Amtrak boss details Northeast Corridor ‘crisis’

Posted: April 19, 2013

Amtrak faces a "crisis of success," unable to keep up with the growing demand for rail service on the Northeast Corridor, Amtrak president Joseph Boardman says.

" . . . We've used up the legacy capacity of the existing railroad while further depleting its infrastructure assets, leading us to a major coming investment crisis that, without a solution, will mean strangled growth and deteriorating service," Boardman told a Senate committe Wednesday.

Amtrak, setting ridership records every year, needs about $2 billion annually for upkeep and growth on the corridor, far more than the $260 million a year it has been spending, Boardman said, calling for a longterm federal plan for funding the railroad.

"We're running out of ways to cram more trains onto the infrastructure," Boardman told a hearing by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation on the future of the Northeast Corridor.

"We are going to need more than just federal capital funding to address this crisis - we are going to need a new model. If we do not obtain one, the outlook for the system's capacity and condition is grim."

Amtrak has proposed a $151 billion redevelopment of the entire corridor over the next quarter-century, envisioning a separate high-speed corridor between Washington and Boston to accommodate trains traveling at 220 miles per hour.

That could mean 37-minute trips between Philadelphia and New York City, with bullet trains traveling in tunnels beneath Philadelphia, with stops at a new airport station and an expanded Market East station.

Separately, the Federal Railroad Administration is studying how to improve the rail corridor, and the FRA this month unveiled 15 alternatives for improved passenger service, ranging from modest upgrades to an all-new high-speed corridor like that advocated by Amtrak.

The FRA expects to select its "preferred alternative" for the corridor by mid-2015.

Boardman said the current way of funding Amtrak, subject to annual congressional budget debates and threats of no more subsidies, "cannot sustain a program of this magnitude."

"Congress must act to create a funding program that will support multi-year, multi-billion-dollar projects, and that will require local and regional contributions," he said.


Contact Paul Nussbaum at 215-854-4587 or pnussbaum@phillynews.com.

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