NORTHEAST CORRIDOR (NEC). High Speed.

Amtrak intends to conduct two complementary plans in this corridor: improving existing infrastructure and the construction and operation of a second track dedicated to True High Speed, in a plan whose cost is esti­mated at $150,000 M.

The line known as NEC (Northeast Corridor) linking Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, is the only existing High Speed line in the country, but for all purposes it is high speed accord­ing to international standards. With its 735 km long, more than 2,000 daily trains and the density of population it serves, it is the ideal candidate for a true High-Speed line, but the difficul­ties of implementing a service like this are enormous. The major difficulty is that the existing infrastructure, which has more than 100 years in many sec­tions, also runs commuter trains and cargo, so the construction of a new track exclusively for HS is necessary.

The allocation of funds for High Speed on the economic stimulus plan of 2009 launched what has become to date in two complementary plans by Amtrak: one is the improvement of existing in­frastructure, in place since 2009 and composed of a multiplicity of projects that have recently been grouped under the NEC UP (Upgrade) plan; and the other is Amtrak’s vision for the con­struction and operation of a true High Speed line, a dedicated track, whose cost is estimated at $ 150,000 M, named NEC NEXTGEN.

Furthermore Amtrak is working with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) in the initiative called NEC FU­TURE, whose initial objective is to study evaluate the environmental im­pact of the various options for future investment in the Northeast Corridor.

The planning process comprises three phases of study of alternatives:

Step 1: Initial Alternatives
Step 2: Preliminary Alternatives
Step 3: Tier 1 EIS Alternatives

In 2014, three alternatives were iden­tified for the detailed analysis in the project EIS Tier 1, based on the evalu­ation of the preliminary alternatives. This assessment considers the extent of the preliminary alternatives to ex­pand capacity, accommodate growth, rebuild aging infrastructure, improve service efficiency and performance, and increase connectivity.

Each Alternative Tier 1 EIS reflects a clear vision for the NEC and the role it will play in the future transport system in the region. Each has different as­sumptions about the services offered, geographic markets, and the type and general location of the infrastructure needed to support these services. Each alternative has the aim to maintain and improve service to existing NEC, reach a state of good repair, allow growth in rail freight and incorporate the best practices for efficient operation.

Alternative 1: Maintain

Alternative 1 would maintain the cur­rent role of railways in the transport system, while improving service and coordinating a good state of repair at the NEC. The ability of the rail sys­tem would expand to keep pace with population and economic growth and continue providing a similar level of service as the currently offered. This would be achieved by alleviating bot­tlenecks that currently limit the ability of the NEC. Key features include:

◗ Increased long distance service, with double the number of trains in opera­tion

◗ Increased regional rail service, in­cluding more frequent services at peak hours and longer trains

◗ Extended Service in the NEC

◗ New tracks

◗ Third and fourth tunnel in Hudson River

◗A bridge between Old Saybrook, CT and Kenyon, RI to avoid restrictions of mobile bridges

Alternative 2: Growing

Alternative 2 aims to increase the use of rail for the rail system accommodate more travelers in the Northeast. Poten­tial Key features include:

◗Increased long distance service, with four times the number of trains in op­eration

◗Increased regional rail service, more frequent services at peak hours and longer trains

◗ Expanded service

◗ Give service to a larger number of stations

◗ A complementary route between New Haven-Hartford-Providence to improve the capacity and performance, as well as serve new markets

◗ New direct service to the Philadel­phia International Airport

◗ Third and fourth tunnel in Hudson River and fifth and sixth in the East River.
Alternative 3: Transform

It aims to transform the role of the rail­way, so that the rail service reaches a significantly higher percentage of us­ers and new markets. The alternative would fundamentally change travel behaviour in the northeast, and would establish the railway as the dominant mode of transport. Potential key fea­tures include:

◗ Significant increase in regional ser­vice and intercity trains, with faster and more frequent trains

◗ High performance service between Washington DC and Boston

◗ Further expansion of the service to new markets

◗ Service to new stations in downtown Baltimore, downtown Philadelphia and Philadelphia International Airport, among others

◗ Increased service to corridors with which the network is connected

◗ Two new tracks to connect with six tunnels between Hudson River and East River.