Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor’

BWI Station Waiting Room Relocated

August 27, 2018

The waiting room for Amtrak’s BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport Station has been relocated due to renovations that began on Aug. 27.

During the project work, the station will be closed and passengers will use a temporary station located on the north side of the facility.

The temporary station will include staffed ticket offices and an ADA accessible seated waiting room and restrooms. Signage on the platforms will direct customers to the temporary station.

The taxi pick up location will be outside the temporary station and service to MARC and Amtrak trains will remain unchanged.

Station renovations will include new customer amenities such as a new canopy, three new larger restrooms, an updated waiting area and entrance space as well as additional improvements to the roof, HVAC, plumbing and station exterior, Amtrak said in a service advisory.


RPA Hits Amtrak Accounting Practices

August 27, 2018

A rail passenger advocacy group is trying to put Amtrak’s accounting practices back into the spotlight.

The Rail Passengers Association released a white paper last week that concludes that how Amtrak measures and allocates its revenues and costs is “catastrophically flawed” and does the American public a disservice.

RPA is hardly the first critic of Amtrak’s accounting, which has come under fire for years by critics and policy makers.

In the RPA white paper, Amtrak’s bookkeeping practices are said to have four major flaws.

Amtrak is described as allocating costs in a way that inaccurately portrays the economics affecting each part of the system without reporting avoidable costs, as required by law.

It also omits all costs of capital consumption and uses imprecise or inadequate data.

“The upshot is that APT exaggerates the cost of operating the national passenger train system, overstates the costs of expanding it, and trivializes the effects of killing it, because it fails to consider the benefits accruing to the communities it serves,” the report concludes. “In short, it radically undercuts the ability of Congress and Amtrak to plan wisely.”

One practice singled out is allocation of track maintenance costs to routes that do not use the given tracks.

The report also said that some Acela equipment maintenance costs are allocated to non-Acela routes.

Amtrak is said to fail to determine each route’s fuel cost and to report reliable station cost data for stations that the carrier owns or maintains.

The carrier fails to accurately count commuter rail passengers using Amtrak-owned stations, thus overcharging the Amtrak trains that use them.

RPA said Amtrak’s accounting practices make the Northeast Corridor system appear less costly than it is while making long-distance trains appear to cost more than they do.

The funding needs of the Northeast Corridor greatly overshadow those of the rest of the system, where the majority of infrastructure costs are underwritten by Amtrak’s host railroads

This results in the false assumption that eliminating long-distance routes would substantially cut Amtrak’s public funding needs.

Major NEC Upgrade Planned

July 30, 2018

Amtrak is planning a major upgrade of its Northeast Corridor that the carrier said will double its engineering efforts and result in the purchase of $370 million of new equipment over a three-year period for maintenance work.

The result, Amtrak officials said, will be a smoother ride and improve on-time performance for the more than 890,000 passengers who ride in the NEC on weekdays.

Amtrak is buying two undercutters, five high-speed surfacing machines, heavy lift cranes for New York Penn Station and freight cars and locomotives to bring the NEC to a state of good repair.

Sleek Acela

May 15, 2018

Amtrak’s Acela Express equipment doesn’t look anything like what used to operate in the Northeast Corridor.

That is by design. Acela more closely resembles the sleek, streamlined look of European or Japanese high-speed trains than it does the boxy Metroliner of the 1960s and beyond.

The equipment used in Acela service is not, relatively speaking, all that old.

Already Amtrak has plans to replace it and the trainset seen above cruising through the Newark Liberty International Airport station is slated to be replaced by early 2023.

Such are the priorities for Amtrak’s top “glamour” train in its most important corridor in terms of traffic.

NEC Wi-Fi Getting an Upgrade

May 15, 2018

Amtrak is upgrading Wi-Fi service in the Northeast Corridor by installing new equipment on its passenger cars.

In a news release, the carrier said the upgrades will provide a more reliable and easier connection to high-speed broadband.

The cars will receive upgraded processors and modem cards, and new antennas that will improve speed.

Amtrak said this will allow for quicker loading times for webpages and other content, the ability to send and receive files faster, and improved video streaming and audio performance.

The carrier said that passengers cars used by Acela Express trains are already benefiting from performance tuning, including improved stability and reliability of VPN connections for passengers accessing corporate networks.

Later this summer, Amtrak will roll out a new, simplified Wi-Fi home page.

Amtrak said that on average, there are 20,000 Wi-Fi sessions daily on NEC trains with more than 70 percent of devices aboard Acela trains connected to Amtrak’s Wi-Fi network.

The average session time on Northeast Regional trains is 1 hour, 41 minutes, while on Acela it is 2 hours and 9 minutes.

Amtrak is also upgrading Wi-Fi at 29 stations throughout its national network.

FY2018 Budget Gives Amtrak Funding a Boost

March 26, 2018

A federal budget bill approved by Congress last week contained an increase in funding for Amtrak, although that funding boost is expected to be used to help pay for the Gateway project in New York-New Jersey.

However, Amtrak’s long-distance trains would also receive an upward bump in funding.

News reports indicate that Amtrak will receive a minimum of $388 for the Gateway project, which involves replacement of tunnels leading into New York City beneath the Hudson River.

The $1.3 trillion Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018 allocates more money for passenger rail projects than Congress has approved since the 2008 economic stimulus spending programs ended.

The budget directs $650 million to the Northeast Corridor while Amtrak’s national network will receive $1.292 billion. Those are both increases from 2017 funding of $328 million for the NEC in 2017 and $1.1 billion for the national network. Amtrak’s total appropriation will be $1.942 billion, up from $1.428 billion.

Other transportation programs also fared well in the budget bill.

The Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery program was given a $1 billion boost over 2017 levels to $1.5 billion available. At least 30 percent of these grants will go to rural communities.

Federal investments in rail infrastructure and safety programs was funded at $3.1 billion.

Also included is funding for the Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair grants at $250 million to address critical rail investments nationwide and on the NEC.

Rail safety and research programs received $287 million to fund inspectors and training, plus maintenance and safety investments to the physical rail infrastructure.

Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements grants were given $593 million to fund capital and safety improvements, planning, environmental work and research. There is also $250 million included for grants available to rail operators for the installation of positive train control.

The Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing loan program received a $25 million allocation for the first time and $350,000 has been set aside to help short line and regional railroads participate in the program.

The Federal Transit Administration received $13.5 billion, which includes $9.7 billion “to help local communities build, maintain, and ensure the safety of their mass transit systems.”

Within the $9.7 billion is $2.6 billion for Capital Investment Grants transit projects. “New Starts” projects are funded at $1.5 billion, Core Capacity projects at $716 million and Small Starts projects at $400 million.

The Trump administration and President Donald Trump in particular have opposed federal funding of the Gateway project, saying that the states of New York and New Jersey needed to spend more of their own money for most of the project.

The project involves building a new Tunnel under the Hudson River and replacing the century-old Portal Bridge on the NEC.

There has been speculation that Trump opposed the Gateway project as retribution to New York and New Jersey Congressmen and Senators who opposed a tax cut bill that he favored and which Congress passed last December.

At one point Trump had threatened to veto any bill containing federal funding for Gateway.

The 2018 budget will circumvent the Trump administration’s opposition to federal funding of the Gateway project.

Amtrak is likely to contribute a minimum of $388 million to Gateway though its Northeast Corridor Account, while New York and New Jersey will receive $153 million from the Federal Transit Administration’s High-Density States and State of Good Repair grant programs.

Gateway is projected to receive 60 percent of the original federal dollars intended for it.

The budget bill ensured that the U.S. Department of Transportation will have limited ability to withhold the $650 million earmarked for the Northeast Corridor Account, which also funds projects throughout the region.

FTA Downgrades NEC Projects

February 16, 2018

The proposed Amtrak Gateway projects in the Northeast Corridor were downgraded in importance this week by the Federal transit Administration, a move that might make receiving federal funding, more difficult.

The FTA in its annual funding recommendations report to Congress on the Capital Investment Grants program rated the Hudson Tunnel and the Portal North Bridge replacement projects as “medium-low” in priority for federal grants.

That is the second-lowest rating on a five-point scale that helps determine whether federal funding is warranted.

The FTA ratings indicate the Trump administration’s shift away from the Obama administration’s support for federal help in paying for the projects, Gateway program supporters said.

“In case it wasn’t clear before, President Trump today tried to land another death blow to Gateway, by having his Federal Transit Administration vindictively and inexplicably downgrade the project in order to cut off critical federal funding,” said U.S. Senator Robert Menendez in a statement.

Michael Friedberg, executive director of the Coalition for the Northeast Corridor said the FTA’s decision means the corridor’s stakeholders need to “raise their voices and work harder” to show the administration and Congress that the Gateway program is necessary to support the region’s economy.

The Portal North bridge is a two-track moveable swing-span structure located between Kearny and Secaucus, New Jersey, that forms a link between New Jersey and New York Penn Station.

Amtrak, New Jersey Transit and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey have agreed to fund half of the $1.5 billion cost to build the new bridge.

The Hudson Tunnel project calls for a new tunnel to be built under the Hudson River and rebuild the 106-year-old North River Tunnel, which currently has two tracks under the river between New York Penn Station and New Jersey.

The tunnel was severely damaged during Hurricane Sandy in October 2012.

Although Amtrak claims the tunnel is safe for use, emergency maintenance continues to interrupt service.

Track Works Leads to NEC Changes

February 15, 2018

In a service advisory, Amtrak said that track work will result in changes starting March 10 to Northeast Corridor. Minor schedule adjustments will be made on Acela Express and Northeast Regional trains as the infrastructure work begins.

  • Most trains will operate with extended schedules to compensate for speed reductions and congestion caused by track work.
  • Scheduled departure and arrival times of both Acela Express and Northeast Regional trains may change by 3 to 15 minutes in both directions between Boston, New York and Washington.
  • All Acela Express trains will depart Washington at 10 minutes before the hour, rather than on the hour.

Additional minor adjustments to departure times and travel times for both Acela Express and Northeast Regional can be found on and the Amtrak mobile app.

Penn Station Work Begins Friday

January 3, 2018

The next phase of track renewal work at New York Penn Station will begin on Friday, Jan. 5. Modified schedules will go into effect on Jan. 8, but none of the changes affect any Amtrak-long distance trains.

Most of the work is being done on weekends and the project is expected to be finished by May 28. The revised schedule includes:

  • Amtrak cancelled Northeast Regional Trains 110 from Washington to New York Penn Station and 127 from New York to Washington.
  • Northbound Keystone Train 640 is terminating at Newark Penn Station.
  • Southbound Keystone Train 643 is originating at Newark Penn Station.
  • Southbound Train 173 is stopping at Newark Airport station.
  • Southbound Trains 129, 193 and 653 all have earlier departure times.
  • Train 170 is also departing Washington early, is stopping at North Philadelphia and Cornwells Heights and resuming its schedule from Trenton

The latest work is being undertaken near Track 15 and requires a section of concrete demolition and replacement that is similar to the work on Track 10 done last summer.

Work is also being done on Track 18, which requires localized concrete demolition with complex steel hardware replacement and rail renewal.

Amtrak said in a news release that it is renewing and replacing three turnouts in “C” Interlocking, which directs Amtrak and Long Island Rail Road trains to routes heading east and to Sunnyside Yard.

2nd Penn Station Track Project Begins in January

November 16, 2017

The project will extend through May 28 and involve work performed mostly on weekends.

In a news release, Amtrak said there will be a series of continuous single-track closures that will result in minor modifications to Amtrak and commuter train weekday operations.

“After a successful summer, it is essential that we continue to upgrade the infrastructure so that we can continue to improve the reliability of service for all the customers that use New York Penn Station,” said Amtrak co-CEO Charles “Wick” Moorman.

The following schedule changes will take place during the infrastructure renewal work:

  • Amtrak is cancelling Northeast Regional Trains 110 from Washington to New York and 127 from New York to Washington.
  • Northbound Keystone Train 640 will terminate at Newark Penn Station
  • Southbound Keystone Train 643 will originate at Newark Penn Station
  • Southbound Train 173 will stop at Newark Airport
  • Southbound Trains 129, 193 and 653 will all have earlier departure times.
  • Train 170 will also depart Washington early, stop at North Philadelphia and Cornwells Heights and resume its schedule from Trenton
  • Long Island Rail Road and NJ Transit are also expected to announce service schedule adjustments

The projects will occur in the area of Track 15, which requires a section of concrete demolition and replacement that will be similar to the work done on Track 10 last summer and Track 18, which requires localized concrete demolition with complex steel hardware replacement and rail renewal.

Amtrak also will renew and replace three turnouts in “C” Interlocking, which is at the east end of the station and directs Amtrak and Long Island Rail Road trains to routes heading east and to Sunnyside Yard.

While Amtrak has maintained and repaired this aging infrastructure, some of which dates to the 1970s, full replacement is now required.

Additional information and updates will be posted on and