Information published on 22 January 2013 in the UIC electronic newsletter "UIC eNews" Nr 329.

USA: Amtrak 2013, the new year brings major projects (infrastructure upgrades, new equipment milestones, and high speed rail advancements lead full agenda)

  • News from UIC members

Amtrak enters 2013 with a full and robust agenda of infrastructure upgrade projects, significant milestones for new equipment orders and key actions to advance its Northeast Corridor (NEC) high-speed rail program.

Among the projects include completion of the NEC Niantic River Movable Bridge replacement project, delivery of the first units of new equipment orders for 70 electric locomotives and 130 single-level long-distance passenger cars, expansion of Acela Express high-speed service with an additional New York – Washington round-trip and initiation of the process to acquire next-generation high-speed train sets.

“Amtrak continues to advance and invest in projects that provide both near-term benefits and long-term improvements for the effective delivery and reliability of intercity passenger rail service,” said President and CEO Joe Boardman.
During the coming year, three Amtrak-owned or maintained corridors will be under various stages of construction to enhance and ultimately increase rail capacity including the Springfield Line in Conn., the Hudson Line in upstate N.Y. and a section of the NEC in N.J.

In addition, Amtrak anticipates reaching agreement in 2013 with the Michigan Department of Transportation to operate, dispatch and maintain a section of state-owned railroad from Kalamazoo to Dearborn that will lead to track improvements to support 110 mph service.

Other projects in 2013 include: advancing planning work for the Gateway Program to increase tunnel, track and station capacity into Manhattan for intercity, commuter and next-generation high-speed rail service; improving accessibility at stations under requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act; completing installation of Positive Train Control safety technology along the NEC and Keystone Corridor; and upgrading the AmtrakConnect Wi-Fi service to 4G/LTE.

Joe Boardman explained these and other projects support a strong focus on strengthening the Amtrak bottom line and its strategic goals of safety and security, customer focus, mobility and connectivity, environment and energy, and financial and organizational excellence.

He said the 2013 agenda builds on the successes from 2012 which saw record ridership, the best-ever system-wide on-time performance, the national launch of eTicketing and the start of new Northeast Regional service to Norfolk, Va., the extension of Downeaster service to Freeport and Brunswick, Maine, and the beginning of 110 mph operations on the Lincoln Service in Illinois and on the Wolverine and Blue Water services in Michigan.

Attached are highlights of just some of the major projects Amtrak will begin, continue or complete during 2013 across its national network.

Amtrak Major Projects in 2013


In 2013, Amtrak intends to continue planning and other pre-construction activities on its Gateway Program to provide additional capacity into Manhattan for Amtrak intercity and New Jersey Transit commuter services, including the proposed next-generation high-speed rail system. The project includes building two additional tunnels under the Hudson River to access expanded terminal facilities serving New York Penn Station and the future Moynihan Station. It also will replace and expand the century old Portal Bridge over the Hackensack River and increase from two to four the number of tracks between Newark and New York. Amtrak is also seeking funding this year to specifically advance design and early construction elements of the Gateway Program to preserve a pathway for the two new Hudson River tunnels to New York Penn Station.


Amtrak plans to further expand its high-speed rail service and recently announced its intention to begin in early 2013 the process to purchase next-generation high-speed rail train sets that will expand seating capacity and provide for more frequent high-speed service on the NEC. In considering options for this equipment, Amtrak will be assessing how high-speed equipment technology has evolved since present Acela equipment was built, how modern equipment can provide an equivalent or better level of safety while also meeting business needs, and opportunities to use this equipment acquisition to serve as a catalyst to encourage expanded domestic manufacturing of high value modern technology.


Amtrak is expanding its Northeast Corridor high-speed rail service with the addition of a new weekday Acela Express round-trip between New York and Washington beginning on Jan. 28. The late evening departures from both cities will provide customers increased flexibility when making their travel plans. The new Acela service includes an 8:00 pm northbound departure from Washington Union Station (Train #2128), arriving at New York Penn Station at 10:45 pm, and a 9:15 pm southbound departure from New York (Train #2175), arriving in Washington at 11:59 pm. Both trains also will serve Baltimore, Wilmington, Philadelphia, and Newark.


In 2013, Amtrak will further advance design, engineering and other pre-construction activities for a $450 million project funded by the federal high-speed rail program that will boost top train speeds from 135 mph to 160 mph along a 24-mile section of the NEC between Trenton and New Brunswick, New Jersey. The project supports the goals of the Gateway Program and includes upgrading track, electrical power (frequency converter capacity and additional substations), signal systems and overhead catenary wires to permit the faster speeds and also reconfigures track switches at the western entrance to New York Penn Station to mitigate congestion issues. The full project is to be completed in 2017.


The first unit of a $466 million order for 70 new electric locomotives will be delivered during 2013. The new equipment will operate at speeds up to 125 mph on the NEC (Washington – Boston) and up to 110 mph on the Keystone Corridor (Philadelphia – Harrisburg) replacing locomotives in service between 20 and 30 years with average mileage of more than 3.5 million miles traveled. They will be easier to maintain and more energy efficient using regenerative braking to feed energy back into the power grid. They are being built by Siemens at a facility in Sacramento, Calif.


The design and build out for the $298.1 million order for 130 new single-level long-distance cars, including sleepers (25), diners (25), baggage cars (55) and baggage/dormitory cars (25) continues to progress. The delivery of the first four of the eight test pilot cars are due late in 2013 with the first units expected to be placed into service late spring 2014. They will replace and supplement the existing fleet, improve financial and on-time performance, and allow Amtrak to retire the oldest cars still in service that date back to the 1940s. They are being built by CAF USA at a facility in Elmira, N.Y.


Amtrak intends to release an updated fleet strategy plan in 2013 with the latest analysis on replacing and expanding its existing conventional and high-speed rail fleet. It is being written to better align with the Amtrak Strategic Plan with a focus on the needs of the new business lines to improve their financial bottom line, provide superior customer service and best serve the market potential of their areas of responsibility and then use this as the basis for allocating capital resources available for equipment.


In May 2013, Amtrak expects to complete construction on this $140 million multi-year project to replace the Niantic River Movable Bridge originally built in 1907 and located between East Lyme and Waterford, Conn. Partially funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the new bridge is now in operation and will enable Amtrak to increase speeds and minimize traffic and delays. The project involves constructing a new two-track, electrified railroad bascule bridge just south of its present position, new track alignments on both approaches to the bridge and expansion of the navigation channel beneath the bridge and an increase in the vertical under-clearance above the water for the benefit of river traffic. Also, sections of the Niantic Bay Overlook boardwalk will be reconstructed and the public beach replenished.


In 2013, Amtrak will continue the installation of underground signal and communication cables over the 60 mile Springfield Line, the first portion of construction for the State of Connecticut-led New Haven-Hartford-Springfield (NHHS) Rail Program to expand passenger rail service. This work is required to upgrade signal and communication systems for the NHHS program and prepare for subsequent infrastructure improvements to add a second track.


In Dec. 2012, Amtrak executed a long-term lease agreement with CSX Corporation, enabling Amtrak to take full control of the Hudson Line between Schenectady and Poughkeepsie, N.Y. The arrangement ensures that passenger rail service has scheduling priority there and paves the way for four significant rail improvement projects led by the State of New York totaling $181 million. Amtrak intends to begin work on these projects in 2013.


Amtrak anticipates signing an agreement in 2013 with the Michigan Department of Transportation to operate, dispatch and maintain a 135-mile section of state-owned railroad from Kalamazoo to Dearborn that will lead to track improvements to support 110 mph speeds for Wolverine and Blue Water service.


Amtrak will begin preliminary engineering and NEPA environmental work in 2013 for replacement of the 1873 vintage B&P Tunnel in Baltimore. This phase of the multi-year project is funded by a $60 million federal high-speed rail grant to the State of Maryland. A new tunnel is envisioned to have an improved alignment to enable an increase in speed and capacity for Amtrak, MARC Commuter, and Norfolk Southern freight trains.


Amtrak will begin preliminary engineering and NEPA environmental work in 2013 for replacement of the 1906 vintage railroad bridge crossing the Susquehanna River between Perryville, and Havre de Grace, Maryland. This phase of the multi-year project is funded by a $22 million federal high-speed rail grant to the State of Maryland. A new bridge is envisioned to have additional tracks to increase speed and add capacity for Amtrak, MARC Commuter, and Norfolk Southern freight trains.


In 2013, Amtrak intends to complete installation of PTC equipment along the Amtrak-owned right-of-way. Amtrak has completed installation on the section between Philadelphia and Washington. The section from New York to Philadelphia is more than 90 percent complete as is the section between Philadelphia and Harrisburg. PTC has been in operation between New York and Boston for years and the entirely of Amtrak-owned tracks on the Michigan Line (Porter, Ind. to Kalamazoo, Mich.) also has PTC in operation today.


In 2013, the Amtrak Police Department (APD) will continue its comprehensive passenger rail safety and security efforts to provide increased protection to passengers, facilities, property and equipment and to detect and deter terrorists. APD also will continue its efforts to engage passengers and the public as part of its Partners for Amtrak Safety and Security program and “If you See Something, Say Something…Hopefully, its Nothing” public awareness campaign to encourage individuals to report behaviors or activities that are unusual or out of the ordinary such as trespassers and suspicious packages by calling Amtrak Police at 1- 800- 331-0008.


Since launching in 2010, AmtrakConnect Wi-Fi has been a highly-adopted passenger amenity. Built to use the cellular-based mobile network, this service supports as many as 30 to 50 percent of passengers on a single train. As cellular carriers expand their 4G/LTE footprint along Amtrak routes, so too has Amtrak begun to upgrade its Wi-Fi service to take advantage of the new increases in bandwidth, improved reliability, and increased speeds. Implementation has already begun on Acela Express and is currently undergoing stabilization and optimization activities. Amtrak will seek to expand 4G/LTE to other Wi-Fi trains and will continue to advance its Wi-Fi program as technology advances, continually striving to make the passenger experience better.


In 2013, Amtrak intends to begin a new service that would allow any Auto Train passenger to pay an extra $50 fee as part of a guarantee to have their vehicle as one of the first 20 vehicles offloaded. This will improve both customer satisfaction and financial performance of the route.

(Source: Amtrak)