Amtrak Envisions High-Speed Rail in Northeast Corridor

Sep 30th, 2010 | By | Category: Featured Story

Washington to Boston in about three hours at up to 220 mph (354 kph)  

A Next-Generation High-Speed Rail service could be successfully developed in the Northeast with trains operating up to 220 mph (354 kph) on a new two-track corridor resulting in a trip time of about three hours between Washington and Boston cutting in half or better the current schedules, according to an Amtrak concept plan released earlier this week.

At an average speed of 137 mph (220 kph), 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 (238 kph) and take just 84 minutes, or a time savings of more than two hours. 

“Amtrak is putting forward a bold vision of a realistic and attainable future that can revolutionize transportation, travel patterns and economic development in the Northeast for generations,” said President and CEO Joseph Boardman. 

The Amtrak concept plan, A Vision for High-Speed Rail in the Northeast Corridor (NEC), shows a financially viable route could be developed.  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.

“Amtrak’s plan to modernize the Northeast Corridor and make it a truly high speed rail line is the type of innovative thinking we need to get cars off the road, decrease pollution and put people to work improving America’s infrastructure,” stated Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.). “I applaud the plan and pledge to work with Amtrak to improve the Northeast Corridor and make America a leader in high speed rail.” 

“Amtrak’s High Speed Rail plan will create jobs, cut pollution and help us move towards a modern and reliable transportation system network in the Northeast,” said Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.).  “As countries around the world continue to build out their transportation systems, we cannot afford to fall further behind. This is an important down payment on the massive commitment necessary to bridge our infrastructure gap.” 

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 results show the concept of a world-class high-speed rail service would help relieve congestion across all modes of transportation, spur jobs creation and economic productivity, reduce carbon emissions and improve the quality of the environment,” said Al Engel, incoming Amtrak Vice President for High-Speed Rail.

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 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.

As America’s intercity passenger rail service provider and its only high-speed rail operator, Amtrak has a vital, leading and necessary role to play in expanding and operating high-speed rail service.  Just as leading countries throughout Europe and Asia are expanding existing high-speed rail networks and developing new systems, Next-Generation High-Speed Rail must be part of a balanced transportation future in major travel corridors across the U.S.  

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, or by clicking here.

As the nation’s intercity passenger rail operator, Amtrak connects America in safer, greener healthier ways.  Last fiscal year (FY 2009), the railroad carried 27.2 million passengers, making it the second-best year in the company’s history.  With 21,000 route miles in 46 states, the District of Columbia and three Canadian provinces, Amtrak operates more than 300 trains each day—at speeds up to 150 mph (241 kph)—to more than 500 destinations.   Amtrak also is the partner of choice for state-supported corridor services in 15 states and for several commuter rail agencies. Visit or call 800-USA-RAIL for schedules, fares and more information.

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