combination of funding, policy decisions and cooperation from federal, state and local governments, NEC users, regional partners, the private sector and Amtrak are necessary to advance the program. And, public leadership and funding is essential during the early years.

“The NEC region is America’s economic powerhouse and is facing a severe crisis with an aging and congested multi-modal transportation network that routinely operates at or near capacity in key segments,” said Amtrak President and Chief Executive Officer Joe Boardman in a prepared statement. “With an expected 30 percent population increase by 2050, we must move beyond mere preservation and rehabilitation of the current system to a new vision of expanded transportation capacity and growth.”

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 7/9/2012