More trains and more tracks are at the core of the US Department of Transportation’s (DOT) plan to boost “vastly inadequate” Amtrak passenger rail service in the Northeast Corridor — the busy rail link between Boston, Massachusetts, and Washington, DC, that also includes service to Providence, Rhode Island, New York City, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The Northeast Corridor is the busiest passenger railroad network in the US, but is straining under the burden of aging infrastructure and inadequate capacity to meet growing passenger demand.

The new recommendations from the DOT’s Federal Railroad Administration, intended to be implemented over the next 30 years (pending legislative approval), place top priority on bringing existing facilities up to a “state of good repair,” followed by:

  • Adding new tracks to increase the Northeast Corridor to four tracks in most locations, which would allow for more frequent and faster service
  • Providing intercity rail access to Philadelphia International Airport so that airport-bound passengers do not have to change trains at the city’s 30th Street Station
  • Adding direct and frequent service to the cities of Hartford, Connecticut and Springfield, Massachusetts
  • Increasing (in some cases, doubling) the number of regional trains, and providing up to five times more intercity trains

US rail officials said the recommendations, if implemented, could cut travel time between Boston and New York City by 45 minutes and travel time between New York City and Washington, DC, by 35 minutes.

“We need a corridor that provides more options and more trains for commuters. One that allows for seamless travel between the nation’s capital and New York, and New York and Providence and Boston. A corridor that provides streamlined connections between a city’s airports and its city center. And a corridor that can efficiently and reliably serve a population that is growing quickly,” says Federal Railroad Administration head Sarah E. Feinberg.