Norfolk Southern Railway
Providence and Worcester Railroad
|Termini||Boston South Station|
Washington Union Station
|Stations||108 (30 Amtrak stations, 78 commuter-rail-only stations)|
|Ridership||12,525,602 (Amtrak FY2019)|
|Opened||1834 (first section)|
1917 (final section)
|Owner||Massachusetts (MA/RI border)|
Amtrak (Boston-MA/RI border-New Haven)
Connecticut Department of Transportation (New Haven-CT/NY border)
Metro-North Railroad (CT/NY border-New Rochelle)
Amtrak (New Rochelle-Washington)
|Operator(s)||Amtrak, MBTA, Shore Line East, Metro-North Railroad, New Jersey Transit, SEPTA, MARC|
|Line length||457 mi (735 km)|
|Number of tracks||2-6|
25 kV at 60 Hz (Boston to Mill River)
12.5 kV at 60 Hz (Mill River to Sunnyside Yard)
12 kV at 25 Hz (Sunnyside to Washington D.C.)
|Operating speed||150 mph (240 km/h) (Acela)|
125 mph (201 km/h) (other)
The Northeast Corridor (NEC) is an electrified railroad line in the Northeast megalopolis of the United States and the busiest rail corridor in the Western Hemisphere. Owned primarily by Amtrak, it runs from Boston through Providence, New Haven, New York City, Philadelphia, Wilmington, and Baltimore to Washington, D.C. The NEC closely parallels Interstate 95 for most of its length, and is the busiest passenger rail line in the United States both by ridership and by service frequency as of 2013. The NEC carries more than 2,200 trains daily. Branches to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Springfield, Massachusetts, and various points in Virginia are not considered part of the Northeast Corridor, despite frequent service from routes that run largely on the corridor.
The corridor is used by many Amtrak trains, including the high-speed Acela Express, intercity trains, and several long-distance trains. Most of the corridor also has frequent commuter rail service, operated by the MBTA, Shore Line East, Metro-North Railroad, New Jersey Transit, SEPTA, and MARC. Several companies run freight trains over sections of the NEC.
Much of the line is built for speeds higher than the 79 mph (127 km/h) maximum allowed on many U.S. tracks; in fact, the only high-speed rail services in the Americas operate exclusively on the corridor: Amtrak operates Northeast Regional, Keystone Service and Acela Express trains, the first two reaching 125 mph (201 km/h) and the latter achieving 150 mph (240 km/h) on a few sections in Massachusetts and Rhode Island; the MARC commuter rail system, which has operations on the line, has certain express trains going up to 125 mph (201 km/h). Acela covers the 225 mi (362 km) between New York and Washington, D.C., in under 3 hours, and the 229 mi (369 km) between New York and Boston in under 3.5 hours. Under Amtrak's $151 billion Northeast Corridor plan, which hopes to roughly halve travel times by 2040, trips between New York and Washington via Philadelphia would take 94 minutes.
The Northeast Corridor was built by several railroads between the 1830s and 1917. The route was later consolidated under two railroads: the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad (NYNH&H) between Boston and New York, and the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) between New York and Washington.
The New York Central Railroad (NYC) began planning electrification between Grand Central Terminal and the split at Mott Haven after the opening of the first electrified urban rail terminal in 1900, the Gare d'Orsay in Paris, France. Electricity was in use on some branch lines of the NYNH&H for interurban streetcars via third rail or trolley wire. An accident in the Park Avenue Tunnel near the present Grand Central Terminal that killed 17 people on January 8, 1902 was blamed on smoke from steam locomotives; the resulting outcry led to a push for electric operation in Manhattan.
The NH announced in 1905 that it would electrify its main line from New York to Stamford, Connecticut. Along with the construction of the new Grand Central Terminal, opened in 1912, the NYC electrified its lines, beginning on December 11, 1906 with suburban multiple unit service to High Bridge on the Hudson Line.Electric locomotives began serving Grand Central on February 13, 1907, and all NYC passenger service into Grand Central was electrified on July 1. NH electrification began on July 24 to New Rochelle, August 5 to Port Chester and October 6, 1907 the rest of the way to Stamford. Steam trains last operated into Grand Central on June 30, 1908, after which all NH passenger trains into Manhattan were electrified. In June 1914, the NH electrification was extended to New Haven, which was the terminus of electrified service for over 80 years.
At the same time, the PRR was building its Pennsylvania Station and electrified approaches, which were served by the PRR's lines in New Jersey and the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR). LIRR electric service began in 1905 on the Atlantic Branch from downtown Brooklyn past Jamaica, and in June 1910 on the branch to Long Island City, part of the main line to Penn Station. Penn Station opened September 8, 1910 for LIRR trains and November 27 for the PRR; trains of both railroads were powered by DC electricity from a third rail. PRR trains changed engines (electric to/from steam) at Manhattan Transfer; passengers could also transfer there to H&M trains to downtown Manhattan.
On July 29, 1911, NH began electric service on its Harlem River Branch, a suburban branch that would become a main line with the completion of the New York Connecting Railroad and its Hell Gate Bridge. The bridge opened on April 1, 1917, but was operated by steam with an engine change at Sunnyside Yard east of Penn Station until 1918.
Electrification of the portion north of New Haven to Providence and Boston had been planned by the NH, and authorized by the company's board of directors shortly before the United States entered World War I. This plan was not carried out because of the war and the company's financial problems. Electrification north of New Haven did not occur until the 1990s, using a 60 Hz system.
In 1905, the PRR began to electrify its suburban lines at Philadelphia, an effort that eventually led to 11 kV, 25 Hz AC catenary from New York and Washington. Electric service began in September 1915, with multiple unit trains west to Paoli on the PRR Main Line (now the Keystone Corridor). Electric service to Chestnut Hill (now the Chestnut Hill West Line), including a stretch of the NEC, began March 30, 1918. Local electric service to Wilmington, Delaware, on the NEC began September 30, 1928, and to Trenton, New Jersey, on June 29, 1930.
Electrified service between Exchange Place, the Jersey City terminal, and New Brunswick, New Jersey began on December 8, 1932, including the extension of Penn Station electric service from Manhattan Transfer. On January 16, 1933, the rest of the electrification between New Brunswick and Trenton opened, giving a fully electrified line between New York and Wilmington. Trains to Washington began running under electricity to Wilmington on February 12, with the engine change moved from Manhattan Transfer to Wilmington. The same was done on April 9 for trains running west from Philadelphia, with the change point moved to Paoli.
In 1933, the electrification south of Wilmington was stalled by the Great Depression, but the PRR got a loan from Public Works Administration to resume work. The tunnels at Baltimore were rebuilt, and electric service between New York and Washington began February 10, 1935. On April 7, the electrification of passenger trains was complete, with 639 daily trains: 191 hauled by locomotives and the other 448 under multiple-unit power. New York-Washington electric freight service began May 20 after the electrification of freight lines in New Jersey and Washington. Extensions to Potomac Yard across the Potomac River from Washington, as well as several freight branches along the way, were electrified in 1937 and 1938. The Potomac Yard retained its electrification until 1981.
In the 1930s, PRR equipped the New York-Washington line with Pulse code cab signaling. Between 1998 and 2003, this system was overlaid with an Alstom Advanced Civil Speed Enforcement System (ACSES), using track-mounted transponders similar to the Balises of the modern European Train Control System. The ACSES will enable Amtrak to implement positive train control to comply with the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008.
In February 1968, PRR merged with its former rival New York Central Railroad to form the Penn Central (PC). Penn Central was required to absorb the New Haven in 1969 as a condition of the merger, which brought the entire Washington-Boston corridor under the control of a single company.
On September 21, 1970, all New York-Boston trains except the Turboservice were rerouted into Penn Station from Grand Central; the Turboservice was moved on February 1, 1971 for cross-platform transfers to the Metroliners.
In 1971, Amtrak began operations. As well, various state governments took control of portions of the NEC for their commuter transportation authorities. In January, the State of Massachusetts bought the Attleboro/Stoughton Line in Massachusetts, later operated by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. The same month, the New York State Metropolitan Transportation Authority bought and Connecticut leased from Penn Central their sections of the New Haven Line, between Woodlawn, Bronx, New York and New Haven, Connecticut.
In 1973, the Regional Rail Reorganization Act opened the way for Amtrak to buy sections of the NEC not already been sold to these commuter transportation authorities. These purchases by Amtrak were controversial at the time, and the Department of Transportation blocked the transaction and withheld purchase funds for several months until Amtrak granted it control over reconstruction of the corridor.
In February 1975, the Preliminary System Plan for Conrail proposed to stop running freight trains on the NEC between Groton, Connecticut, and Hillsgrove, Rhode Island, but this clause was rejected the following month by the U.S. Railway Association.
By April 1976, Amtrak owned the entire NEC except Boston to the RI state line which is owned by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and New Haven to the New Rochelle, New York, which is owned by States of Connecticut and New York. Amtrak still operates and maintains the portion in Massachusetts, but the line from New Haven to New Rochelle, New York, is operated by the Metro-North Railroad, which has hindered the establishment of high-speed service.
In 1976, Congress authorized an overhaul of the system between Washington and Boston. Called the Northeast Corridor Improvement Project (NECIP), it included safety improvements, modernization of the signaling system by General Railway Signal, and new Centralized Electrification and Traffic Control (CETC) control centers by Chrysler at Philadelphia, New York and Boston. It allowed more trains to run faster and closer together, and set the stage for later high-speed operation. NECIP also introduced the AEM-7 locomotive, which lowered travel times between cities and became the most successful engine on the Corridor. The NECIP set travel time goals of 2 hours and 40 minutes between Washington and New York, and 3 hours and 40 minutes between Boston and New York. These goals were not met because of the low level of funding provided by the Reagan Administration and Congress in the 1980s.
All grade crossings on the line have been eliminated between New York and Washington since the mid-1980s. Eleven grade crossings remain in Connecticut.
In the 1990s, Amtrak upgraded the NEC north of New York to ready it for the high-speed Acela Express trains. Dubbed the Northeast High Speed Rail Improvement Program (NHRIP), the effort eliminated grade crossings, rebuilt bridges, and modified curves. Concrete railroad ties replaced wood ties, and heavier continuous welded rail (CWR) was laid down.
In 1996, Amtrak began installing electrification gear along the 157 miles (253 kilometres) of track between New Haven and Boston. The infrastructure included a new overhead catenary wire made of high-strength silver-bearing copper, specified by Amtrak and later patented by Phelps Dodge Specialty Copper Products of Elizabeth, New Jersey.
Service with electric locomotives between New Haven and Boston began on January 31, 2000. The project took four years and cost close to $2.3 billion: $1.3 billion for the infrastructure improvements, and close to $1 billion for both the new Acela Express trainsets and the Bombardier-Alstom HHP-8 locomotives.
On December 11, 2000, Amtrak began operating its higher-speed Acela Express service. Fastest travel time by Acela is three and a half hours between Boston and New York, and two hours forty-five minutes between New York and Washington, D.C.
In 2005, there was talk in Congress of splitting the Northeast Corridor, which was opposed by then acting Amtrak president David Gunn. The plan, supported by the Bush administration, would "turn over the Northeast Corridor - the tracks from Washington to Boston that are the railroad's main physical asset - to a federal-state consortium."
With the passage of the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008, the Congress established the Northeast Corridor Commission (NEC Commission) in the U.S. Department of Transportation to facilitate mutual cooperation and planning and to advise Congress on Corridor rail and development policy. The commission members include USDOT, Amtrak and the Northeast Corridor states.
In August 2011, the United States Department of Transportation committed $450 million to a six-year project to support capacity increases on one of the busiest segments on the NEC, a 24-mile (39 km) section between New Brunswick and Trenton, passing through Princeton Junction. The Next Generation High-Speed project is designed to upgrade electrical power, signal systems, and overhead catenary wires to improve reliability and increase speeds up to 160 mph (260 km/h), and after the purchase of new equipment, up to 186 miles per hour (299 km/h). In September 2012, speed tests were conducted using Acela train sets, achieving a speed of 165 miles per hour (266 km/h). The improvements were scheduled to be completed in 2016, but have been delayed; the project is now scheduled to be finished in 2019.
Eleven minutes after leaving 30th Street Station in Philadelphia on May 12, 2015, a year-old ACS-64 locomotive (#601) and all seven Amfleet I coaches of Amtrak's northbound Northeast Regional (TR#188) derailed at 9:21pm at Frankford Junction in the Port Richmond section of the city while entering a 50 mph (80 km/h) speed limited (but at the time non-ATC protected) 4º curve at 106 mph (171 km/h), killing eight and injuring more than 200 (eight critically) of the 238 passengers and five crew on board as well as causing the suspension of all Philadelphia-New York NEC service for six days.
This was the deadliest crash on the Northeast Corridor since 16 died when Amtrak's Washington-Boston Colonial (TR#94) rear-ended three stationary Conrail locomotives at Gunpow Interlocking near Baltimore on January 4, 1987. Frankford Junction curve was the site of a previous fatal accident on September 6, 1943 when an extra section of the PRR's Washington to New York Congressional Limited derailed there killing 79 and injuring 117 of the 541 on board.
The NEC is a cooperative venture between Amtrak and various state agencies. Amtrak owns the track between Washington and New Rochelle, New York, a northern suburb of New York City. The segment from New Rochelle to New Haven is owned by the states of New York and Connecticut; Metro-North Railroad commuter trains operate there. Amtrak owns the tracks north of New Haven to the border between Rhode Island and Massachusetts. The final segment from the border north to Boston is owned by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
At just over 453 miles (729 km), the Northeast Corridor is the longest electrified rail corridor in the United States. Most electrified railways in the country are for rapid transit or commuter rail use; the Keystone Corridor is the only other electrified intercity mainline.
Currently, the corridor uses three catenary systems. From Washington, D.C., to Sunnyside Yard (just east of New York Penn Station), Amtrak's 25 Hz traction power system (originally built by the Pennsylvania Railroad) supplies 12 kV at 25 Hz. From Sunnyside to Mill River (just east of New Haven), the former New Haven Railroad's system, since modified by Metro-North, supplies 12.5 kV at 60 Hz. From Mill River to Boston, the much newer 60 Hz traction power system supplies 25 kV at 60 Hz. All of Amtrak's electric locomotives can switch between these systems at speed.
In 2006, several high-profile electric-power failures delayed Amtrak and commuter trains on the Northeast Corridor up to five hours. Railroad officials blamed Amtrak's funding woes for the deterioration of the track and power supply system, which in places is almost a hundred years old. These problems have decreased in recent years after tracks and power systems were repaired and improved.
In September 2013, one of two feeder lines supplying power to the New Haven Line failed, while the other feeder was disabled for service. The lack of electrical power disrupted trains on Amtrak and Metro-North Railroad, which share the segment in New York State.
There are 109 active stations on the Northeast Corridor; 30 are used by Amtrak. All but three (Kingston, Westerly, and Mystic) see commuter service. Amtrak owns Pennsylvania Station in New York, 30th Street Station in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Station in Baltimore, and Union Station in Washington.
The following is a list of active Amtrak and commuter rail stations, plus two interlockings where milepost numbering is reset.
|MA||228.7||Boston||South Station||AE NR LS||MBTA||MBTA Red Line, Old Colony Lines, Greenbush Line, Framingham/Worcester Line, Fairmount Line|
|227.6||Back Bay||AE NR LS||MBTA||MBTA Orange Line; split with Framingham/Worcester Line|
|226.5||Ruggles||MBTA||MBTA Orange Line|
|223.7||Forest Hills||MBTA||MBTA Orange Line; split with Needham Line|
|219.2||Readville||MBTA||MBTA Fairmount Line; split with Franklin Line. NEC platforms only used in emergencies|
|217.3||Westwood||Route 128||AE NR||MBTA||Park and ride|
|213.9||Canton||Canton Junction||MBTA||Split with Stoughton Branch|
|190.8||state line Massachusetts / Rhode Island|
|177.3||Warwick||T. F. Green Airport||MBTA|
|165.8||North Kingstown||Wickford Junction||MBTA|
|141.1||state line Rhode Island / Connecticut|
|122.9||New London||New London||AE NR||SLE|
|105.1||Old Saybrook||Old Saybrook||NR||SLE|
|72.9||Division Post - Metro-North Railroad / Amtrak|
|72.7||New Haven||New Haven State Street||New Haven-Springfield Shuttle||MNR||SLE||Hartford Line|
|72.3||New Haven Union Station||AE New Haven-Springfield Shuttle NR VT||MNR||SLE||Hartford Line|
|69.4||West Haven||West Haven||MNR||SLE|
|59.0||Stratford||Stratford||MNR||SLE||MNRR Waterbury Branch|
|41.0||South Norwalk||MNR||MNRR Danbury Branch|
|33.1||Stamford||Stamford||AE NR VT||MNR||SLE||MNRR New Canaan Branch|
|26.1||state line Connecticut / New York|
|NY||25.7||Port Chester||Port Chester||MNR|
|16.6||New Rochelle||New Rochelle||NR||MNR||Metro-North to Grand Central|
|3.2||New York City||Sunnyside||LIRR||Not yet open|
|0.0||Penn Station||AE AD CD CL CS EAE ES KS LS ML NR PA PL SM SS VT||LIRR||NJT||LIRR: Trains to Long Island|
NJT: Trains to New Jersey
NYCS: , , and trains at 34th Street - Penn Station (8th Avenue),
, , and trains at 34th Street - Penn Station (7th Avenue),
, , , , , , , , and trains at 34th Street-Herald Square
PATH: JSQ-33, HOB-33, JSQ-33 (via HOB) at 33rd Street
|1.2||state line New York / New Jersey|
|NJ||5.0||Secaucus||Secaucus Junction||NJT||NJT to Hoboken and northern New Jersey|
|10.0||Newark||Penn Station||AE CD CL CS KS NR PA PL SM SS VT||NJT||Newark Light Rail, PATH|
|12.6||Newark Liberty Int'l Airport||KS NR||NJT||AirTrain|
|24.6||Woodbridge||Metropark||AE KS NR VT||NJT||Park and ride|
|32.7||New Brunswick||New Brunswick||KS NR||NJT|
|34.4||Jersey Avenue||NJT||Park and ride|
|48.8||Princeton Junction||Princeton Junction||KS NR||NJT||NJT Princeton Branch to Princeton|
|58.1||Trenton||Trenton||AE CD CL CS KS NR PA SM SS VT||SEPTA||NJT||NJT River Line to Camden|
|59.2||state line New Jersey / Pennsylvania|
|73.7||Cornwells Heights||Cornwells Heights||KS NR||SEPTA|
|86.0||North Philadelphia||KS NR||SEPTA|
|ZOO Interlocking||Split with Philadelphia to Harrisburg Main Line|
|1.5||30th Street Station||AE CD CL CS KS NR PA PL SM SS VT||SEPTA||NJT||NJT Atlantic City Line, all SEPTA commuter rail lines|
Market-Frankford Line, Subway-Surface Trolley Lines
|6.5||Sharon Hill||Curtis Park||SEPTA|
|9.7||Prospect Park||Prospect Park||SEPTA|
|10.4||Ridley Park||Ridley Park||SEPTA|
|16.7||Marcus Hook||Marcus Hook||SEPTA|
|18.2||state line Pennsylvania / Delaware|
|26.8||Wilimington||Wilmington||AE CD CL CS NR PL SM SS VT||SEPTA|
|41.5||state line Delaware / Maryland|
|84.0||Middle River||Martin State Airport||MARC|
|95.7||Baltimore||Penn Station||AE CD CL CS NR PL SM SS VT||MARC||Maryland Transit Administration Light Rail|
|106.3||Linthicum Heights||BWI Airport||AE NR VT||MARC|
|127.0||New Carrollton||New Carrollton||NR VT||MARC||Orange Line (Washington Metro), park and ride|
|131.6||state line Maryland / District of Columbia|
|Washington||C Interlocking||Junction with CSX Capital Subdivision and Metropolitan Subdivision|
|0.0||Washington, D.C.||AE CPL CD CL CS NR PL SM SS VT||MARC||VRE||VRE commuter rail, Metro Red Line, Amtrak trains to Virginia, Chicago, New Orleans, Miami, MARC commuter Rail|
The entire Northeast Corridor has just 11 grade crossings, all in southeastern New London County, Connecticut. The remaining grade crossings are along a part of the line that hugs the shore of Fishers Island Sound. Without these crossings many waterfront communities and businesses would be inaccessible from land. Except for three grade crossings near New London Union Station, all have four-quadrant gates with induction loop sensors, which allow vehicles stopped on the tracks to be detected in time for an oncoming train to stop.
FRA rules limit track speeds on the corridor to 80 miles per hour (130 km/h) over conventional crossings and 95 miles per hour (153 km/h) over crossings with four-quadrant gates and vehicle detection tied into the signal system.
The New York to New Haven line has long been completely grade-separated, and the last grade crossings between Washington and New York were eliminated in the 1980s. In 1994, during planning for electrification and high-speed Acela Express service between New Haven and Boston, a law was passed requiring USDOT to plan for the elimination of all remaining crossings (unless impractical or unnecessary) by 1997. Some lightly used crossings were simply closed, while most were converted into bridges or underpasses. Only thirteen remained by 1999, of which lightly used crossings in Old Lyme, Connecticut and Exeter, Rhode Island were soon closed.
Despite six nonfatal accidents in the previous sixteen years, there was substantial local opposition to closing the remaining 11 crossings. Outright closing the crossing would eliminate the sole access points to several of the places they served, while grade separation would have been expensive and required land takings. Instead, the crossings were supplied with additional protections. In 1998, School Street in Groton was the first four-quadrant gate installation in the country with vehicle detection sensors tied into the line's signal system. It cost $1 million rather than the $4 million for a bridge. Seven more crossings received similar installations in 1999 and 2000; only the three in New London (which are on a tight curve with speed limits under 30 miles per hour (48 km/h)) did not.
On September 28, 2005, a southbound Acela Express struck a car at Miner Lane in Waterford, Connecticut, the first such incident since the additional protections were implemented. The train was approaching the crossing at approximately 70 miles per hour (110 km/h) when the car reportedly rolled under the lowered crossing gate arms too late for the sensor system to fully stop the train. The driver and one passenger were killed on impact; the other passenger died nine days later from injuries sustained in the crash. The gates were later inspected and declared to have been functioning properly at the time of the incident. The incident drew public criticism about the remaining grade crossings along the busy line.
Crossing are listed east to west.
|140.6||Stonington||Palmer Street||500263U||Connects the Pawcatuck residential area to the Mechanic Street arterial.|
|136.7||Elihu Island Road||500267W||Provides sole access to Elihu Island. Private crossing.|
|136.6||Walker's Dock||500269K||Provides sole access to a small marina. Private crossing.|
|134.9||Wamphassuc Road||500272T||Provides sole access to a residential area.|
|133.4||Latimer Point Road||500275N||Provides sole access to a residential area.|
|132.3||Broadway Avenue Extension||500277C||Next to Mystic station. Provides sole access to a residential and industrial area, several marinas, and the northbound platform.|
|131.2||Groton||School Street||500278J||Provides sole access to the Willow Point residential area and marina.|
|123.0||New London||Ferry Street||500294T||Provides sole access to Block Island Ferry and Cross Sound Ferry docks and other marine facilities. Does not have quad gates.|
|122.8||State Street||500295A||Next to New London Union Station. Provides access to the Fisher's Island Ferry, City Pier, Waterfront Park, and the northbound platform.|
|122.5||Bank Street Connector||500297N||Provides access to Waterfront Park.|
|120.2||Waterford||Miner Lane||500307S||Provides sole access to a residential and industrial area.|
In 2003, Amtrak accounted for about 14% of intercity trips between the cities served by the NEC and its branches (the rest were taken by airline, automobile, or bus). A 2011 study estimated that in 2010 Amtrak carried 6% of the Boston-Washington traffic, compared to 80% for automobiles, 8-9% for intercity bus, and 5% for airlines. Amtrak's share of passenger traffic between New York City and Boston has grown from 20 percent to 54 percent since 2001, and 75 percent of public-transport travelers between New York City and Washington, D.C., go by train.
These Amtrak trains serve NEC stations and run at least partially on the corridor:
Seven other trains terminate at NEC stations, but do not use any NEC infrastructure outside the terminus:
Five Amtrak services operate via the Empire Corridor, a line largely owned by CSX, with other sections owned by Metro-North Railroad and Amtrak. It meets the NEC at New York Penn Station.
Due to the wide availability of Northeast Regional frequencies, the Acela Express, the Keystone Service, and the Pennsylvanian as well as commuter rail, most long- and medium-haul trains operating along the New York-Washington leg of the NEC do not allow local travel between NEC stations. In most cases, long- and medium-haul trains only stop to discharge passengers from Washington (and in some cases, Alexandria) northward, and to receive passengers from Newark to Washington. This policy is intended to keep seats available for passengers making longer trips. The Vermonter is the only medium-haul train that allows local travel in both directions between New York and Washington.
In addition to Amtrak, several commuter rail agencies operate passenger service using the NEC tracks:
Freight trains operate on parts of the NEC through trackage rights. The Norfolk Southern Railway operates over the line south of Philadelphia. CSX Transportation has rights from New York to New Haven; in Massachusetts; and in Maryland from Landover, where its Landover Subdivision joins the NEC, to Bowie, where its Pope's Creek Subdivision leaves it. Between Philadelphia and New York, Conrail operates as a local switching and terminal company for CSX and Norfolk Southern (see Conrail Shared Assets Operations). The Providence and Worcester Railroad operates local freight service from New Haven into Rhode Island and has overhead trackage rights from New Haven to New York (see Rail freight transportation in New York City and Long Island).
As of 2013, the Federal Railroad Administration is drawing up a master plan for developing the corridor through 2040, taking into account various projects and proposals by various agency and advocacy groups. The plan was completed in spring 2015. Much of the proposed improvements are unfunded.
In 2013, Japanese officials pitched the country's maglev train technology, the world's fastest, for the Northeast Corridor to regional U.S. politicians. The trains could travel from New York to Washington in an hour.
In October 2010, Amtrak released "A vision for High-Speed Rail on the Northeast Corridor", an aspirational proposal for dedicated high-speed rail tracks between Washington, D.C., and Boston. Projected to cost about $117 billion (2010 dollars), the project would allow speeds of 220 miles per hour (350 km/h), reducing travel time from New York to Washington to 96 minutes (including a stop in Philadelphia) and from Boston to New York to 84 minutes.
The proposed alignment would closely follow the existing NEC south of New York City; north of the city, several different alignments would be studied. One option would parallel Interstates 684, 84, and 90 through Danbury, Waterbury, and Hartford, Connecticut; another would follow the existing shoreline route (paralleling Interstate 95); a third would run along Long Island and a new bridge or tunnel across Long Island Sound to Connecticut.
In 2012, Amtrak revised its cost estimate to $151 billion. The 438-mile (705 km) HSR route is planned to be completed by 2030 (Washington to New York) and by 2040 (New York to Boston).
In February 2011, Amtrak announced plans for the Gateway Project between Newark Penn Station and New York Penn Station. The planned project would create a high-speed alignment across the New Jersey Meadowlands and under the Hudson River, including the replacement of the Portal Bridge, a bottleneck. It is projected to cost $14.5 billion and be completed in 2025.
In May 2011, a $294.7-million federal grant was awarded to fix congestion at Harold Interlocking, the USA's second-busiest rail junction after Sunnyside Yard. The work will lay tracks to the New York Connecting Railroad right of way, allowing Amtrak trains arriving from or bound for New England to avoid NJT and LIRR trains. Financing for the project was jeopardized in July 2011 by the House of Representatives, which voted to divert the funding to unrelated projects. The project is currently funded by FRA and the MTA.
In August 2011, Congress obligated $450 million to a six-year project to add capacity on one of the busiest segments on the NEC in New Jersey. The project is designed to upgrade electrical power, signal systems and catenary wires on a 24-mile (39 km) section between New Brunswick and Trenton to improve reliability, increase speeds up to 160 mph (260 km/h), and support more frequent high-speed service. The improvements were scheduled to be completed in 2016, but have been delayed; the project is now scheduled to be finished in 2020. The track work is one of several projects planned for the "New Jersey Speedway" section of the NEC, which include a new station at North Brunswick, the Mid-Line Loop (a flyover for reversing train direction), and the re-construction of County Yard, to be done in coordination with NJT.
Amtrak has applied for $15 million for the environmental impact studies and preliminary engineering design to examine replacement options for the more than 100-year-old, low-level movable rail Pelham Bay Bridge (just west of Pelham Bridge) over the Hutchinson River in the Bronx that has been limiting speed and train capacity. The goal is for a new bridge to support expanded service and speeds up to 110 mph (180 km/h).
On August 26, 2016, Vice President Joe Biden announced a $2.45 billion federal loan package to pay for new Acela equipment, as well as upgrades to the NEC. The loans will finance 28 trainsets that will replace the existing fleet. The trains will be built by Alstom in Hornell and Rochester, New York. Passenger service using the new trains is expected to begin in 2021 and the current fleet is to be retired by the end of 2022 when all the replacements will have been delivered. Amtrak will pay off the loans from increased NEC passenger revenue.