Amtrak seeks $1.3B in high-speed rail funds

Posted on April 5, 2011

Amtrak is applying for nearly $1.3 billion in recently available high-speed and intercity passenger rail federal funding to move forward with a series of infrastructure improvements — including the Gateway Project — as critical first steps to bring next generation high-speed rail to the Northeast Corridor (NEC).

“The Northeast Corridor is a premier region in the country to advance the nation’s high-speed rail program,” said Amtrak President/CEO Joe Boardman. “The Gateway Project improvements to increase passenger rail capacity and access into the heart of Manhattan are absolutely essential to make next generation high-speed rail a reality."

A recent decision by the U.S. Department of Transportation to name the NEC a federally designated high-speed rail corridor allows Amtrak to apply directly for this funding.

Amtrak worked closely with its state partners to coordinate project selection in order to maximize the expected regional improvements. Each of the coordinated projects submitted by Amtrak and individual states are vital for the reliability and capacity of the current NEC network, and are critical building blocks for expanded and higher speed intercity passenger rail service.

Specifically, Amtrak is requesting funding for three Gateway projects, including for a $720 million project to replace the more than 100-year-old movable Portal Bridge over the Hackensack River in New Jersey with a new, high-level fixed bridge. The Amtrak request is for $570 million with a contribution from the State of New Jersey of up to $150 million.

Also Gateway-related, Amtrak is asking for $188 million for preliminary engineering and environmental analysis for two new tunnels under the Hudson River into Manhattan with related infrastructure improvements, and $50 million for similar work for the development of a new Penn Station South facility to accommodate more tracks and platforms in downtown New York.

Boardman emphasized that the Gateway Project is key for the future growth and economic development of the entire NEC region. The project will benefit Amtrak passengers traveling north to New York from Washington, D.C., Maryland and Delaware as well as riders from New England states who are traveling to destinations south of New York. He also said the Gateway Project is the cornerstone from which Amtrak intends to build a new, two-track 220 mph (354 kph) next generation high-speed rail system.

In addition, Amtrak is asking for $450 million for a project to support capacity increases and improve trip-times between Philadelphia and New York — one of the busiest segments on the NEC. The project is designed to upgrade electrical power, signal systems and overhead catenary wires in New Jersey and Pennsylvania to improve reliability, increase speeds up to 160 mph (257 kph), and support more frequent high-speed service. It also will reconfigure track switches at the western entrance to New York Penn Station to mitigate congestion issues.

Separate from the above project list, Amtrak also is applying for $15 million for the necessary environmental and preliminary engineering design to examine replacement options for the more than 100-year-old, low-level movable Pelham Bay Bridge over the Hutchinson River in the Bronx on the Hell Gate Line that connects New York to New England. The goal is for a new bridge to support expanded service and speeds up to 110 mph.

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