Transportation Planning Casebook/Northeast Corridor High speed Train

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Summary[edit | edit source]

An Acela Express trainset stops at Union Station
An Acela Express trainset stops at Union Station

The 457- mile Northeast Corridor (NEC) mainline, running from Washington, D.C. to Boston, MA and serving Amtrak, commuter and freight trains, traverses eight states and the District of Columbia. It is among the nation’s most congested passenger rail corridors, and one of the highest volume, shared use rail corridors in the world, carrying over 2000 daily trains operated by Amtrak and 8 commuter rail authorities. 13 million annual Amtrak passengers as well as over 200 million annual commuter rail passengers and approximately 70 freight trains are served by the NEC per day. This big service load leads to the lack of capacity along many stretches which affect the service reliability, on-time performance, and options for expansion. Significant delays are also a result in some areas.

Some other problems also exist in the northeast corridor. The NEC consists of a mix of aging infrastructure, much of it built 80-100 years ago, that will require extensive repairs for safe and efficient operations at current traffic levels. Mixing services of high-speed, intercity, conventional, commuter, and freight services also creates many delays. These different services create sheduling conflicts for the NEC and a sub-optimal use of capacity. One important thing to improve the NEC is investment in infrastructure that provides greater operational separation. High Speed Rail would become only one element of an integrated and balanced multimodal approach to provide meaningful interstate, regional and local travel capacity, expansion that can complement other modal investments and support sustainable development of the region.[1]

The Obama administration has continued to strongly support the push for high-speed rail. The most appropriate location for the investment is in the Northeast. High Speed Rail (HSR) is the most cost-effective means of increasing connectivity between the Northeast’s major cities. It is the mode with the clear competitive advantage for providing fast, convenient and reliable connections between cities that are 100-500 miles apart. The ability to increase capacity from both a physical and fiscal standpoint is limited in both the highway and aviation systems. [2]

Building HSR in the NEC will solve the existing problems of highway, airport and the existing railroad. It will allow available highway funding to be directed to maintenance costs on existing roadways instead of funding for new roadways through private domains. It can also substitute short-haul flights and free up capacity for more profitable and strategic reallocation. Building the HSR is not merely a provision of a new mode of transportation; it is a crucial investment in the future functionality and efficiency of the entire national transportation system. [2]

Additional Readings[edit | edit source]

Timeline[edit | edit source]

  • 1962 High-Speed Rail Proposed. Senator Claiborne Pell advocates for high-speed rail in the Northeast Corridor.[3]
  • 1971 Amtrak Created. National Railroad Passenger Corporation created for intercity travel in the United States. [4]
  • 1973 Amtrak Improvement Act and the Regional Rail Reorganization Act. Congress requirements require a transfer the focus of operation and maintenance from the Northeast corridor to Amtrak.[4]
  • 1976 Amtrak Acquires Tracks. Amtrak take over operations of trains and track forces, dispatching, signaling and maintenance of the Northeast Corridor. [4]
  • 1984 Modernizing New York’s Penn Station. Amtrak and the Long Island Rail Road collaborate in modernizing New York’s Penn Station, including a state-of-the-art train control system along with improvements to many passenger facilities.[4]
  • 1988 Reopening of Union Station. Restored Washington D.C.’s Union Station reopens in September, increasing revenue on Northeast Corridor trains by more than 15%.[4]
  • 1994 New York’s Penn Station Control Center. Phase one of the modernization process of New York’s Penn Station Control Center is completed.[4]
  • 1996 North End Groundbreaking Ceremony. A formal groundbreaking ceremony took place for electrification for North End. This allowed for rail lines to be able to reach faster speeds between New Haven and Boston.[4]
  • 2000 Northeast High-Speed Rail Improvement Project. Northeast High-Speed Rail Improvement Project is completed to electrify the North End. The first electrified service began on January 31, allowing for trains to run from Boston to Washington, D. C. without changing power.[4]
  • 2005 SAFETEA-LU. Congress releases a plan for balanced intermodal funding, shift from highway-focus.[4]
  • 2010 Vision for High-Speed Rail. A plan to meet the mobility needs of the Northeast through high-speed rail is presented by the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Design. Amtrak then releases the “Next Generation” report envisioning true high-speed rail on the Northeast Corridor.[5]
  • 2040 – Proposed Year of Operation of 'true' high speed rail in the Northeast Corridor.

Narrative of Existing Modes of Transportation along the NEC[edit | edit source]

Travel Modes in major cities along Northeast Corridor[edit | edit source]

Auto Transit[edit | edit source]

The northeast is suffering from crippling road congestion. The most congested corridor in the nation is the southbound segment of I-95 in the Bronx. Of the top 10 most congested metropolitan areas in the United States, four of them are located within the Northeast megaregion, with New York, Washington, Boston and Philadelphia ranking 2nd, 4th, 8th, and 9th respectively. In looking at international comparisons, the United States and the Northeast in particular fare very poorly. Of the top five most congested metropolitan areas in the US, UK, France, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, four of them are in America and two of them—New York and Washington—are in the Northeast Megaregion. Of the top 15 most congested metropolitan areas in these countries, four are in the NEC, with Boston and Philadelphia joining the ranks. [2] Due to the largely unbroken stretch of urbanized land along the region, this metro-area congestion impacts both local commuters and intercity travelers. The limited highway capacity must be available for a host of sometimes conflicting uses including inter-state and intra-state travel, daily commuting, local freight delivery, and the provision of emergency services. The optimized use of this capacity is essential.[1] Annual expenditures in the $25 billion range will be needed to make any headway in dealing with this road congestion according to a recently released report by the I-95 Corridor Coalition titled, "A 2040 Vision for the I-95 Coalition Region", and any further expansion of highway in urban areas faces substantial challenges.[6]

Air Transit[edit | edit source]

The top four most delay-prone airports in the nation are in the Northeast Corridor. Congestion in the northeast airspace chokes the economic vitality of the region and the efficient operation of the entire national aviation system.[1] In 2007, flight delays cost the Northeast Megaregion $2.45 billion, and in 2025, the cost of flight delay is projected to grow to a staggering $7.12 billion a year.[7] If the New York region fails to increase capacity at its airports, it will forgo as many as 125,000 jobs, $6 billion in wages, and $16 billion in sales each year by the 2030s.[8]

Historically, Philadelphia-New York has been among the routes with the most significant deteriorating performance with nonstop airline connections. In 1995, the average gate-to-gate time between the two cities was 58 minutes, compared to today which is 75 minutes. [2]

Improving capacity by expanding existing airports is unattainable for many of the same reasons. The Northeast’s major airports are either land-locked or water-locked with no room to significantly expand their existing footprints to accommodate more runways and terminals. Some projects are underway to reconfigure airfields to maximize and increase capacity. The FAA recently approved a Capital Enhancement Program at Philadelphia International that will create a new commuter terminal, new parallel runway and relocated UPS facility. The $5 billion program will only create enough capacity to adequately accommodate projected demand until 2035, however. [2]

Ridership projection models built by the 2011 PennDesign studio team forecast a modal switch of 2.3 million travelers from planes to trains by 2050. Such accommodation of megaregional air travel demand on rail would free much needed capacity for more profitable long-distance flights. [2]

Existing Railroad[edit | edit source]

457 miles of railway connect Washington D.C. to Boston, MA along the North East Corridor Railway serving Amtrak, commuter and freight trains. This rail corridor is the most congested passenger rail in the country and is one of the highest volume shared use rail corridors in the world carrying over 2000 daily trains. 13 million annual Amtrak passengers as well as over 200 million annual commuter rail passengers and approximately 70 freight trains are served by the North East Corridor railway system every day [1]. This high demand leads to lack of on-time performance and options for expansion, and limits capacity along many stretches which affect the service reliability,.

Amtrak's flagship Acela which is the first high speed train in North America

Along with increased travel demands in the area, many other problems exist in the northeast corridor. The NEC consists of a mix of aging infrastructure, much of it built 80-100 years ago, that will require extensive repair for safe and efficient operations. Sharing railways between high speed, commuter and freight also causes scheduling conflicts and a sub-optimal use of capacity. One important thing to improve the NEC is investment in infrastructure that provides greater operational separation. High Speed Rail would be only one element of an integrated and balanced multimodal approach to provide meaningful interstate, regional and local travel capacity expansion that can complement other modal investments and support sustainable development of region. [1]

High Speed Railroad[edit | edit source]

In 1962 Senator Claiborne Pell advocated the need for high-speed rail in the Northeast Corridor between Boston and Washington, D.C. In what would have been the world’s first High Speed Rail route, proposals for improved rail service in the corridor have fallen short of Pell’s vision. Even though Amtrak began its Acela Express trains in 1999 which are capable of 150 mph service, commuter rail congestion and the corridor’s outmoded tracks, power systems, bridges and tunnels have limited the average speed of the trains to under 75 mph. These deficiencies in the operation have also undercut Amtrak’s on-time performance along this route. For much of the last decade, in response to a push from congress that Amtrak strive for financial self-sufficiency, it has had to divert hundreds of millions of dollars per year of net profits from NEC operations into its long-distance train services in other parts of the country. Now Amtrak is strongly committed to designing, building and operating High Speed Rail in the Northeast. In the fall of 2010, following the release of the Penn Studio High Speed Rail Proposal, Amtrak proposed creating its own “Next Generation” Northeast HSR service which proposes the improvements to the corridor in order to upgrade to an independent high speed rail.[5]

Key Stakeholders of NEC High Speed Rail (Annotated List of Actors)[edit | edit source]

Current Actors[edit | edit source]

  • Commuter Railroads including MARC, MBTA, Metro-North Railroad, New Jersey Transit, Long Island Rail Road, SEPTA, and Shore Line East.
  • Freight Railroads including the Norfolk Southern Railway, CSX Transportation, Conrail, and The Providence and Worcester Railroad
  • 9 state governments the Departments of Transportation and Offices of Management and Budget for; Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and Virgina
  • The District of Columbia
  • The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA)[6]
  • U.S. DOT including the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program [6]

Regional Policy and Planning Groups[edit | edit source]

  • The I-95 Coalition is a partnership of state departments of transportation, regional and local transportation agencies, toll authorities, and related organizations, including public safety, port, transit, and rail organizations, from Maine to Florida, with affiliate members in Canada.[9]
  • The Coalition of Northeastern Governors(CONEG) is a non-partisan association of the Governors of the seven Northeastern states. Members include the Governors of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont. CONEG encourages intergovernmental cooperation in the Northeast on issues relating to the economic, environmental and social well-being of the Northeast states.[10]
  • The Regional Plan Association(RPA) is an independent, not-for-profit regional planning organization, founded in 1922, that focuses on recommendations to improve the quality of life and economic competitiveness of a 31-county New York-New Jersey-Connecticut region. Its main office is in New York City, and it has separate Connecticut, Long Island, and New Jersey offices.[11]
  • The Business Alliance for Northeast Mobilityis a coalition of the major business organizations from Richmond, VA to Portland, ME, including our Business Council of Fairfield County. This piece is presents a vision for federal and state co-investment in higher speed and more frequent inter-city and commuter rail in the Northeast Corridor.[12]
  • The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey(PANYNJ) is a bi-state port district authority, established in 1921 (as the Port of New York Authority) through an interstate compact, that oversees much of the regional transportation infrastructure, including bridges, tunnels, airports, and seaports, within the Port of New York and New Jersey.[13]

Future Needs for Collaboration[edit | edit source]

The PennDesign report recognizes that the current institutional system governing rail infrastructure in the Northeast is inadequate. Currently, the NEC infrastructure is managed by multiple owners, which creates delays and conflicts among operators, and each state tends to prioritize investments in commuter rail over intercity service. While these issues could be overcome, the proposal argues that the current institutional framework is too weak for the nine major governments along the NEC to cooperate and make major investments. [5]

To solve these problems, the proposal takes its cues from successful examples in Europe. Specifically, the proposal recommends separating infrastructure operations from rail operations and creating a new public-benefit corporation (PBC) that would manage the high-speed rail infrastructure. This PBC, which they dub, "NECSA - the Northeast Corridor Systems Authority," would represent the major governments on the line and would be responsible for constructing and managing the high-speed rail infrastructure. NECSA would not, however, run any high-speed rail trains, but would be responsible for contracting with operators to run service. Under this model, a corporation like Amtrak could continue to run on the NEC, but would no longer own the infrastructure or be responsible for its maintenance. [5]

Policy Issues and Proposals for the Northeast Corridor[edit | edit source]

PennDesign proposal[edit | edit source]

Alignment[edit | edit source]

In order to achieve true high-speed service at 200 mph or greater, trains need long stretches of flat, straight and uninterrupted track that are dedicated to HSR service, meaning they are not shared with slower freight or conventional trains that would limit travel speeds.[5]

New York City to Washington, D.C. Segment

On the southern half, between NYC and Washington, DC, the alignment mainly takes advantage of existing rights-of-way. The proposed alignment south of NYC would parallel the existing NEC, which has the proper geometry to support HSR operations along most of its length with feasible variations in some major cities. In Baltimore and Philadelphia, for example, the alignment calls for the construction of new tunnels under the cities to provide a straighter route that would allow for faster speeds and also, as is the case in Philadelphia, to locate the HSR station closer to the central business district.[5]

New York City to Boston Segment

On the northern half of the corridor, between NYC and Boston, the proposal offers a new alignment that differs drastically from the existing NEC. The new alignment could provide service to Grand Central in New York City and then would travel east along new tracks to Long Island. Upon reaching Ronkonkoma - MacArthur Airport - the line would turn north and travel through a new tunnel underneath the Long Island sound to New Haven. From there, a new, inland route would bring HSR service to Hartford, CT, where it would begin breaking east to Worcester, MA before finally reaching Boston South Station.[5]

While the northern alignment would be challenging in certain segments, it is certainly practical from a construction and operations perspective. First, it is not beyond the scope of many international HSR projects. For example, at 16.2 miles, the proposed tunnel under Long Island sound would be about half the length of the Channel Tunnel, which connects the UK and France, at 30.1 miles. Other new sections, like the route through central CT, take advantage of existing highway routes on land which is largely already under public ownership. The new alignment also solves the challenges of the existing NEC in southwestern CT. This section of the existing NEC between New York and New Rochelle is already heavily congested with Amtrak and Metro North service and there is little room in the surrounding communities to expand the right of way. In the eastern half of the state, the existing NEC is too narrow and too many turns for true HSR, and would require the construction of too many new bridges. The new alignment provides service to heavily populated areas that currently either have no intercity rail service or are under-served, including densely populated Long Island, JFK Airport (the busiest in the Northeast), and key regional centers like Hartford, CT and Worcester, MA.[5]

The proposal offers an ambitious timeline for completing a HSR line in the NEC. Construction would be completed in phases, with the entire system operational in about 25 years by 2035:

Early action items (environmental review, environmental mitigation, and land acquisition) and improvements to existing NEC. (2012-2020)

Phase 1: Construction of NYC to Philadelphia. (2015 - 2024)

Phase 2: Construction of Philadelphia to Washington DC, and NYC to Boston. (2025 - 2035)

Service Patterns[edit | edit source]

The plan includes a tiered service pattern along both the new HSR alignment and the traditional, shoreline route. By mixing limited-stop express service with regional and local service, the proposal successfully achieves fast travel times, while still providing service to most cities on the existing NEC. While the fastest, express services would operate on the new HSR alignment, conventional intercity service with more frequent stops would also rely on the existing NEC track. [5] The proposal calls for three main tiers of service:

  • Express - Serving only the major cities of the Northeast (Boston, NYC, Philadelphia and Washington, DC), creating a service that is highly competitive with air travel.
  • Limited - Serving major hub cities as well as medium sized cities, like Baltimore, New Haven, and Hartford.
  • Regional - Serving smaller cities along the new alignment.

In addition, a specialty service at regional airports could enable HSR to reduce the need for many more short-haul flights in the Megaregion, enabling more passengers the ability to connect to long-distance flights around the world. High-speed commuter service would shuttle long-distance commuters between the most popular destinations along the route. Finally, the proposal calls for improved regional service along the Shore Line. [5]

Cost & Benefits[edit | edit source]

The benefit-cost analysis that the 2011 PennDesign Northeast HSR studio conducted demonstrates that these returns far exceed the costs, calculated at $52 billion, to reflect a benefit-cost ratio of 1.38 when discounted at seven percent over a 40-year period. This positive ratio suggests that high-speed rail could be justified as an appropriate flagship project for the Northeast, and demonstrates that public investments in this project will yield a sizable and demonstrable positive return to society. [2]

Ridership & Revenue[edit | edit source]

PennDesign's proposal projects significant growth in rail ridership as a result of the introduction of HSR service. The proposal includes three sources of additional rail ridership. Specifically, HSR will:

  • Capture a higher percentage of the intercity travel market in the Northeast Megaregion, which will grow with population and employment gains.
  • Induce travel demand by creating new travel opportunities.
  • Attract a new segment of long-distance commuters taking advantage of faster travel times between residential and employment locations.

Upon the completion of the entire HSR alignment in 2035, the proposal projects annual ridership would reach 37 million on all intercity routes, and 64 million by 2050. The PennDesign team argues that HSR could reduce congestion and air travel delays by diverting a projected 27 million automobile drivers and 2 million air passengers in 2035. [5]

The strong ridership projections mean strong revenue for HSR. The proposal projects that HSR would turn a considerable profit for HSR operators. In 2035, an estimated $6.3 billion in revenue (including $4.5 billion in fare revenue) would easily exceed $3.9 billion in operating costs. Thanks to its strong ridership, the route between NYC and Philadelphia would be the most profitable stretch of the system. [5]

Amtrak’s Design proposal[edit | edit source]

Alignment[edit | edit source]

New York City to Washington, D.C. Segment

For the New York City-to-Washington, D.C. segment, a similar process compared to the UPenn design was followed. Potential alignments examined including an “Allegheny Alignments” through central New Jersey or eastern Pennsylvania, and “Inland” and “Shore” alignments that would swing east of the existing through largely suburban areas of Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey. These alignments would take advantage of existing highway routes and less dense land development patterns for acquiring new rights-of-way, but would by-pass many of the major urban areas presently served by Amtrak along the NEC, such as Newark, Philadelphia, and Baltimore. [6] The “Analyzed Alignment,” is one that substantially parallels the existing NEC to continue serving the region’s major downtown areas, but deviates at key locations (e.g. Philadelphia and Baltimore) to straighten trackage that would potentially pose unacceptable speed constraints while still serving downtown locations. [6]

New York City to Boston Segment

In the New York City-to-Boston segment, the study team examined a variety of potential alignments, including a “Shore Alignment” paralleling the existing NEC; a “Long Island Alignment” heading east of out New York and traversing Long Island Sound; and “Highway” alignments paralleling all or portions of major interstate highways, including I-84, I-90 and I-91, through Connecticut and Massachusetts. It is important to note that virtually all of the alignments considered pose a variety of construction and environmental challenges. It was beyond the scope of this study to analyze all potential alignments in significant detail. However, a representative alignment was chosen for analytical and costing purposes. This “Analyzed Alignment,” parallels the existing NEC from New York to just north of New Rochelle, then follows a combination of highway, rail and overland routes through Connecticut and Massachusetts, before rejoining the existing NEC south of Rt. 128 in Massachusetts and paralleling it into Boston. A route substantially paralleling the existing NEC between Boston and New York was not chosen for initial analytical purposes because of a combination of capacity constraints on Metro-North’s New Haven Line between New Haven and New Rochelle. Curvature restrictions and design requirements to meet environmental concerns on the Amtrak-owned “Shore Line” from the Massachusetts state line to New Haven would make it extremely difficult to meet the travel time targets of approximately one hour and 30 minute service. [6]

The forecasted success of Corridor improvements in the NEC over the next 30 years were measured by detailed assessment of conditions in five milestone yeas: [1]

Phase 1: NEC-UP. (2015 - 2030): match the service improvements that result from completion of various infrastructure improvements under NEC-UP, including Master Plan projects.

Phase 2: NextGen HSR. (2030-2040): are tied to the completion dates for major segments of the high-speed network and the phased start of NextGen HSR services.

Whatever alignment is eventually selected for the NEC, it would be the result of considerably more detailed planning and engineering analyses, comprehensive stakeholder engagement efforts and detailed coordination with transportation and land use development plans along the corridor. While the alignment, station locations, travel time predictions, and cost estimates coming from that process would vary from those presented here, the study team feels that the concept discussed above provides a reasonable picture of the type of system that could meet the future high-speed rail needs of the Northeast. [6]

Service Patterns[edit | edit source]

The proposal calls for four tiers of service:

  • HSR Super-Express: Serving the four major hub cities (Washington, DC; Philadelphia; NYC; and Boston).
  • HSR Express: Serving the four major hubs, along with one of two different combinations of medium-sized cities (Express A or Express B).
  • HSR Keystone Express: Improved service on the Keystone Corridor between NYC, Philadelphia, and Harrisburg, PA.
  • HSR Shoreline Express: Improved express service on the coastal route combined with high-speed operations between NYC and Washington, DC.

Under the proposed NextGen HSR Service plan, high-speed train frequencies would increase dramatically-over three times more daily service in the Boston to New York market and five times more service in the key Washington, D.C. to New York market. The specific details of the proposed services on the NEC will evolve as planning progresses in coordination with the FRA’s ongoing PRCIP process. The planning effort will further analyze new service levels and evaluate these for their ability to meet transportation needs of the NEC and the financial goals of the program.[1]

Cost & Benefits[edit | edit source]

Of the total cost, the Master Plan estimated about $40 billion (2011) in capital investment to help accommodate a projected 60% increase in NEC intercity and commuter trips by 2030 and operated infrastructure. And the NextGen HSR network construction costs, at approximately $110 billion (2011), which would deliver increased capacity, improved reliability and reduced travel times in the NEC by 2040. [1]

Considering ridership, revenues and operating costs and maintenance costs, the results of the 2012 HSR Vision report estimates confirmed that NEC Program would generate an annual operating surplus of $1.65 billion (2011) by 2040.[1]

Ridership & Revenue[edit | edit source]

The 2012 HSR Vision report predicted a total ridership level of 43.5 million riders and annual ticket revenues of $4.86 billion ($ 2011) by 2040. The overall NEC ridership would increase approximately 269% by 2040 and the HSR ridership would increase a significant 828% by 2040, from current 3.2 million Acela Express riders to 29.7 million high-speed riders.[1]

Comparison of Proposals[edit | edit source]

Alignment[edit | edit source]

Amtrak's proposed southern alignment between NYC and Washington, DC, is Similar to the PennDesign route, the alignment calls for major new tunnels under the cities of Baltimore, Philadelphia and NYC. However, Amtrak's vision for the northern high-speed rail alignment is different from the PennDesign route. Amtrak recognizes that, north of NYC, the current NEC alignment is unsuitable for HSR. In Connecticut, west of New Haven (where MetroNorth currently operates) the tracks are already reaching capacity and nearby land development prohibits expansion. East of New Haven, curves in the alignment restrict high-speed service. [14]

Amtrak's solution is to send the next generation high-speed trains north from NYC to Westchester County and into western Connecticut via a new, inland route. That route would take advantage of highway alignments that are already under public ownership, including Interstates 84 and 91 in Connecticut, and Interstate 90 in Massachusetts. And while this alignment wouldn't serve Long Island, it would bring intercity service to new communities, specifically the Connecticut cities of Danbury and Waterbury.[14]

Another major feature is the alignment's new, proposed connection between New York Penn Station and Grand Central Terminal. For the first time, the NEC would stop at both of NYC's major train stations and directly connect intercity service to the east side of Midtown Manhattan, where the majority of jobs are located.[14]

Travel time[edit | edit source]

trainset stops at Union Station]] In general the travel times of the two proposals are comparable although the Amtrak “Super Express” tends to show proposed travel times that are a bit faster than Penn’s “Express” route. There are multiple factors that play a role in this including difference in distances of the proposed plans. A comparison of these times are shown in the table to the right.

Environmental Impacts[edit | edit source]

  • Air Quality- With predicted growth in population and associated pollution, the aggressive targets of NEC states to reduce emissions and improve air quality are becoming increasingly difficult to achieve. The building of HSR can help lower the amount of vehicle miles travelled (VMT) through improve service and add capacity on the NEC. [2]
  • Land Use- Rail uses significantly less land than is used for both auto and air infrastructure and has the ability to create less sustained noise, vibration and visual intrusion. All these factors impact the quality of life of residents on the Corridor. Additionally, expanded rail service can support further development of high density communities, which maximizes the efficient and sustainable use of available land. [2]
  • Reduced Energy Use and Emissions- Based on energy and emissions factors and evaluation methods from the U.S. EPA and DOE, energy savings along the NEC were estimated at an annual $0.4 billion, due to a shift from other modes to rail, as rail is more energy-efficient and less-polluting. [2]

Amtrak is waiting for the Federal Railroad Administration to complete a required environmental-impact assessment of the corridor to come up with a "preferred alternative" for development. That assessment is expected to take until June 2015. [2]

Economic Impacts[edit | edit source]

Construction Jobs: About 40,000 jobs and $33 billion in construction wages over a 25-year period.

Permanent NEC jobs: About 22,000 new positions including 7,000 within Amtrak resulting in $1.4 billion in annual wages along with possibility other positions to follow shortly, as well as more to come with expansion.

Shorter Travel Time: Resulting in increased leisure and efficiency for travelers.

Improved Productivity: Improved speed and a more efficient rail line will increase productivity in both workers and riders. It will reduce travel time for workers conducting business and will enhance labor markets through the entire region.

Public Safety[edit | edit source]

In 2010, 30,196 fatalities on US Roadways were reported to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).[15] Over the past 15 years this number has ranged from about 30,000 to 40,000 fatalities yearly, typically being on the higher end. The NEC will result in a significant number of drivers switching transportation methods from auto to rail therefor reducing the potential for automobile crashes and easing some of the congestion that causes them.

Project Future[edit | edit source]

Completion of NEC High Speed Rail[edit | edit source]

The completion of the Northeast Corridor High-Speed Rail will be completed in two phases. Phase one titled: The Northeast Corridor Upgrade Program, focuses on modernizing existing rail lines and public facilities and preparing these facilities for next phase of the project. The Northeast Corridor Upgrade Program begins in 2012 and works to be completed in 2025. Phase two titled: the Next-Generation High-Speed Rail Program, works to integrate short term improvements done under the Northeast Corridor Upgrade Program, along with the long-term development plan of constructing a two-tract high-speed rail network. The Next-Generation High-Speed Rail Program is project to be completed between the years of 2025 and 2040. The University of Pennsylvania School of Design (PennDesign) team estimates that this completion date could be as soon as 2035. Both phases work together to create new capacity while improving the current services.

Funding the Future of the NEC High Speed Rail Project[edit | edit source]

It is estimated by Amtrak that the total cost of its vision, of adding or modernizing 427 miles of two-track high-speed rail, will cost approximately $117 billion. PennDesign estimated $100 billion in new high speed rail systems and another $40 billion in repair investments to existing systems. Amtrak projects capital revenue to roughly be $11 billion, along with foreseeing annual expenditures to range between $3-4 billion. To generate addition revenue Amtrak is looking to additional services including federal support of new fare policies; state and local financial support; and recruit private sector involvement to help fund the program.

Expectation for ridership in 2040-2050[edit | edit source]

The goal of increasing the frequency and capacity of the high-speed system is to ultimately increase the populations served by rail. Both design proposals believe that ridership will greatly increase from the current 3.2 million annual riders on the Acela Express and 13 million annual riders on total NEC Amtrak routes. PennDesign estimates that ridership on intercity routes would increase to 37 million annually in 2035 and reach 64 million annual riders by 2050. Amtrak’s vision also fits within this range prediction that 43.5 million annual riders will be using the high speed rail lines by 2050.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. a b c d e f g h i "The Amtrak Vision for the Northeast Corridor 2012 Update Report." Amtrak. N.p., July 2012. Web. 9 Sept. 2012. <>.
  2. a b c d e f g h i j k "High Speed Trains: The Future of Mobility on the Northeast Corridor." UPenn Studio. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Sept. 2012.
  3. "Southeast High Speed Rail Corridor: The Northeast Twenty Years of High Speed Rail." Southeast High Speed Rail Corridor: The Northeast Twenty Years of High Speed Rail. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Sept. 2012.
  4. a b c d e f g h i "Historic Timeline." Amtrak: History of America's Railroad. Web. 09 Sept. 2012. <>.
  5. a b c d e f g h i j k l "High-Speed Rail in the Northeast Megaregion. From Vision to Reality." PennDesign. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Sept. 2012. <
  6. a b c d e f g "A Vision for High-Speed Rail in the Northeast Corridor." Amtrak. N.p., Sept. 2010. Web. 11 Sept. 2012.
  7. Resource Systems Group, Inc, Innovative Approaches to Addressing Aviation Capacity Issues in Coastal Mega-regions, Airport Cooperative Research Program 31 (Washington, DC: TRB, 2010), 6
  8. Jeffrey M. Zupan, Richard E. Barone and Matthew H. Lee, “Executive Summary” in Upgrading to World Class: The Future of the New York Region’s Airports (New York: Regional Plan Association, 2011) 11.
  9. "Coalition Home Page." Coalition Home Page. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Sept. 2012.
  10. "Coalition of Northeastern Governors." CONEG. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Sept. 2012.
  11. "Reports and Maps." - Regional Plan Association. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Sept. 2012.
  12. "About the Business Alliance." - Business Alliance for Northeast Mobility. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Sept. 2012.
  13. "Overview of Facilities and Services." - About the Port Authority. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Sept. 2012.
  14. a b c "Amtrak's Vision for NextGen High-Speed Rail on the Northeast Corridor." - Business Alliance for Northeast Mobility. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Sept. 2012.
  15. "Did You Know??" FARS Encyclopedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Sept. 2012.