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"In order to keep moving forward" upgrades are recommended for America's Northeast Corridor.

Posted by Emily O'Dowd on Dec 21, 2016

The 457 mile (735.5km) NortheAmtrak train operating on the Northeast Corridorast Corridor is one of America’s busiest passenger rail lines. A combination of high-speed and intercity trains transported 17.1 million passengers along its tracks last year. It is primarily owned by Amtrak and connects densely urbanised locations including Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington DC, passing through a total of eight states. Despite the benefits it has bought to American infrastructure, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) recommends that more needs to be done to build a better and stronger Northeast Corridor over the next 30 years. They have outlined that the route needs to be modernised to deliver four-tracking as well as a new alignment.

In 2012, a four year consultation and market testing exercise known as NEC Future was launched to discuss how investment would be prioritised along the 457 mile corridor. Then in 2013 the FRA set out a list of 15 potential investment options. With a brimming capacity onboard it is hoped that these needs are addressed. The Department of Transportation believes that investing in this vision for the Northeast Corridor must happen because “rail does more than take us places; it provides us with opportunities and connects us to the future,” said US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “While building this recommendation would require significant investment, the cost of doing nothing is much greater. The communities and the economies of the Northeast cannot grow and flourish without significant, new investment.”

In 2012, at the urging of Congress, all Northeast states and the Federal Railroad Administration began working together to develop a vision that would help guide and coordinate planning and investments. For more than four years, and including numerous agency and public meetings, the Northeast states and FRA engaged stakeholders about their ideas, hopes, recommendations and concerns about the future of the NEC. The extensive outreach has included broad stakeholder engagement from individuals, elected leaders, civic organizations in small townships and business leaders.

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What quickly became clear, and was universally agreed, is that the corridor’s current capacity is vastly inadequate. Today’s NEC simply cannot meet the demands of today—or tomorrow.

The recommendation just announced by the FRA would increase reliability and provide more options by: 

  • Adding new tracks to increase the Northeast Corridor to four tracks in most locations, which would allow for more frequent and faster service. Additional tracks would be added to areas with greater demand.
  • Providing intercity access to Philadelphia Airport so that passengers do not have to change trains at 30th Street.
  • Adding direct and frequent service to Hartford, Conn., and Springfield, Mass.
  • Increasing, and in some cases doubling, the number of regional trains and providing up to five times more intercity trains.

The recommendation would improve travel times:

  • Travel from Boston to New York City would be 45 minutes faster (total time of 2 hours, 45 minutes).
  • Travel from New York City to Washington, D.C., would be 35 minutes faster (total time of 2 hours, 10 minutes).

Whilst these suggestions would grow the role of rail along the Northeast Corridor, it prioritises bringing the current corridor back to good condition, or a state of good repair, first.

With the corridor returned to good condition, the recommendation includes projects that will allow for even faster and more reliable service, along with more options for commuters and travellers. It is predicted to create 47,000 jobs each year, for 30 years.

“In order to keep moving forward, we need a new vision for the Northeast Corridor – a corridor that can move an ever-increasing population safer, faster and more reliably than before,” said FRA Administrator Sarah E. Feinberg. “We need a corridor that provides more options and more trains for commuters. One that allows for seamless travel between the nation’s capital and New York, and New York and Providence and Boston. A corridor that provides streamlined connections between a city’s airports and its city center. And a corridor that can efficiently and reliably serve a population that is growing quickly.”  

FRA believes that today’s recommendation is a strong one and should move forward. To do that, they request the help from the the business community, railroads, states, Congress and the millions of people who use the NEC every day to make it clear that this is a necessary and worthy investment.

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Topics: Passenger

Emily O'Dowd

Written by Emily O'Dowd

On graduating with a degree in English Literature at Royal Holloway University of London, Emily joined the editorial team. When she isn't writing articles for the website or interviewing experts in the industry she enjoys reading, running and sailing.

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