Rail

Amtrak's 30-year HSR plan would slash Northeast travel times

Posted on September 29, 2010

In a plan released today, Amtrak says a Next-Generation High-Speed Rail service could be successfully developed in the Northeast with trains operating up to 220 mph on a new two-track corridor. Trip times would be cut in half, according to the plan, to about three hours between Washington and Boston.

At an average speed of 137 mph, a trip between Washington and New York would take just 96 minutes, about one hour faster than today. For the trip between New York and Boston, the average speed would be 148 mph and take just 84 minutes, or a time savings of more than two hours.

The Amtrak concept plan, "A Vision for High-Speed Rail in the Northeast Corridor (NEC)," shows a financially viable route could be developed, according to the agency. Upon its full build-out in 2040, high-speed train ridership would approach 18 million passengers with room to accommodate up to 80 million annually as demand increases in the years and decades that follow. Departures of high-speed trains would expand from an average of one to four per hour in each direction, with additional service in the peak periods, and total daily high-speed rail departures would increase from 42 today to as many as 148 in 2040.

The service would generate an annual operating surplus of approximately $900 million and its construction would create more than 40,000 full-time jobs annually over a 25-year construction period to build the new track, tunnels, bridges, stations, and other infrastructure. More than 120,000 permanent jobs in improved economic productivity along the corridor and in rail operations are predicted by 2040.

In addition to significant travel time savings between major cities, tremendous mobility improvements would come with environmental, energy and congestion mitigation benefits. The new transportation capacity obtained with this investment will allow a larger share of the intercity travel market to be via high-speed rail, strengthening sustainable, energy-efficient development in the corridor's metropolitan areas.

With an investment of $4.7 billion annually over 25 years, a major national transportation asset would be built to support the growth and competitive position of the Northeast region. Its population, economic densities and growing intercity travel demand make it one of the premier "mega-regions" of the world, and an ideal market for world-class high-speed passenger rail service.

The specific high-speed alignment, stations, maintenance yards and other facilities that were analyzed in the report represent only one of a wide range of possible network and service configurations that could be developed. The analyzed concepts reflect the study's underlying goals (i.e., aggressive travel time savings, station locations in downtown areas) and detailed preliminary planning and engineering assessments. These concepts would undergo numerous revisions, refinements and changes under more detailed study, and other concepts with different alignments would likely be further reviewed at that time.

An NEC Infrastructure Master Plan issued earlier this year predicted that the capacity gains achieved within the current NEC "footprint" would be maxed out by 2030. The Next-Generation High-Speed Rail system will provide the necessary new capacity to meet growing demand well beyond 2030. By operating the highest-speed trains on the new infrastructure, capacity on the existing NEC would become available for additional commuter and conventional intercity passenger trains as well as for freight operations.

A copy of the report is available on Amtrak.com.

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