New federal $ to fund Amtrak N.E. Corridor upgrades

August 23, 2011

WASHINGTON – Some $745 million of the $2 billion in federal stimulus money Florida Gov. Rick Scott rejected for a high-speed rail line linking Tampa and Orlando is now headed to Amtrak for improvements along the 456-mile-long Amtrak-owned Northeast Corridor connecting Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York and Boston.

The Department of Transportation grant will be used by Amtrak to improve track, signals and overhead catenary, allowing an increase of top speed from 135 mph to 160 mph for Acela Express trains over a 24-mile segment in New Jersey. The grant, which includes a “buy America” provision, will also go toward eliminating congestion at a choke point east of New York City.

Amtrak has a 30-year vision to accelerate speed along the entire length of the Northeast Corridor, with maximum speed of 220-mph over a new two-track route that would supplement existing service and create capacity for 80 million passengers annually by 2040.

The project would require some 420 miles of mostly dedicated high-speed track and a $4.7 billion annual investment for at least 25 years. Amtrak President Joseph Boardman says the plan is feasible as a public-private partnership involving 11 Northeast states plus Virginia and the District of Columbia, privately owned freight railroads, and the private sector.

By 2040, Amtrak would offer passengers travel times of 38-minutes between New York and Philadelphia; 84 minutes between New York and Boston; and 96 minutes between New York and Washington.

Facts about the Northeast Corridor:

* On 65 percent of Northeast Corridor track, Amtrak trains can operate at speeds between 110 mph and 150 mph – and is the only rail passenger operator in the United States maintaining track for speeds in excess of 100 mph.

* Between Washington, D.C., and New York, Amtrak has 69 percent of the air-rail market share – up from 37 percent in 2000 when Acela service was introduced. And between New York and Boston, Amtrak has 52 percent of the air-rail market share – up from 20 percent in 2000 when Acela service was introduced

* The Northeast Corridor hosts almost one million intercity and commuter passengers daily on more than 2,000 trains – some 75,000 passengers riding Amtrak daily and more than 850,000 riding commuter trains operated by 18 publicly controlled commuter agencies, making Amtrak a minority user of the Northeast Corridor.

* Amtrak is the only railroad that uses the entire length of the Northeast Corridor.