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NEC panel identifies $38 billion backlog of repair projects

The NEC Commission says the corridor faces a $38 billion backlog in needed repairs.
Photo – Amtrak


The Northeast Corridor (NEC) faces a backlog of $38 billion in state-of-good-repair projects that, if not addressed, will leave the corridor at risk of being able to support Amtrak, commuter- and freight-rail services, according to a new report.

The Northeast Corridor Commission this week unveiled its NEC Capital Investment Plan for fiscal years 2018-2022, which lays out a path toward restoring the corridor to a state of good repair and preparing for growth. The plan prioritizes infrastructure projects that should be addressed if funding becomes available.

States, commuter railroads and Amtrak will provide $3.3 billion over the next five years in basic infrastructure funding. Those dollars do not address the $38 billion in state-of-good-repair backlog of projects, according to the report.

The $3.3 billion will be invested in territories in which their railroads operate through the Baseline Capital Charge (BBC) Program under the commission's Cost Allocation Policy, which was adopted in 2015. The BBC program covers normal replacement of basic infrastructure such as rail, ties and signals along the corridor to support existing service.

"This funding does not address the $38 billion state-of-good-repair backlog along the NEC to support existing service," states the report. "Without additional investment to replace failing assets, BBC Program funding levels leave the NEC at risk of being unable to support existing service."

The plan prioritizes the top initiatives that the commission believes could be addressed if funding becomes available.

"These priorities include basic infrastructure backlog elimination to ramp
up the replacement of older assets like signal and electric power supply systems that date back to the 1930s and major backlog projects that would replace the NEC's century-plus-old bridges and tunnels that are quickly deteriorating and at risk of severing service," the report states.

Although the states, commuter railroads and Amtrak have committed to funding the BBC Program over the short term, "a federal-state partnership" is needed to address the backlog to ensure long-term service remains viable, the report says.

In the report, Commission Co-Chair James Redeker notes the corridor's significance to the regional and national economy.

"It generates $3 trillion in annual economic output and is home to more than 51 million people and four of the 10 largest metropolitan areas in the United States,"
writes Redeker, who is commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Transportation. "The NEC rail line is the backbone of the region carrying over 820,000 passengers each day."

The NEC's aging infrastructure, some of which dates back to the Civil War, supports eight commuter-rail operators, Amtrak and 50 daily freight trains, he adds.

Established by Congress, the commission was created to develop coordinated strategies for improving the NEC.

The commission's board is represented by one member from each of the NEC states and the District of Columbia; four members from Amtrak; and five members from the U.S. Department of Transportation. The commission also includes non-voting representatives from four freight railroads, states with connecting corridors and several of the region's commuter railroads.