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Monday, January 11, 2010

Amtrak ready with big plans for 2010

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Amtrak says it is ready for an exciting 2010 with major projects and new initiatives that will benefit passengers, increase service, rebuild infrastructure, and put America's railroad at the center of intercity and high-speed passenger rail development and expansion.

"Amtrak enters 2010 with a strong sense of optimism, enthusiasm and purpose," said President and CEO Joseph Boardman. "We have an aggressive game plan to modernize, renew, and grow America's passenger railroad," he said, noting increasing ridership from 21.6 million in FY 2002 to 27.2 million in FY 2009, with an all-time record of 28.7 million in FY 2008.

He explained that numerous projects and initiatives being undertaken in 2010 support goals established in Amtrak's new Strategic Guidance including becoming safer, greener and healthier and improving financial performance, customer service, and meeting national needs.

In particular, Amtrak is playing a major role in the development and expansion of intercity and high-speed passenger rail. As America's provider of intercity passenger rail service and its only high-speed rail operator-operating trains at speeds up to 150 mph every day- Amtrak has unmatched knowledge, experience and expertise in the U.S. rail environment.

Boardman added that Amtrak is partnering with 25 states in support of more than 100 projects submitted for funding from the $8 billion made available by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for intercity and high-speed rail capital improvement grants. An announcement from the U.S. Department of Transportation on which projects have been selected is expected this winter.

During 2010, Amtrak also will undertake track and bridge construction projects, safety and security enhancements and will release a plan to replace and expand its locomotive and passenger railcar fleet, among many other projects and initiatives.

In 2010, Amtrak will celebrate the 10th anniversary of America's fastest train, the Acela Express, which began operating along the Northeast Corridor in 2000 and reaches speeds up to 150 mph. In addition, Amtrak will increase train speeds to 105 mph over a section of track it owns between Porter, Ind., and Kalamazoo, Mich., which will benefit Blue Water and Wolverines service. Amtrak currently operates nearly half of its more than 300 daily trains at speeds of 100 mph or higher on their routes.

In March, Amtrak will deploy WiFi technology on Acela Express and make it available to every passenger initially free of charge. In late 2010, Amtrak will complete a program to upgrade the interior of all Acela Express trainsets to increase passenger comfort and amenities, including leather seating, improved tray tables, and better outlets to power laptop computers, DVD players and other electronic devices.


Many major Amtrak infrastructure improvement projects funded in full, or in part, by $1.3 billion in ARRA funds will be under construction in 2010. Some of these projects include: replacement of the 102-year old movable bridge over the Niantic River in Connecticut; modernization of transformers and other electrical equipment used to power trains between Washington, D.C., and New York; improvements to tracks and switches at Chicago Union Station; and construction of new maintenance buildings for passenger railcar equipment in Los Angeles, Calif., and Hialeah, Fla.


In addition, ARRA funding is supporting:  renovation of the station in Wilmington, Del.; expansion of the Auto Train station in Sanford, Fla.; restoration of locomotives and passenger railcars in Beech Grove, Ind., and Bear, Del.; improved emergency exits and fire detection and suppression systems in New York tunnels; and enhanced accessibility at more than 200 rail stations across the country.


Beyond the ARRA-funded projects, Amtrak will spend $442 million as part of its annual FY 2010 engineering program. These projects include:  installation of more than 112,000 concrete crossties and more than 49,000 wood crossties on the Northeast Corridor; construction of a new air ventilation shaft for the New York tunnels; and repair to several bridges in Michigan, Maryland, New York and New Jersey.


In addition, Amtrak will complete the multi-year modernization of the catenary wires on the Hell Gate Line in N.Y.; begin construction of upgrades to the Seattle maintenance facility; and improve accessibility at stations in Philadelphia, Pa., Baltimore, Md., Providence, R.I., and elsewhere.


Amtrak is committed to an aggressive, self-imposed schedule to install Positive Train Control by the end of 2012-three years ahead of a Congressional deadline for the rail industry- on sections of Amtrak-owned tracks not already equipped with the sophisticated technology capable of controlling train movements to prevent collisions. A significant amount of design, engineering, and some installation work will occur this year to advance the project.


Amtrak is also implementing two industry-leading risk-reduction safety initiatives to complement traditional rules-based compliance programs. The Safe-2-Safer program strengthens the emphasis on safety within the corporate culture by promoting a more collaborative working environment and ensures a higher reliability of safe behaviors at all levels of the railroad. In addition, Amtrak intends to participate in a Federal Railroad Administration-sponsored Close Call Reporting project under which incidents that did not result in an accident or injury, but could have, can be anonymously reported by employees so that safety improvements can be made as appropriate.

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