Amtrak sets key 2014 capital projects

Written by William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief

During 2014, Amtrak plans to move forward on key capital improvement projects, including continued installation of PTC (Positive Train Control) safety technology, the start of major construction to upgrade Northeast Corridor high speed rail, and expansion of station accessibility for passengers with disabilities.


In 2014, Amtrak is continuing its aggressive program to install ACSES (Advanced Civil Speed Enforcement System) and ITCS (Incremental Train Control System), its versions of PTC on an additional 1,200 track-miles beyond the approximately 530 track-miles where it is already in operation on some Amtrak-owned sections of the Northeast Corridor (ACSES) and all of its Michigan Line (ITCS). Amtrak is also taking action to obtain needed radio spectrum to transmit data critical to make PTC operational in the new areas. PTC is an overlay on the existing signaling and train control system that can prevent train-to-train collisions, derailments caused by excessive speed, and certain human-caused incidents such as misaligned turnouts. Amtrak says it is on target to meet the Dec. 31, 2015 federal deadline for PTC.


In 2014, Amtrak is beginning major construction activities on the “New Jersey Raceway,” a 23-mile section of the Northeast Corridor between Trenton and New Brunswick, N.J., to increase top train speeds to 160 mph from 135 mph and improve reliability along this heavily used section. The project will upgrade track and various elements of the electrical and signal systems (such as replacing the existing variable-tension catenary with modern constant-tension catenary) to support the higher speeds, and reconfigure the interlocking plant at Penn Station New York to mitigate congestion issues.


In 2014, Amtrak will advance its Accessible Stations Development Program with continuation of existing construction work at eight stations in three states and new construction activities at 21 stations in eight additional states. In addition, necessary ADA-related design work will be completed at 61 stations in 20 states.


Amtrak will also move forward in 2014 on other infrastructure projects including: various planning elements of the Gateway Program to expand track, tunnel, and station capacity between Newark, N.J., and Penn Station New York (among them, construction of two new Hudson River tunnels just south of the existing ones, and a new Portal Bridge); ongoing construction of a concrete casement through the Hudson Yards commercial development project to preserve a possible pathway for the future Hudson River tunnels into Manhattan; and design work for replacing major Northeast Corridor and century-old assets such as the Susquehanna River Bridge (Md.), the Pelham Bay Bridge (N.Y.), the Connecticut River Bridge (Conn.), and the B&P Tunnel (Md.).


By the end of its 2014 maintenance program, Amtrak expects to install or replace nearly 165,000 crossties, 23 track-miles of rail, and several dozen track turnouts and interlockings. The railroad is also upgrading numerous sections of its electrical and signal systems along the Northeast and Keystone Corridors, and performing various maintenance projects on property it owns in Chicago, New Orleans, and elsewhere in the country.

 In addition, Amtrak forces will perform significant work as part of state-led projects to upgrade tracks and signal systems between Kalamazoo and Dearborn, Mich.; Poughkeepsie and Albany, N.Y.; and New Haven, Conn., and Springfield, Mass.

“With limited federal capital funding we are doing the work that needs to be done to keep the railroad operating and taking action where we can to achieve safety, operational, and passenger travel improvements,” said President and CEO Joe Boardman. “However, to truly realize the mobility and economic benefits offered by passenger rail, there must be dedicated federal funding to support a multi-year planning and construction program.”

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