Federal Railroad Administration is running a planning program of future needs along the Northeast Corridor rail system and encourages public input:
Welcome to NEC FUTURE, a comprehensive planning effort to define, evaluate and prioritize future investments in the Northeast Corridor (NEC), launched by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) in February 2012. FRA’s work will include new ideas and approaches to grow the region’s intercity, commuter and freight rail services and the completion of an environmental evaluation of proposed transportation alternatives.
The NEC, the rail transportation spine of the Northeast region, is a key component of the region’s transportation system and vital to its sustained economic growth. Today, the 457-mile NEC—anchored by Boston’s South Station in the north, New York’s Pennsylvania Station in the center, and Washington’s Union Station in the south—is one of the most heavily traveled rail corridors in the world.
Visit NEC Future to submit your comments.
See also: ProJo: Agency explores methods to expand rail service to D.C.
Some of my observations from the meeting:
no public officials came to speak, one candidate, Mark Binder running in District 4 (against Fox) came to give support; nobody came to speak negatively about investing in the rail infrastructure.
Some suggestions from the public for consideration: don’t slow up existing projects like the 3rd track in Kingston; more frequent Amtrak service; consider commuter rail compatibility in corridor plans, including infill stations and electrification in our region, and expansion southward to Kingston; build an Amtrak station stop at Hillsgrove (TF Green;) more track capacity in key regions including the Quonset area, under the Hudson, and a new rail connection between North and South station in Boston; easier bicycle access to Amtrak; more marketing/fare incentives on the Boston-RI segment of Amtrak where many empty seats are wasted; consider NY-Cape Cod rail service via Providence; have a EZ Pass type fare product good on Amtrak, commuter rail, local transit.
As usual, there is a long wish list for which establishing priorities will be difficult.
I’ve taken the liberty of arranging the suggestions Barry has posted into a priority list. This is the most common-sense prioritization scheme I can think of:
1) 3rd track in Kingston has priority over everything else just for the facts of the station’s placement. It’s right in the middle of a maximum speed corridor and moving the Acelas as far away from the people waiting to boarding a train as we possibly can is absolutely vital. As far as I am aware, Kingston is the only station in the middle of max-speed territory where passing tracks don’t exist already, but this priority should extend to any other stations where this is true as well.
2) Full-high platforming of all remaining low-boarding platform NEC rail stations is next in line, and is the most important commuter rail consideration to be made. Reducing the amount of time commuter rail trains need to stop at stations like Hyde Park, Canton Junction and Attleboro is an important stop-gap measure to help reduce the impact of commuter rail traffic on the sections of the NEC that are currently 2-track, especially in areas where expanding the NEC to 3 or 4 tracks in the future would prove logistically impossible.
3) Eliminating all remaining low-boarding platforms on the NEC buys us enough time to seriously attack track capacity problems but it doesn’t get us much farther than that. We can buy ourselves more time by forcing commuter rail and freight operations into line with Amtrak’s plans, seizing track and taking over dispatching as necessary, rebuilding the timetables from the bottom up to expand the total number of available train slots, ensure well-timed overtakes as-needed, and prevent situations such as Metro-North dispatching commuter trains in front of Regionals, or Regionals departing Boston 10 minutes ahead of an Acela only to be forced to dwell 10 minutes in Providence for the overtake.
4) Expanding track capacity in key regions is next. There’s enough demand between Providence and Boston to justify four-tracking most of that section of the NEC, the North/South Rail Link alone is enough to eliminate South Station’s capacity problem for the foreseeable future and would enable Acelas to be dispatched southbound from North Station and bypass Back Bay, I’m not familiar enough with the Hudson tunnel to pass judgment on that, and a dedicated freight track from Providence to Quonset will prevent any situation where a freight train is operating on maximum speed track.
Everything else, while a priority, are no more important than any other priority – but all are less important than these four priorities. Ergo, they all share Priority 5 – “Other.”