Amtrak identifies 5 critical rail investments to keep the USA moving forward

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Susquehanna River Bridge. Credit: Amtrak.
Susquehanna River Bridge. Credit: Amtrak.

Operator Amtrak has launched a campaign to obtain funding for five critical investments.

Named “Ready to Build”, the campaign highlights the scheme’s importance to achieve a modern passenger rail system.

Amtrak co-CEO said these major projects are critical to keep “people, the economy and the nation moving forward.”

High demand for passenger rail services continues to outpace investment, according to Amtrak, which has resulted in a backlog of $38 billion of deferred capital investments.

Once funding has been obtained, Amtrak and its partners are ready to finalise design and begin construction work on the following schemes:

  • Hudson Tunnel Project (New York – New Jersey): Construction of a new Hudson River rail tunnel serving New York Penn station to provide greater operational flexibility and infrastructure resiliency, following damage from Superstorm Sandy.
  • Portal North Bridge Project (New Jersey): Replacement of the century-old Portal Bridge with a new high-level, fixed-span bridge will result in faster trip times and greater reliability as well as eliminate the need to open for maritime traffic, said Amtrak.
  • Major Stations Development (Northeast and Chicago): Leveraging public-private partnerships and underutilised land and air rights to transform facilities which are more than 50 years old into commercial transportation hubs.
  • Susquehanna River Bridge Project (Maryland): Replacement of existing two-track bridge with two new high-level bridges with a total of four tracks, allowing for increased speeds and eliminating the need to open for maritime traffic.
  • Baltimore and Potomac Tunnel Project (Maryland): Replacement of the Civil War-era, 30mph bottleneck with a four-tube tunnel that allows for more reliable and more frequent service.
A graphic highlighting the geographical locations of the five projects. Credit: Amtrak.
A graphic highlighting the geographical locations of the five projects. Credit: Amtrak.

Amtrak said that it has already started planning for the complex projects.


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1 COMMENT

  1. I don’t live on the NEC but its a no-brainer that this is where Amtrak needs (for the time being) to focus most of its efforts. However, for those of us “off corridor” its disappointing to see that not much is being done (other than a few state initiatives) at the national level (we pay taxes also).

    Given the NEC imperative, what can be done to keep the rest of the nation in the game?

    Here are three suggestions (at least two of them are not original to me) that offer relatively ( a key word here) inexpensive expansions to the national system (note that these examples are mostly in the south but I am sure that there are similar ones elsewhere in the nation). The key objective here is to open up new city pairs and markets while making extensive use of existing infrastructure (routes/stations/crew bases, etc).

    Crescent-Eagle: I think that Mayor John Robert Smith might have first proposed this back around the time he put Meridian on the map with its excellent execution of a MMTC in an environment not typically considered to be a hot spot for multimodalism. I think his concept was a section of the Crescent breaking off in Meridian and heading for DFW over the KCS. although alternatives include the break in Atlanta or even a separate train. Get your Amtrak system map out to see the many new city-pair combinations this creates. There are plenty but the one I like is Atlanta to DFW (and I don’t live near that route). It also raises the potential for connections with the City of New Orleans and the Texas Eagle — and the Chief if the Heartland ever goes north In fact, connecting the Crescent route to DFW strengthens the case for extending the Heartland — or the reverse.

    Silver Crescent. About a decade or so ago Amtrak, NCDOT and SCDOT operated a demonstration train between Charlotte and Columbia. Its purpose was to help examine an extension of the Carolinian down to Columbia but what it also illustrated was the potential for long distance trains to operate over parts of the Crescent and Star routes (again, I don’t live on either). Just as with the proposed Crescent Eagle the Silver Crescent utilizes mostly existing routes, stations, crew bases, etc, which at the same time opening up a significant number of new city-pairs.

    Southeast High Speed Rail Corridor. Although usually now more realistically referred to as “high performance” or “higher speed,” this was one of the first five FRA identified corridors back in 1992 (SC, etc, were added later) and its reasonably/optimistically accurate to say that its reaching the half way point. ( See http://www.sehsr.org ) North Carolina is putting the finishing touches on its Piedmont Corridor Improvement Plan and Virginia has just completed the draft EIS for Washington to Richmond, even as it continues to improve the corridor. However, there is a missing link, Richmond to Raleigh with most of it (Collier Yard south of Petersburg to Norlina just inside the NC line) actually missing. This is CSX’s former S line whose track was removed some time ago. Fortunately, CSX retained the corridor as there is fiber optics in the ROW. Earlier this year the FRA issued A Record of Decision approving this segment for construction and North Carolina and its partners (I understand that CSX is one and will operate hot intermodal trains late night/early morning) are now looking around for the approximately four billion dollars to complete this project.

    I feel that anyone that reads this newsletter, and understands passenger railroading in the US, can appreciate the value in the completion projects such as these. As a result, its disappointing to see Amtrak, our national passenger railroad, post a list of major projects that all fall on a line between Washington and Boston.

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