Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Amtrak outlines "near-term" equipment needs

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Amid a laundry list of capital equipment needs, Amtrak has identified roughly $1.42 billion in "near-term equipment needs" submitted as part of its fiscal year 2010 budget request to grow national intercity rail service.
In a letter Feb. 17 addressed to Vice President Joseph Biden and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Amtrak President Joseph Boardman notes, "While capacity investments in rail infrastructure offer us potential increases in traffic, we cannot realize the potential without new equipment. Our fleet's average age has reached an all-time high, and it is hard-pressed to keep up with existing demand on large segments of the system, let alone growth."
Amtrak seeks to acquire 60 electric locomotives for the Northeast Corridor, 25 single-level dining cars, 75 baggage cars, 25 single-level sleeping cars, and 130 bilevel cars for short-distance routes.
Boardman noted "Amtrak strongly supports the installation of PTC systems on the rail network, and we intend to complete it by 2012 (3 years prior to the deadline)" mandated by Congress last year. Amtrak intends to complete installation of its ACSES system on the NEC; "the wayside installation of ACSES on the Northeast Corridor is incomplete," in some places covering only the tracks used by Amtrak's Acela Express service, Boardman wrote. Amtrak also will complete installation of its Incremental Train Control System (ITCS) on right-of-way it owns in Michigan. "Amtrak will also need to install PTC systems on its diesel fleet that will be compatible with any systems our hosts [mostly Class I railroads] adopt," Boardman said.
Though Boardman's letter is submitted as "an overview of our FY 2010 funding request," Amtrak spokesman Cliff Black noted that some of the capital needs in the letter listed might theoretically be funded by the stimulus package recently signed into law by President Obama, or by a combination of stimulus funding and congressional appropriations. "We just don't know yet how it will sort out" for some of the infrastructure items, Black cautioned.