Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor’

Agencies OK Documents for Hudson River Tunnel Project

June 4, 2021

Two federal agencies have issued the final environmental impact statement and record of decision for a project to create a new tunnel under the Hudson River in Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor.

The Federal Railroad Administration and Federal Transit Administration issued the documents recently in cooperation with the New Jersey Transit and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Amtrak and the Gateway Development Commission.

The documents will enable the Hudson Tunnel Project to advance toward final design and construction.

The tunnel is one component of the Gateway Program. Although no federal funding has been approved for the project to date, completion of these two steps is a prerequisite for FRA or FTA to direct future federal funding for such things as engineering, final design development and property acquisition.

NEC Passengers to Get Carbon Emissions Data

April 28, 2021

Amtrak will provide passengers using the Northeast Corridor trip-specific carbon emissions savings information.

The data will be for trains traveling between Boston and Washington. It will be calculated by showing riders how much they saved by not driving, as well as how much they saved by not flying.

In a news release, Amtrak said the difference between train travel and driving or flying is the passenger’s carbon emissions savings (Co2e).

Amtrak said its trains produces 83 percent fewer emissions than driving alone and up to 73 percent less than flying.

The NEC program is a pilot that will eventually be phased in across the national network.

The emissions calculations are generated from the EPA’s GHG Emission Hub, which multiplies the mode of travel factor (kg CO2e/pm) by passenger miles (pm) and equals total kgs of CO2e (per passenger).

Gateway Study Completion Expected in May

April 15, 2021

A long-stalled Final Environmental Impact Statement and Record of Decision for the Gateway Tunnel project in New York and New Jersey is expected to be completed in May.

The project, which affects Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, involves building new tunnels between New Jersey and New York City under the Hudson River while rebuilding the existing tunnels.

The tunnels are used by New Jersey Transit commuter trains.

The announcement of the completion date for the environmental study was made by New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy.

It had been expected given that the Biden administration has signaled its support for the Gateway project.

Group Talks to Amtrak About NEC Privatization

April 15, 2021

An organization that has proposed privatizing Amtrak operations in the Northeast Corridor has discussed its concept with Amtrak officials.

AmeriStarRail officials have said they can expand Amtrak’s NEC capacity to meet travel demand over the next 20 to 40 years.

The organization said it sought a meeting with Amtrak managers to discuss what they termed “misunderstandings about our proposal.”

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said Amtrak agreed to participate in a call to allow AmeriStarRail to elaborate on its NEC proposal.

“We will determine appropriate steps after the call,” Magliari said.

Amtrak Testing New Acela Trainset in NEC

April 9, 2021

Amtrak has been testing one of its new Acela trainsets in the Northeast Corridor.

The testing is occurring over a two week period on track in Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

The route there has a top speed of 165 miles per hour. The tests havie involved the second new Acela trainset that Amtrak has accepted from the manufacturer.

An Amtrak spokeswoman told Trains magazine that the trainset will also spend time in Boston for maintenance and a shop ergonomic check.

Track Work Will Change Some NE Schedules

April 6, 2021

Amtrak said that to accommodate track work being performed between Boston Back Bay and Route 128 stations that Acela and Northeast Regional schedules will be modified on April 10.

Acela Train 2249 will be cancelled and passengers given the option of booking another Acela or Northeast Regional train.

Train 2255 willoperate between Boston and Washington on April 10, only. This train does not normally operate on Saturdays.

Some Northeast Regional trains will be pulled by diesel engines over the weekend due to the overhead catenary system being switched off working hours. This may cause some minimal delays.

Biden Administration Expected to Move Gateway Project Along

March 27, 2021

The Biden administration plans to approve the long-stalled Gateway Project to build new tunnels under the Hudson River between New York and New Jersey.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg made the announcement this week during a hearing of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Buttigieg said the U.S. Department of Transportation hopes to complete the project’s environmental impact statement by the end of June.

“I share your sense of urgency,” Buttigieg told the committee. “This is a regional issue but one of “national significance because if there was a failure in one of those tunnels, the entire U.S. economy would feel it.”

The existing tunnels are more than a century old and suffered severe damage in 2012 during superstorm Sandy.

Amtrak and New Jersey Transit trains use the tunnels.

Amtrak Cool Toward NEC Privatization Proposal

March 14, 2021

Amtrak has reacted coolly to a proposal to privatize the carrier’s Northeast Corridor operations.

The privately held AmeriStar Rail recently proposed taking over the NEC, saying that it could meet the region’s travel demand over the next 20 to 40 years at a cost of $5 billion.

AmeriStarRail said it would operate 160 mph trains offering coach, business and first class on each train.

“For the first time, all passengers including senior citizens, students and families will have affordable, equal access to high-speed rail service in America which is funded by all taxpayers,” the AmeriStarRail proposal said.

It said it would extend NEC service to new routes, eliminate inefficient terminal operations in New York City and Washington, and reduce train congestion and delays by creating additional track and yard capacity.

The AmeriStarRail proposal was presented last week at a meeting of the Delmarva Rail Passenger Association,

The company insisted that it wasn’t seeking to replace Amtrak but to enhance it.

An Amtrak spokeswoman, Beth Toll, acknowledged that Amtrak management has corresponded with AmeriStarRail officials about its proposal.

In response to the AmeriStarRail proposal Toll made the following points:

• Although AmeriStarRail has proposed creating a centralized maintenance facility, likely in Delaware, that would employ 150 people, Amtrak already employs more than 1,000 Delaware residents primarily at two major equipment maintenance facilities. If Amtrak wasn’t operating the trains and maintaining the equipment on the NEC, most of those jobs would go away.

• It’s not likely that riders would be comfortable sharing small, closed compartments on a train [as AmeriStarRail has proposed] while the country is recovering from a pandemic;

• The assertion that the private group could expand the NEC for only $5 billion does not take into account that the NEC has a huge state-of-good-repair deficit, calculated at $42 billion, that must be addressed to maintain current Amtrak and commuter services.

• The AmeriStarRail proposal would not produce more money for Amtrak [as proposed] because the vast majority of Amtrak revenue comes from passenger fares, which AmeriStarRail would receive.

AmeriStarRail has said it would arrange private financing to fund its proposal.

“We simply would be setting ourselves up as a company, much like in the airline industry, where you have various private companies operate routes for the major carriers, like American has American Eagle or United has United Express,” said AmeriStarRail CEO Scott Spencer.

“The private entity has a different name, but they operate as an affiliated carrier under that marketing brand. So, we’re simply using the airline model to improve Amtrak service.”

The AmeriStarRail idea would need approval of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Toll also said that Amtrak already is pursuing many of the ideas proposed by AmeriStarRail, including an agreement with Metropolitan Transportation Authority in New York City to plan for the eventual operation of Amtrak trains to Jamaica/Long Island.

Other ideas that Amtrak is pursuing include procurement of equipment for new trains that could operate past Washington without an engine change to Virginia and the South.

Toll said a comprehensive NEC service improvement plan developed by the Federal Railroad Administration with Amtrak assistance includes many of the components of AmeriStarRail’s proposal.

DOT No. 2 Nominee Pledges Support for Gateway Project

March 14, 2021

The Biden administration’s nominee for the No. 2 job at the U.S. Department of Transportation said during a Senate confirmation hearing that the Northeast Corridor’s Gateway Tunnel project will be a top priority of the agency.

Deputy Secretary of Transportation nominee Polly Trottenberg made the pledge in response to a question asked by Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut).

“It is truly a project of national significance, and as you say, one that really would have just a massive rippling impact if we were to see those over-100-year-old tunnels under the Hudson River for some reason need to be shut down,” Trottenberg said.

She formerly served as commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation.

The $11 billion Gateway project calls for construction of two tunnels linking New York’s Penn Station and New Jersey under the Hudson River.

The two existing tunnels between the points would be rebuilt. Both were damaged in 2012 during Superstorm Sandy.

The tunnels are used by trains of Amtrak and New Jersey Transit.

The current tunnels were built in 1910 by the former Pennsylvania Railroad.

“Clearly, in my view, without the Gateway Project, our rail and possibly other transportation systems will collapse on the East Coast,” Blumenthal said. “As much of an exaggeration it may seem to say it that way, it is literally true that the tunnel is decaying and increasingly decrepit. It poses a danger to transportation up and down the East Coast. It could literally cripple the transportation grid as we know it now, and yet there have been delays and foot-dragging and finger-pointing.”

Trottenberg agreed that if the tunnels were shut down it would have “a massive ripping impact.”

She said President Joseph Biden and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg “have spoken about this project, and that the Department is going to be hard at work making sure we are picking up the pace and expediting the environmental and other approvals needed for this project, and working closely, I think, with the Congress as well to make sure we have a financing and funding scheme that can get the project done.”

When asked what Congress should be doing to get the Gateway project moving, Trottenberg said the administration will be coming back to Congress for further discussion.

Blumenthal asked Trottenberg to provide a a status report within two to four weeks of her confirmation.

“If confirmed, I certainly will, Senator, and I agree, this is not a project that we can fail to complete,” Trottenberg said. “We are going to have to find a way to do Gateway.”

Train Time In Trenton

February 26, 2021

A southbound Amtrak Northeast Regional train pauses in Trenton, New Jersey, to pick up and drop off passengers. In the meantime, passengers for a northbound train are getting into position on the opposite platform as their train to New York will be arriving soon. The image was made on May 14, 2016.