Amtrak spells out plans for $151 billion rail upgrade

Amtrak released a new plan Monday that outlines its vision for the future of the Northeast Corridor rail network.

The infrastructure improvements in “The Amtrak Vision for the Northeast Corridor: 2012 Update Report” include building a third track for a four-mile stretch in Groton between Palmer’s Cove in Noank and the Thames River bridge. The vision also calls for replacing the rail bridge over the Connecticut River.

The $151 billion proposal is the result of Amtrak combining and updating its previous reports on the plans for next generation high-speed rail service for the corridor and improvements to current infrastructure.

Amtrak spokesman Steve Kulm said having two plans previously “sort of missed the point” since the corridor is a single entity and Amtrak needs to both improve existing services and develop and implement the high-speed rail service.

While neither project is funded yet, Amtrak’s goal is to have both completed by 2025. The third track would allow more trains to pass through the area and the bridge is nearing the end of its useful life, Kulm said.

Amtrak is also seeking to add 40 additional passenger cars to the Acela Express trains to increase seating capacity by 2015.

The cost of the plan does not include the $140 million bridge Amtrak is currently building across the Niantic River between East Lyme and Waterford because that project is already funded, Kulm said.

The new track, stations and systems between New York City and Boston are the last phase of the project and are scheduled to be operational in 2040. In Connecticut, stations are planned for Danbury, Waterbury and Hartford, Kulm said.

About 2,100 passenger and 50 freight trains travel through the Northeast Corridor daily.

“The region is too important to basically come to a standstill if we don’t grow the transportation system,” Kulm added. “This is how we believe the rail piece of this can and should grow for the future.”

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