Priorities for expanding the national network

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jis

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Are you saying the NYSDOT is supporting the former Lackawanna route? Not disputing that, but I would think that they would more likely support upgrading the former Erie route through Port Jervis to Binghamton, since it is mostly within NY...
I actually participated in some of the early discussions when ESPA was working with NYDOT on this subject, so have a small amount of first hand knowledge about this matter.

They specifically rejected the Erie route because it is way slower than the Lackawanna route, which is barely competitive with Rt 17 as it is, after a lot of work is put into it. The Erie route is inherently impossible to speed up much since it basically follows the profile of a Cow path along the Delaware River. OK for slow freight. Horrible for competitive passenger service.
 

20th Century Rider

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That's actually an idea that's gained some traction of late. There are a number of articles and YouTube videos on the subject. It makes perfect sense and cutting off that corner through Albany should theoretically be a boon for long-distance trains, e.g. to Chicago. With adequate service between NYC and Albany, why not run the NY leg of the LSL via the diagonal route and join it with the Boston section at Buffalo instead of Albany? (or don't join the two at all and offset them as separate trains - doubling service between Buffalo and points west?) Of course another completely new train is an even better idea.
Actually I am OK with running additional Regional trains either to Syracuse or even to Buffalo via Elmira and all that. Just leave the LSL out of it and let it run the Water Level Route.

Similarly you could run a train from Washington DC on the route Philadelphia - Harrisburg - Wilkes-Barre - Scranton, and then on to Bingo and to Syracuse or Buffalo.

Of course, getting those Southern Tier trains into Depew (necessary for connecting to the LSL) or Exchange Street may take some doing too. At Syracuse they would get in facing towards New York, but that is OK since it terminates there.
Are you saying the NYSDOT is supporting the former Lackawanna route? Not disputing that, but I would think that they would more likely support upgrading the former Erie route through Port Jervis to Binghamton, since it is mostly within NY...
Oh Well! I paused and took a step back agazing at all this discussion and broke out in laughter!

We all sound like a bunch of RR Barons of historic fame planning and conniving on how to organize our rail lines with our loaded wallets. 😁 😄😀

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The_Pacific_tourist_-_Williams'_illustrated_trans-continental_guide_of_travel,_from_the_Atlant...jpg
 

Willbridge

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That's actually an idea that's gained some traction of late. There are a number of articles and YouTube videos on the subject. It makes perfect sense and cutting off that corner through Albany should theoretically be a boon for long-distance trains, e.g. to Chicago. With adequate service between NYC and Albany, why not run the NY leg of the LSL via the diagonal route and join it with the Boston section at Buffalo instead of Albany? (or don't join the two at all and offset them as separate trains - doubling service between Buffalo and points west?) Of course another completely new train is an even better idea.
The last US pre-Amtrak long-distance train that I rode was the E-L Lake Cities in 1969 on my way to report at Fort Dix. It was the nicest Eastern Region train that I found and the scenery was beautiful. Lots of long-distance commuters in stations that we passed through. A good combination of scenery and practical travel needs.
 

jis

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The last US pre-Amtrak long-distance train that I rode was the E-L Lake Cities in 1969 on my way to report at Fort Dix. It was the nicest Eastern Region train that I found and the scenery was beautiful. Lots of long-distance commuters in stations that we passed through. A good combination of scenery and practical travel needs.
That was post E-L merger so it had already been rerouted via the Poconos route away from its original Erie route, right?

Yes the Poconos route is quite spectacular in places, including the Nicholson, Delaware and Paulin's Kill viaducts, the first concrete arch structures of such magnitude. But of course one does miss the Moodna and Starucca on the Erie route.

Today one can travel across the Moodna on the MNRR/NJT Port Jervis Service.
 

fdaley

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I actually participated in some of the early discussions when ESPA was working with NYDOT on this subject, so have a small amount of first hand knowledge about this matter.

They specifically rejected the Erie route because it is way slower than the Lackawanna route, which is barely competitive with Rt 17 as it is, after a lot of work is put into it. The Erie route is inherently impossible to speed up much since it basically follows the profile of a Cow path along the Delaware River. OK for slow freight. Horrible for competitive passenger service.
The ex-Lackawanna route through Scranton is much faster and better engineered than the ex-Erie route, and it has vastly more online population. Also, as someone who grew up in Scranton and still has connections there, I can attest that, although the Scranton area was still pretty insular when the last train ran in 1970, when I go there today, I am amazed at how diverse Northeast PA has become -- and how many people I meet who migrated out there from metro New York in search of more affordable land and housing and a lower cost of living. Lots of these people still have connections to the big metropolis, so there is way more demand now for a multi-frequency rail corridor between NYC and Scranton/Binghamton. The Downeaster offers a good model for the kind of service that's needed.

The big challenge is that 28 miles of track need to be relaid in western NJ. And New Jersey, which owns the rail bed, doesn't see this as a high priority. NJT's plan to reopen the first 7 miles, which has already been discussed for a decade or more, might not be completed for another 5-10 years at the rate they're progressing. If there is a federal infrastructure bill, this is the type of project I would like to see it address.
 
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jis

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I don't think NJTransit or NJDOT will ever complete restoration of the Lackawanna Cutoff, unless significant pain is inflicted on them elsewhere that is more important to them as a quid pro quo. For example, make the funding of the Hudson Tubes or the Portal South Bridge or any other Gateway component in NJ contingent upon NJDOT completing the restoration of the Cutoff in a time limited plan. Of course the problem really is that the funding will still have to come substantially from outside NJ. But that would be the way to force a ROW lease agreement and such to an agency that has more at stake than NJ/NJDOT on that route. NJDOT is perfectly happy to stall and let funding to private bus lines to take care of what they view their problem is. They really have far greater fish to fry elsewhere compared to this relatively remote corner of NJ.
 

fdaley

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Of course the problem really is that the funding will still have to come substantially from outside NJ. But that would be the way to force a ROW lease agreement and such to an agency that has more at stake than NJ/NJDOT on that route.
Well, this is exactly the problem. It's a bit like what Maine faced in the '90s when it wanted to get the Downeaster going and had to figure out how to upgrade the line through New Hampshire, whose state leaders weren't interested in contributing to the project. (In Maine, we used to joke that the NH slogan should be changed to "Freeload or die.") The result was the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, which now runs the Downeaster. The project got accomplished by the state of Maine with a large share of federal funds.
 

jis

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As in someone, like all the proposed stop cities on the new route, that haven't had regularly passenger trains in 50 years?
For example, Sterling, Julesburg, North Platte, Grand Island, Columbus, Fremont, Ames, Marshalltown, Cedar Rapids ,Cllinton,, Dixon, Rochelle, and Dekalb between Denver and Chicago, or Winona, LaCrosse, (East) Dubuque, Savanna, Oregon, Rochelle, and Naperville between St. Paul and Chicago. The latter route would miss Milwaukee, so the river running would be scenic, but lose too much traffic potential.
I think many of the small cities starving for a passenger train might raise funds for at least a basic shelter type station...
Typically these little towns have been able to raise some money but more often than not, not enough to make anything happen, unless they are able to get their state or congressional delegation to find additional funds from the state or federal budget in a directed fashion. Also it tends to be a recurring thing even after the initial hump is crossed unless the route turns out to be operationally cash positive after paying off all debtors.

This was achieved sort of, for continuation of service on the SWC route. But that gives an indication of how hard it tends to be and how long it takes. The NOL - Mobile service is another example.

An example that is worth watching is the current organization attempts going on relative to the Southern Montana (erstwhile North Coast Hiawatha minus Butte plus Helena route). They as a group appear to be better placed than most others but still it will be touch and go at best.
 
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John Santos

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The top priority for expanding Amtrak is = Acquire more rolling stock not just replacements. IMO an additional 500 cars with 50 - 70 more locos added to the active fleet.
Classic Chicken vs. Egg problem. They can't buy more rolling stock because they don't need it for the existing routes. They can't add new routes or frequencies because they don't have the rolling stock to support them.
 

Cal

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Instead of expanding the network, I'd rather make the current experience nicer.
 

west point

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IMO it is not so much a chicken and egg problem. Amtrak used to publish the city pair that had the highest load on each route. For instance the Crescent's one was Charlottesville - WASH. That segment was changed once the Lynchburg train started to run. Until Covid-19 there were many trains that came close to selling out. These were very close to full due to high bucket prices that kept them from selling out. Now we have the silvrer service trains with up to 5 coaches and 3 sleepers even with Covid-19 restrictions.
 

Willbridge

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That was post E-L merger so it had already been rerouted via the Poconos route away from its original Erie route, right?

Yes the Poconos route is quite spectacular in places, including the Nicholson, Delaware and Paulin's Kill viaducts, the first concrete arch structures of such magnitude. But of course one does miss the Moodna and Starucca on the Erie route.

Today one can travel across the Moodna on the MNRR/NJT Port Jervis Service.
Right, it was the E-L combination. I would like to have done both routes!

Here's an all-Erie service...

TW27Jul29-02.jpg
 

neroden

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I don't think NJTransit or NJDOT will ever complete restoration of the Lackawanna Cutoff, unless significant pain is inflicted on them elsewhere that is more important to them as a quid pro quo. For example, make the funding of the Hudson Tubes or the Portal South Bridge or any other Gateway component in NJ contingent upon NJDOT completing the restoration of the Cutoff in a time limited plan. Of course the problem really is that the funding will still have to come substantially from outside NJ. But that would be the way to force a ROW lease agreement and such to an agency that has more at stake than NJ/NJDOT on that route. NJDOT is perfectly happy to stall and let funding to private bus lines to take care of what they view their problem is. They really have far greater fish to fry elsewhere compared to this relatively remote corner of NJ.
The New Jersey portion of the line frankly needs to be transferred to the PNRRA; at least NJT prevented the ROW from being broken up into pieces. Politics in Pennsylvania at the state level have moved slowly but I think it's possible to get it funded from Pennsylvania, possibly with some help from NY. Have to de-gerrymander the PA state legislature first, most likely.
 

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One possible route extension would be a night train departure from ATL - New Orleans - Houston. If it went by way of Montgomery the times would be approximately ATL = 2000 , NOL = 0700 Houston = 1815.
By way of BHM ' ATL = 2000 NOL = 0700 Houston same. If by BHM then could have a split at Meridian that would arrive Dallas / Ft Worth 2nd morning.

This year ATL - HOUSTON would have been great for an Amtrak world series extra since each visiting team get a fairly large number of tickets.
 

IndyLions

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I think the only chance of expanded long distance service is through expanded corridor services, which could ultimately lead to some expanded frequencies (i.e. Cardinal & LSL) and potential new connections (i.e. Chicago to Atlanta via Louisville/Nashville & Denver to Albuquerque). Step 1 to that end is passage of the current infrastructure bill.

Even when (if) that passes - what is the next step? I don't exactly trust Amtrak Management to plan / implement anything. And getting states to cooperate is like herding cats. So many potholes.

Ultimately, this will be a long-term game of whack-a-mole. Identify hurdle to expansion - knock it down. Not a game for the faint of heart.
 

John Bredin

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Even when (if) that passes - what is the next step? I don't exactly trust Amtrak Management to plan / implement anything.
The Corridor Development Plan is Amtrak's own initiative, not imposed on it from outside, so it's unlikely that Amtrak would've come up with it intending to fail.
As to implementation, Amtrak seems to be taking the restoration of service to Mobile seriously, proceeding before the Surface Transportation Board.
Not a game for the faint of heart.
You're not wrong, of course, but there's got to be some low-hanging fruit.

For instance, Reading, Scranton, and Allentown are (as I recall) mostly on publicly-owned right-of-way and the main obstruction to service being restored as a commuter line has been the willingness of New Jersey and/or Pennsylvania to pay for capital improvements outside its borders. They weren't included in the Development Plan because any of them is the city of the future. ;)
 

George Harris

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They specifically rejected the Erie route because it is way slower than the Lackawanna route, which is barely competitive with Rt 17 as it is, after a lot of work is put into it. The Erie route is inherently impossible to speed up much since it basically follows the profile of a Cow path along the Delaware River. OK for slow freight. Horrible for competitive passenger service.
Looking at topo maps there are locations where over the years the Erie made alignment changes that increased curvature in order to reduce grades. Their objective was to be a low grade and hence low cost freight hauler, having just enough passenger service to satisfy the locals and the regulators.

Item 2: Be very glad the Lackawanna Cutoff is still intact. There are numerous areas where shorter and faster routes are gone, including right of way in favor of routes with more on line freight options. Such abandonments have made restoration of the City of Miami impossible. Of the every other day Chicago-Florida service, Amtrak chose the more lightly patronized South Wind route, I suspect because it served larger on-line cities instead of choosing the City of Miami route, which train frequently ran 20 cars in winter in the early 60's.
 
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jis

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Item 2: Be very glad the Lackawanna Cutoff is still intact.
That is because the NJ and Tri-State area advocates worked very hard to keep it intact. Originally it was sold by Conrail to a developer who wanted to use the fill material to sell off as aggregate to builders. In the exercise of capitalist freedom Conrail's main interest was destroying all possibility of it ever being used as a transport corridor. Gladly ultimately they failed. NJDOT was goaded into acquiring the entire thing through the exercise of eminent domain which went through a few rounds of court cases before the owner basically gave up, cut their losses and accepted the price offered. That is how it is still around, and owned by NJ State.
 
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daybeers

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Would that mean it makes sense to implement the Inland route between Boston and New Haven? BOS-Worcester-Springfield-Hartford-New Haven or directly from Worcester to Hartford or Worcester south to New London? Should any of these possible routes be electrified so trains can continue to or from the NEC without changing engines? BTW, the MBTA has been studying or considering (which I think means writing the idea on a sheet of paper and storing that paper behind a filing cabinet in a locked closet in a disused basement of an abandoned building on Alpha Centauri) electrifying its commuter rail lines, including the line between Boston and Worcester currently used by the LSL.
100x yes! I frankly believe the Shore Line won't be able to be used reliably in 10-20 years due to climate change and sea level rise. It's also very slow, curvy, and doesn't really hit a lot of big population centers. I'm not saying don't run trains there, but don't run Acelas. The Inland Route was the main route before the Acela was introduced, which required electrification, curve straightening, and new signals among other techniques New Haven-Boston.

The Hartford Line commuter/regional rail service has been doing quite well with fairly decent prices, though in my opinion they should be lower. I think it could support half-hour frequencies, electrification, more stations (which are planned), better equipment (coming maybe if CTDOT gets off their ass?), and yes the MBTA needs to go down into their underground vault to retrieve the East-West study, throw it out, and restart with actual ridership and cost numbers.
 

MARC Rider

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The Inland Route was the main route before the Acela was introduced, which required electrification, curve straightening, and new signals among other techniques New Haven-Boston.
I don't think that's true. Circa 2000, there were maybe 1 or two through trains a day that ran from New York to Boston via the Inland Route.
 

MARC Rider

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100x yes! I frankly believe the Shore Line won't be able to be used reliably in 10-20 years due to climate change and sea level rise. It's also very slow, curvy, and doesn't really hit a lot of big population centers.
A whole lot of the Northeast Corridor will have problems due to climate change, not just the Shore Line. And I don't think the real problems will start until 30 0r 40 years down the road, at least that's what it seems to me looking at this report.

And the people of New London and Providence might disagree about the lack of big population centers on the Shore Line east of New Haven.
 
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