AMTRAK has submitted grant applications worth a combined $US 8bn to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) for 16 proposed projects to improve long-distance services and for 14 proposed schemes to update infrastructure, improve stations and expand service on the Boston - New York - Washington DC Northeast Corridor (NEC).

The NEC projects are worth a combined $US 7.3bn and Amtrak says it submitted funding requests through the Federal-State Partnership for Intercity Passenger Rail Programme (FSP-NEC Programme) by the March 27 2023 deadline. The railway adds that it has been working on the design and engineering phases and is now seeking funding to commerce construction on the following schemes:

  • Baltimore & Potomac Tunnel replacement (Frederick Douglass Tunnel) programme
  • East River Tunnel rehabilitation project
  • Susquehanna River Rail Bridge project
  • Connecticut River Bridge replacement project
  • Springfield Line: Connecticut River Bridge replacement project.
  • Bush River Bridge replacement programme.
  • Gunpowder River Bridge replacement programme
  • Pelham Bay Bridge replacement project
  • Washington, DC - New Jersey infrastructure renewal and speed improvement programme
  • New Haven - Providence capacity planning study, and
  • Baltimore Penn station: master plan.

The applications also cover multiple Phase II Gateway Programme projects, including New York Penn station expansion, Sawtooth bridges replacement, Highline renewal and the Dock Bridge state of good repair project.

“In order for Amtrak to continue advancing a new era of passenger rail, we must make generational investments that require federal funding,” says Amtrak CEO Mr Stephen Gardner of the NEC projects. “Securing these grants would help reaffirm our commitment to improving and replacing critical railroad infrastructure, ensuring better service for years to come.”

The long-distance service applications total about $US 716m and were submitted through two FRA programmes funded by the Biden administration’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act: the Federal-State Partnership for Intercity Passenger Rail Programme for projects outside the NEC, which had an April 21 2023 deadline, and the Corridor Identification and Development Programme, which had a March 20 2023 deadline.

Service expansion

Amtrak has requested funding for the following projects:

  • Multiple New York - Cincinnati - Chicago Cardinal and New Orleans - Los Angeles Sunset Limited service improvements, including increasing to daily operation from three times per week at present; increasing Cardinal train speeds and reducing travel times between Indianapolis and Dyer, Indiana; and returning Sunset Limited service to Phoenix, Arizona.
  • Chicago - Los Angeles Southwest Chief signal modernisation between Colorado and New Mexico, and
  • Chicago - Seattle/Portland Empire Builder rail improvements in Montana
  • I-20 Crescent (New York - New Orleans) service extension from Meridian, Mississippi, through Jackson and Shreveport to Dallas, Texas, and
  • construction of a new Crystal City station that would add service to Arlington, Virginia.

“Amtrak’s long-distance routes are vital mobility and economic links for communities around the country and we’re continually working to enhance them,” says Amtrak board chair, Mr Tony Coscia. “These grant applications reiterate our commitment to improving service for all Amtrak customers, from small, rural towns to major metropolitan areas.”

Amtrak's Acela II on test on the NEC. Photo credit: Amtrak

Separately, it won’t be until sometime in 2024 that Amtrak’s new Acela II high-speed trains for the NEC will begin revenue service, three years behind schedule, due to problems that have emerged during testing.

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