Northeast Corridor

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The Northeast Corridor (NEC) stretches from Washington, D.C., in the south via New York City to Boston in the north with several branch lines into other states. The fully electrified rail corridor is primarily owned by Amtrak and serves seven different commuter rail agencies, Amtrak, and multiple freight rail carriers. It is the most heavily used rail corridor in the Western Hemisphere and one of the most congested corridors in the world.

Vital Statistics:
Total mileage = 457
Number of tunnels = 17
Number of bridges = 1,186
Average daily passengers = 720,000
Average daily passenger trains = 2,220
Average daily freight trains = 70

Amtrak = 363 miles
Connecticut = 46 miles
Massachusetts = 38 miles
Metro-North Railroad = 10 miles


NEC FUTURE is a planning effort to define, evaluate and prioritize future investments in the Northeast Corridor (NEC), launched by the Federal Railroad Administration in February 2012. In response to the aging and deterioration of this critical transportation link and the growing travel demand, the FRA has initiated a comprehensive planning process for future investment in the Northeast Corridor through 2040.

The goal of the NEC FUTURE program is to prepare a Passenger Rail Corridor Investment Plan (PRCIP) for the NEC. The PRCIP will consist of a Service Development Plan (SDP) that articulates the overall scope, alternatives, and approach for proposed improvements, and a Tier 1 Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), which evaluates and addresses broad, corridor-wide environmental impacts due to these improvements. The program is aimed to improve mobility, serve increasing travel demand due to population and jobs growth, support economic development, reduce carbon emissions and dependence on foreign oil, and contribute to improved land utilization and investment in both urban and non-urban communities in the region.

A critical aspect of the NEC FUTURE is ensuring the validity of data and technical analysis that will support the SDP and Tier 1 EIS. This will be done by establishing Technical Working Groups (TWGs)--serving in an advisory capacity--to review methodologies and validate results in specific areas of expertise. The TWGs are composed of experts from the FRA, Volpe National Transportation System Center, the Parsons Brinckerhoff/AECOM Joint Venture (JV), and outside groups.

For Phase 1 of the NEC FUTURE Program, four TWGs are established and engaged: Operations & Service; Ridership & Revenue; Alternatives Development; and Environmental Analysis. The four TWGs will work together to promote consistent and efficient use of resources and communications across the multiple disciplines of the project. The Northeast Alliance for Rail is a member of the Alternatives Development TWG, which will serve as an advisory body to the Alternatives Development Technical Team of the JV. Technical team members from the JV team will perform the technical work and produce interim and final deliverables.

Throughout the course of this study, scoping meetings and other opportunities for public participation will be held in various locations along the NEC. FRA will be accepting comments on the scoping of the EIS in public meetings, through the NEC FUTURE Web site ( and by receiving written comments via mail from now until Friday, September 14, 2012.

History of the Northeast Corridor

The bulk of the Northeast Corridor was originally built between 1830 and 1917 by two different railroad companies: the Pennsylvania Railroad and the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad. It wasn't until 1969 that, through a series of bankruptcies and mergers, the entire corridor was under the control of one owner - Penn Central, the dominant private railroad company in the Northeastern United States. However, after only two years, Penn Central went bankrupt, the largest corporate bankruptcy in American history at the time, and the federal government assumed control of its assets. Congress then created a hybrid public-private entity, the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, doing business as Amtrak, to take over intercity passenger rail service operations on the corridor. Amtrak began operations on May 1, 1971.

Today, the Northeast rail corridor remains one of the region's most valuable assets. Over 750,000 commuter and intercity passengers depend on it every day. However, because of insufficient funding to maintain this critical resource, there is currently a backlog of $8 billion to bring the corridor to a state of good repair. Despite major investments in the corridor though the NEC Improvement Project in the late 1970s and early 1980s and again in the 1990s with the electrification of the northern end of the corridor, there has never been the sustained funding commitment necessary to bring the infrastructure to a state of good repair and improve trip times between the major metropolitan areas in the Northeast.

Stakeholders along the corridor have recently completed the first planning process for the corridor in more than a decade. The Northeast Corridor Infrastructure Master Plan is the culmination of more than two years of coordination between Amtrak, the eight commuter rail operators, the freight operators, and the Northeastern States. It proposes a series of incremental improvements to the corridor to bring the corridor to a state of good repair, and modest improvement in trip times and capacity.

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