Amtrak released its 2012 agenda today. You can read the press release in all of its PDF glory right here. One of the key initiatives concerns its profitable Northeast Corridor service, and I wanted to highlight it for a brief moment. Says the press release:
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, 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. Major construction work will begin in 2013 with project completion expected in 2017.
So let me get this straight. Amtrak is going to spend nearly half a billion to improve their trains’ top speeds by 25 miles per hour along a 24-mile-long section of track. And it’s going to take another five years for this project to finish. No wonder an American high-speed rail line — let alone an entire network — can’t get off the ground.