Amtrak Infrastructure

VP Biden Hails Amtrak Funding, Announces First Stimulus Projects

niantic-river-bridgeConnecticut’s Niantic River Bridge will be replaced to increase speed and capacity

Since 2003, Amtrak has been complaining about the condition of the bridges along the corridor it owns in eastern Connecticut between New Haven and Providence. Three specific spans – above the Thames, Niantic, and Lyme rivers – were so old and poorly maintained that if Amtrak didn’t do anything to bring them up to date, a shutdown of New York-Boston service might have been necessary. Fortunately, Amtrak found the funds last year to renovate the Thames River Bridge. Now, the national rail company is moving on to its Niantic River passage, near the town of East Lyme.

Vice President Joe Biden made the announcement at Washington’s Union Station where he praised Amtrak repeatedly and said “I’m tired of apologizing for help for Amtrak. It is an absolute national treasure and necessity.” Mr. Biden said that of the $1.3 billion Amtrak received in the stimulus bill, $105 million will go to the new span over the Niantic. Replacing the bridge will allow Amtrak to maintain existing speeds along the Northeast corridor for Acela and Regional trains. The 100-year-old drawbridge (pictured above) currently only allows one lane of boats to move through when it opens, but the replacement will allow two, making the passage faster for boaters and, as a result, for trains.

$82 million of other stimulus funds will go towards the rehabilitation of 68 of Amtrak’s disused rail passenger cars, which will allow for increased service and passenger capacity on lines throughout the nation. These upgrades to car interiors and mechanical systems will be made at rail facilities in Indiana and in Delaware. The Northeast Corridor, which suffers frequent power failures, will receive $63 million for improved catenary power supply. Wilmington, Delaware’s downtown train station will get $21 million for a new platform.

These improvements leave Amtrak with a maintenance backlog of about $5 billion. The remainder of the stimulus funds dedicated to the Amtrak system have yet to be apportioned.

Image above: Niantic River Bridge, from

Amtrak Congress Finance

Amtrak to be Cut from Senate Stimulus Bill?

The New York Times is reporting that a group of centrist senators, including Susan Collins (R-ME) and Ben Nelson (D-NE) may attempt to cut Amtrak’s $850 million from the stimulus bill. Looks like any hope of expanding transit component to the stimulus is dead until the conference committee meets. Updates to come.

Amtrak Congress

Not on Amtrak's Side

The following Congressmen voted for the Flake Amendment, which would have shut off all funding for Amtrak in the stimulus bill. It fortunately failed, 116-320.

Todd Akin (R-MO 2)
Steve Austria (R-OH 7)
Michele Bachmann (R-MN 6)
Gresham Barrett (R-SC 3)
Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD 6)
Joe Barton (R-TX 6)
Judy Biggert (R-IL 13)
Brian Bilbray (R-CA 50)
Gus Bilirakis (R-FL 9)
Rob Bishop (R-UT 1)
Marsha Blackburn (R-TN 7)
Roy Blunt (R-MO 7)
John Boehner (R-OH 8)
Mary Bono Mack (R-CA 45)
Charles Boustany (R-LA 7)
Kevin Brady (R-TX 8)
Paul Broun (R-GA 10)
Michael Burgess (R-TX 26)
Dan Burton (R- IN 5)
Steve Buyer (R-IN 4)
Ken Calvert (R-CA 43)
David Lee Camp (R-MI 4)
John Campbell (R-CA 48)
Eric Cantor (R-VA 7)
Joseph Cao (R-LA 2)
John Carter (R-TX 31)
Jason Chaffetz (R-UT 3)
Howard Coble (R-NC 6)
Mike Coffman (R-CO 6)
Mike Conaway (R-TX 11)
John Culberson (R-TX 7)
Geoff Davis (R-KY 4)
Nathan Deal (R-GA 9)
David Dreier (R-CA 26)
John Duncan (R-TN 2)
Jeff Flake (R-AZ 6)
John Fleming (R-LA 4)
Randy Forbes (R-VA 4)
Virginia Foxx (R-NC 5)
Trent Franks (R-AZ 2)
Elton Gallegly (R-CA 24)
Scott Garrett (R-NJ 5)
Phil Gingrey (R-GA 11)
Louie Gohmert (R-TX 1)
Kay Granger (R-TX 12)
Sam Graves (R-MO 6)
Brett Guthrie (R-KY 2)
Ralph Hall (R-TX 4)
Gregg Harper (R-MS 3)
Hastings (WA)
Dean Heller (R-NV 2)
Jeb Hensarling (R-TX 5)
Wally Herger (R-CA 2)
Duncan Hunter (R-CA 52)
Bob Inglis (R-SC 4)
Darrell Issa (R-CA 49)
Lynn Jenkins (R-KS 2)
Sam Johnson (R-TX 3)
Jim Jordan (R-OH 4)
Steve King (R-IA 5)
Jack Kingston (R-GA 1)
John Kline (R-MN 2)
Doug Lamborn (R-CO 5)
Bob Latta (R-OH 5)
Jerry Lewis (R-CA 41)
John Linder (R-GA 7)
Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO 9)
Cynthia Lummis (R-WY 1)
Dan Lungren (R-CA 3)
Connie Mack IV (R-FL 14)
Kenny Marchant (R-TX 24)
Kevin McCarthy (R-CA 22)
Michael McCaul (R-TX 10)
Tom McClintock (R-CA 4)
Patrick McHenry (R-NC 10)
Howard McKeon (R-CA 25)
Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA 5)
Jeff Miller (R-FL 1)
Gary Miller (R-CA 42)
Jerry Moran (R-KS 1)
Sue Wilkins Myrick (R-NC 9)
Randy Neugebauer (R-TX 19)
Devin Nunes (R-CA 21)
Pete Olson (R-TX 22)
Ron Paul (R-TX 14)
Erik Paulsen (R-MN 3)
Mike Pence (R-IN 6)
Joseph Pitts (R-PA 16)
Ted Poe (R-TX 2)
Bill Posey (R-FL 15)
Tom Price (R-GA 6)
George Radanovich (R-CA 19)
Dave Reichert (R-WA 8)
Phil Roe (R-TN 1)
Harold Rogers (R-KY 5)
Mike Rogers (R-MI 8)
Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA 46)
Tom Rooney (R-FL 16)
Edward Royce (R-CA 40)
Paul Ryan (R-WI 1)
Steve Scalise (R-LA 1)
Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI 5)
Pete Sessions (R-TX 32)
John Shadegg (R-AZ 3)
Adrian Smith (R-NE 3)
Lamar Smith (R-TX 21)
Cliff Stearns (R-FL 6)
Lee Terry (R-NE 2)
Glenn Thompson (R-PA 5)
Mac Thornberry (R-TX 13)
John Tiahrt (R-KS 4)
Pat Tiberi (R-OH 12)
Zach Wamp (R-TN 3)
Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA 3)
Joe Wilson (R-SC 2)
Amtrak Infrastructure

Portal Bridge Replacement Approved

The New York Times reported today that the Portal Bridge in New Jersey will be replaced with two new spans, thanks to approval from the Federal Railroad Administration.Portal Bridge Track Schematic

The bridge (Google Maps location) is incredibly important in the Amtrak and New Jersey Transit systems because it lies directly between Newark Penn Station and Secaucus, one of the most-traveled track segments in the country, with 400 NJT commuter and 100 Amtrak intercity trains a day running into and out of Manhattan.

But it’s constantly encumbered by its almost 100-year-old age. Not only does it frequently fall into disrepair, but it also restricts trains traveling across it to decelerate to 60 mph, slower than the 90 mph express trains can reach on the track around it. Its low height (23 feet) means that the bridge must literally turn – preventing trains from passing – when boat traffic goes through. A new bridge will allow trains to travel at full speed and it will be high enough to allow boats to pass at all times without blocking train traffic.

The $1.34 billion project to replace the bridge is being jointly funded by Amtrak, the Department of Transportation, and NJ Transit. According to the Times, it will incorporate two spans – one with three tracks north of the current bridge, and one with two tracks south of the bridge – increasing capacity by 250% from the two tracks today. The southern bridge will be lower, and incorporate a turning mechanism – but trains will be able to use the northern bridge when boats need to pass around the southern span. View the track schematic pictured above (from the project’s EIS) for a better understanding of the project.

The existing bridge will be demolished after the project is completed in 2014. The new bridges will be designed to work with the Access to the Region’s Core project, whose tunnels will double capacity going into and out of New York City from New Jersey.

Good news for New York-region commuters – this project will clear up a problematic bottleneck and continue the restoration of Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor.