Growth and service to deteriorate without long-term capital funding solution
WASHINGTON – The success of the Northeast Corridor (NEC) has used up much of the legacy capacity of the existing railroad and depleted its infrastructure assets leading to a “major coming investment crisis that, without a solution, will mean strangled growth and deteriorating service” for 260 million intercity and commuter rail passengers who rely on it each year, Amtrak President and CEO Joe Boardman told a Congressional committee today.
“We have pushed the current NEC infrastructure about as far as it can go, but the end of demand and growth is nowhere in sight. A new model for investment is needed. If we do not obtain one, the outlook for the system’s capacity and condition is grim,” he said.
Boardman explained that when Amtrak took over the NEC in 1976, it was in a deplorable state of disrepair and required major investment. To the address the situation, the Federal Railroad Administration, Congress and Amtrak invested about $4 billion from 1976 to 1998, transforming the NEC from a rundown mid-century railroad into a modern, electrified, highspeed line capable of handling more than 2,200 trains per day and speeds up to 150 mph.
Even with that investment, the NEC today depends on major components built from 1900 to 1930 – particularly the electrical system and the bridges – that need to be replaced and many segments are operating at or near maximum capacity.
Amtrak has outlined plans for a high-capacity, high-performance railroad featuring a major upgrade of the existing NEC to accommodate increased and improved commuter, intercity and freight service and augmented by dedicated high-speed trackage, on new and existing right of way, that will allow a dramatic increase in train frequencies, raise speeds and reduce trip time to world-class levels.
Boardman said: “The investment to realize these plans will have to come from a variety of sources, principally federal, but states and cities in the region will also have to play a part. Private financing will need to play a role, too, but these contributions will only be truly possible once the public sector has committed to this project.”
As America looks to recapitalize its aging infrastructure and deploy new capacity strategically across constrained networks nationwide, intercity passenger rail stands apart as the fastest growing transport mode. To support this growth, Amtrak is ready to embrace innovations, build new partnerships and pursue private sector opportunities, but none of it will replace the need for the federal government to commit to the NEC.
“However costly these investments may appear, the cost of failing to act will ultimately be far higher, as the mobility and economic success we and the entire Northeast have enjoyed in recent years will be relentlessly eroded under the conditions of a deteriorated and capacity constrained railroad,” Boardman stressed.
Amtrak is America’s Railroad®, the nation’s intercity passenger rail service and its high-speed rail operator. Amtrak and its state and commuter partners move people, the economy and the nation forward. Formally known as the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, Amtrak is governed by a nine member board of directors appointed by the President of the United States and confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Anthony R. Coscia is board chairman and Jeffrey R. Moreland is vice chairman. In FY 2014, nearly 31 million passengers traveled on Amtrak on more than 300 daily trains – at speeds up to 150 mph (241 kph) – that connect 46 states, the District of Columbia and three Canadian Provinces. Enjoy the journey® at Amtrak.com or call 800-USA-RAIL for schedules, fares and more information. Like us on Facebook, Follow us on Twitter (@Amtrak) and check out our blog at blog.amtrak.com.