Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Amtrak previews major projects to advance in 2012

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With demand for intercity passenger rail service on the rise, Amtrak is moving forward with an aggressive agenda for 2012 and building for the future while strengthening current services.

Among the key actions planned are building the first units of 70 new electric locomotives and 130 new single-level long-distance cars, the national roll-out of eTicketing to all trains and the further integration and advancement of Northeast Corridor planning efforts to improve the existing corridor and develop a high-capacity, next-generation high-speed rail system.

"Amtrak is building the equipment, infrastructure and organization needed to ensure our strong growth continues into the future," said President and CEO Joe Boardman. "We are investing in projects critical for enhancing the passenger experience, essential for supporting our national network of services and vital for the future of America's Railroad."

Other significant projects in 2012 include: upgrading NEC tracks, bridges and other infrastructure; pursing efforts to expand Acela Express capacity; advancing initial planning work for the Gateway Program to provide additional capacity into Manhattan for intercity, commuter and NextGen HSR services; improving station accessibility under requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act; and continuing the development of a next-generation reservation system.

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.

Major infrastructure improvement projects include:

Advancing Gateway Program
Amtrak intends to spend $15 million in 2012 for 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 NextGen HSR system. The overall scope includes building two additional tunnels under the Hudson River to access expanded terminal facilities serving New York Penn Station and the future Moynihan Station on the site of the former Farley Post Office. 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. Specifically, the funding in 2012 will be used for planning, design and preliminary environmental review for project elements as well as to begin utility relocation for the Portal Bridge project, which is currently in the final design stage.

160 mph HSR upgrades in New Jersey
In 2012, Amtrak will 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, N.J. 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. Major construction work will begin in 2013 with project completion expected in 2017.

Niantic River bridge replacement
In 2012, Amtrak is continuing construction on this $125 million multi-year project to replace the movable Niantic River 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 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 beach replenished. The project is expected to be completed in May 2013.

New York East Tunnel trackwork
Amtrak will continue work on a $72 million multi-year project in 2012 to replace track in all four of its East River tunnels that access New York Penn Station. The track structure for the full length of each tunnel will be replaced, including new ties, rail and ballast, plus other drainage improvements. The project will improve the reliability of both Amtrak intercity and Long Island Railroad commuter rail services and is expected to be completed in mid-2015.

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