The Government Has Some Big Ideas To Fix The Outdated Northeast Rail System


The Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration has released a report outlining possible plans to expand rail service in the Northeast corridor (NEC).

The purpose of the “Preliminary Alternatives Report” is to lay out a process to improve and expand the network of trains running between Washington, D.C. and Boston, the busiest rail corridor in the country.

Amtrak and commuter rail services in the region carry 2,000 trains daily, but their infrastructure is old and outdated, according an earlier report by the NEC Future program, and their capacity is inadequate to meet growing demand.

The new report proposes 15 options for expanding rail service, which range from simply improving the state of the tracks and adding more trains, to much more ambitious plans to add a second major “spine” connecting all the major cities (with trains running as fast as 220 mph).

Transportation Nation writes that the report should “jump-start public debate” about how rail service should be improved, and what is worth the investment.

The report does not include any cost estimates.

The options are categorized into four levels. Here’s one from each, to provide an idea of what the future of rail could look like.

A: Improve Existing NEC Spine: more service and capacity, plus some basic repairs.

northeast corridor rail investment map

B: optimise Existing NEC Spine: more service to existing and connecting routes, but no new routes.

northeast corridor rail investment map

C: Expand NEC and Connections: Add service to new markets and capacity in certain locations. The dotted orange lines connote proposed new routes.

northeast corridor rail investment map

D: Additional NEC Route: a major increase in quantity, types of rail service, with faster service and new tracks along the entire corridor. The purple line is a proposed new “spine,” which would add service to Long Island and Connecticut.

northeast corridor rail investment map

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