Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor’

NEC Improvements Projects Plan Released

July 21, 2021

A 15-year $117 billion plan for Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor has been released by the Northeast Corridor Commission.

The plan, which the commission billed as the most ambitious reinvestment program in the corridor’s history, encompasses 150 projects and capital renewal efforts.

In a statement, the commission said it hopes the plan, if implemented, will result in a modern and resilient railroad with safe, reliable, and more frequent service; connections to new markets; and reduced travel times between communities.

“Improving the NEC rail system is a vital multistate effort,” said Amit Bose, deputy administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration and NEC Commission co-chair.

The plan, known as C35, is described as the first phase of the long-term vision for the corridor established in the Federal Railroad Administration’s 2017 NEC FUTURE plan to make significant improvements to NEC rail service for both existing and new riders, on both commuter-rail systems and Amtrak.

Among the projects cited in the plan are cutting the Amtrak Acela travel time between Washington and New York by 26 minutes, increasing Amtrak Northeast Regional service levels by 33 percent, and doubling service for several commuter railroads.

Baltimore Tunnel Replacement Advances

July 8, 2021

Plans have been announced for replacing the Baltimore rail tunnel in Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor.

Amtrak said the program is part of a long-range plan to work toward replacement of the B&P Tunnel with a new tunnel to be named after Frederick Douglass, who was a a 19th century abolitionist leader born in Maryland.

The B&P Tunnel is 150 years old and is plagued by deterioration, water infiltration and a sinking floor. The tunnel is 1.4 miles long.

These problems have caused chronic delays for Amtrak and MARC commuter trains.

Officials with Amtrak and the Maryland Department of Transportation  said replacing the B&P Tunnel will be multiple step, long-range project.

In the first phase workers will construct two new high-capacity tunnel tubes for electrified passenger trains.

Additional tunnel tubes are being deferred but will be designed to accommodate freight trains.

MDOT said MARC commuter trains using the new tunnels will be electrified.

Tunnel construction is expected to cost $4 billion and still needs full funding. In the meantime Amtrak is performing design work and has started to acquire property in preparation for construction.

Construction could begin on the tunnel’s southern approach within the next two years.

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.