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Northeast Corridor Commission releases $117 billion infrastructure plan

By Bob Johnston | July 14, 2021

Detailed ‘Connect NEC 2035’ proposal would allow for incremental improvements

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Long steel bridge with train barely visible through girders
Long steel bridge with train barely visible through girders
A Boston-bound Acela rumbles across the Connecticut River Bridge near Old Saybrook, Conn., in October 2011. Century-old infrastructure is targeted for replacement in a 15-year Northeast Corridor plan released today. (Bob Johnston)

WASHINGTON — The commission that helps fund Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor operations today released a sweeping blueprint that sets goals for passenger rail service improvements over the next 15 years, and the infrastructure investments and funding it estimates will be necessary to implement them.

On the surface, “Connect NEC 2035,” or “C35,” might be viewed as a companion to Amtrak’s “Connects US” proposal for a nationwide collection of corridors the company wants to develop. But the Northeast Corridor version, from the commission comprised of states from Maryland to Massachusetts, is a much more detailed document, packed with specific improvements designed to produce measurable results.

Though it utilizes findings from the Federal Railroad Administration’s NEC Future consumer outreach project that concluded in 2017, C35 focuses on realistic improvements that can be achieved with a proposed investment of $117 billion.

For instance, previous “wish list” proposals released by Amtrak and various consulting firms suggested building new rights-of-way to bypass the twisting path Amtrak trains take over Metro-North trackage between New York and New Haven, Conn., and hugging the Connecticut shoreline between New Haven and New London, Conn.

Train with electric locomotive passing station
A southbound Northeast Regional train pauses at Amtrak’s Kingston, R.I., station in June 2017. The Conncect NEC 2035 plan would increase capacity, allowing more service to intermediate stations such as Kingston. (Bob Johnston)

Instead, C35 lists improvements such as phased replacement of eight bridges between New York’s Penn Station and Boston on the existing route. Its assessment is candid enough to suggest that Metro-North’s portion will not include any 160-mph-capable trains even after all the investments are made. In fact, only 100 additional miles of high-speed track are proposed over the entire Boston-Washington corridor. The document shows exactly where segments would be improved. A table shows how travel times will decrease once the upgrades are made.

The plan also calls for through-train connectivity through New York, New Haven, Providence, R.I., and Philadelphia, thus greatly improving mobility for potential riders on feeder routes and at smaller stations.

The C35 plan’s pragmatic, incremental approach is designed to help make a strong case for an annual federal funding stream that will need to be created to make the investment happen.

The complete 274-page document can be downloaded here. An executive summary, available here, provides an excellent overview.

4 thoughts on “Northeast Corridor Commission releases $117 billion infrastructure plan

  1. Another reason the NEC should not be exempted from PRIIA. Why should taxpayers from other states have to pay for their corridors plus these NEC grand plans?

    1. I do think when all is said and done the northeastern states will need to pay, especially in that there are so many commuter trains. Bear in mind this is a multi-decade project. Biden/Harris will be gone in 3 1/2 years and Congress and Senate will never be more liberal than they are now. Senators and Representatives from the various states aren’t going to let the free ride for NEC go on much longer.

  2. There are lots of worthwhile projects cite. But let no one be fooled. This is a plan designed to kill off all Amtrak service outside the territories cited in “Connect NEC 2035”. Amtrak’s “US Connect 2035” is nothing more then a lie, a sham, and a charade. But guess what folks, Congress won’t fund this. They’re gonna tell the Northeastern states “If doing C35 is at the cost of our train services, as meager as they are, we are not going to pay. You are on your own. Either you collectively, through a NE compact, come up with the funds or this won’t get done.

    1. Where are you getting this from? Do yourself a favor and read literally everything Amtrak has put out in the last six months, and all the proposals and legislation introduced. Amtrak Connects Us will lead to more intercity rail service, not kill it off.

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