Amtrak Unveils 30-year High-Speed Rail Vision

At a news conference on Tuesday, September 24, Amtrak’s President, Joseph Boardman, unveiled the railroad’s vision for high-speed rail in the Boston-Washington Northeast Corridor.  The plan envisions full service by 2040, but says some service could begin as early as 2015.  The visionary plan would cut travel time between New York and Washington to 96 minutes from 162 minutes, and to 84 minutes from New York to Boston.  The cost is estimated at $117 billion, an amount which is far more than Amtrak’s current budget; the construction project would create 44,000 jobs each year for 25 years and also create 120,000 permanent jobs.  The project would bring to the U.S. technology already in service in many European and Asian countries.  Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell said, “No one should take a plane trip shorter than 500 miles.”

“How can we not afford it?”  In contrast, while Amtrak was announcing its plans to bring high-speed rail to the U.S. over the next 30 years, China announced an extension of its recently-built line to Tibet, on a much faster timetable.  The extension will connect the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, with the region’s second-largest city, Xigaze, according to state media (reported by Andrew Jacobs in The New York Times, Sept. 28).  The 150-mile long line will cost about $2 billion and take 4 years to complete.  Officials plan 2 more extensions, including a proposed route to the Nepal border.

The Lackawanna Coalition supports Moynihan/Penn Station First ARC alternative, which would allow the continuation of service on the Morris & Essex and Montclair-Boonton Lines into the existing Penn Station, where Amtrak trains go, and where the high-speed service will presumably call as well.