Title

WHOSE RAILROAD IS THIS, ANYWAY? OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES IN REGIONALIZING THE NORTHEAST CORRIDOR

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date

2002

Subject Area

mode - rail

Keywords

States, Regional transportation, Passenger trains, Partnerships, Northeastern United States, Intrastate transportation, High speed trains, Funding, Financing, Federal aid, Amtrak

Abstract

The Northeast Corridor (NEC) is a regional asset that is planned, funded, and operated by a national institution--the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak). This asymmetry may prevent the NEC from realizing its potential. Despite completion of the Northeast High-Speed Rail Improvement Project, the NEC will require massive investments in coming years. The historical funding pattern--via annual appropriations from the U.S. Congress--is unlikely to meet these needs. Regional funding sources may be able to provide sustained funding; this approach is closer to the state or local funding plus federal match regime that prevails in other modes and is expected to be used for new passenger rail corridors. A regional partnership might allow better planning for the Northeast's long-term rail infrastructure needs and for NEC services; it might also provide a channel through which the region could assist Amtrak in funding additional frequency or lowering fares. Amtrak's successful state partnerships, particularly with California, provide models for a regional partnership. The key problem is that in the Northeast no single government can address transportation at a regional level. As a result, an integrated partnership for Amtrak would likely require the creation of a regional entity for the corridor. Through its funding abilities, this entity could resolve the dilemma that exists today: Amtrak must preserve its national constituency and support, and the states fear losing access to federal funding. Significantly, resolving this dilemma does not necessitate any change in Amtrak's current largely unified operation of the railroad.