(Adds current travel times, details, quotes)
By Dave Warner
PHILADELPHIA, July 9 Amtrak announced a $151
billion improvement plan on Monday that includes 37-minute trips
from New York to Philadelphia at speeds approaching 220 miles
per hour (354 km per hour).
However, the U.S. passenger railroad will need substantial
financial support from both state and federal governments to
make its ambitious plan to transform rail travel in the
Northeast a reality.
The railroad predicted that super-fast train trips along the
East Coast could be a reality by 2040. Travel times from New
York to either Washington or Boston - both about 200 miles (350
km) in distance - would also be slashed, to 94 minutes, the
Current travel times from New York to Philadelphia on
Amtrak's sleek Acela trains are 1 hour, 15 minutes. Travel
between New York and Washington currently takes 2 hours, 45
minutes and New York to Boston takes 3 hours, 41 minutes,
according to Amtrak's website.
"The NEC (Northeast Corridor) region is America's economic
powerhouse and is facing a severe crisis with an aging and
congested multi-model transportation network that routinely
operates at or near capacity in key segments," Amtrak's
President Joe Boardman said in a statement.
The traditionally cash-starved railroad is funded by
Congress, where Republicans have been reluctant to finance prior
plans to develop high-speed rail in the United States.
Amtrak spokesman Steve Kulm acknowledged a lack of federal
support but said there were other funding options.
"You have to have a plan and if you have a plan, the money
will follow," Kulm said.
Among the sources was $450 million in funding turned down by
the state of Florida for a high-speed rail proposal there that
will instead be used for rail improvements in New Jersey.
Starting sometime in the 2020s, the hyper speedy "NextGen"
trains will replace Acela trains, which were first introduced in
2000, Kulm said.
The newest Amtrak improvement plan also calls for direct
links to airports and listed Newark, Philadelphia, Baltimore and
White Plains, New York, as possible candidates for Amtrak
service. Some are already served by local commuter rail lines,
such as Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority,
which connects to the Philadelphia International Airport.
"The vision we will shape with the Northeastern states,
Amtrak and all of our stakeholders will outlast the vagaries of
politics, budgets and critics," said Joseph Szabo, administrator
of the Federal Railroad Administration, which oversees Amtrak,
of the 2012 report.
Amtrak also said it is essential to the entire Northeast
Corridor to build new tunnels connecting New York to New Jersey
under the Hudson River. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie
scuttled a similar plan in 2010 that would have primarily
benefited New Jersey Transit. The newer plan would benefit both
New Jersey Transit and Amtrak and would use a remodeled Penn
Station, said Kulm.
(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Lisa Shumaker)