A $20 million federal grant to Delaware is being touted by state officials as a stepping stone toward improved commuter rail service, particularly in Newark, Del. But the funding could also alleviate a key pinch point on the Northeast Corridor (NEC), benefitting not just commuter rail but also Amtrak intercity service.
About $13.3 million of the grant will go toward a $45 million project that will add a continuous third track between Newark, Del., and Wilmington. The addition would offer added capacity for additional trains now provided by the Southeast Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA).
But it would also address Amtrak capacity issues on the NEC. In its Northeast Corridor Infrastructure Master Plan released last May, Amtrak noted, “Capacity is constrained around the two-and three-track bottlenecks in Philadelphia and Wilmington,” with such constraints being “particularly evident” in northern Delaware.
Amtrak’s report notes SEPTA service linking Philadelphia and Wilmington/Newark “is planned to increase from 18 trains (nine round trips) to 26 trains (13 round trips)” in the future. “Installation of a third track between Yard and Ragan intelockings and a new Orange Street Bridge will provide some relief south of Wilmington Station.”
Delaware Transit Corp. Administrator Stephen B.Kingsberry said construction is expected to start early next year and will employ about 115 people, with eventual long-term employment of about 15.
Amtrak Sept. 28 unveiled an ambitious vision for “Next-Generation High-Speed Rail service” in the Northeast, superseding and complementing its existing Northeast Corridor, and designed to dramatically reduce travel times between Boston and Washington, D.C. upon full buildout in 2040.
Bigger is indeed better for this transcontinental carrier, which is operating some of the longest freight trains in North America.
Step back from the current political frenzy, say suppliers, and one can see the U.S. passenger rail market as emerging, with great potential.