PHILADELPHIA – Washington to Boston in 3 hours? Amtrak wants to make it happen.
On Tuesday, Amtrak unveiled a $117 billion, 30-year vision for a high-speed rail line on the East Coast that would drastically reduce travel times along the congested corridor using trains traveling up to 220 miles (354 kilometers) per hour.
“Amtrak is putting forward a bold vision of a realistic and attainable future that can revolutionize transportation, travel patterns and economic development in the Northeast for generations,” said Amtrak President Joseph Boardman during a news conference at 30th Street Station in Philadelphia.
The proposal, which would require building a new set of tracks from Boston to Washington, D.C., is at the concept stage and there's no funding plan in place, Boardman said.
The project would likely use some combination of public and private investment and hopefully be phased in starting in 2015, he said.
The Next-Gen High Speed Rail line would have hubs in Baltimore, New York City, Philadelphia and Washington and would cut travel times in half or better. It would reduce the travel time between Washington and New York from 162 minutes to 96 minutes, according to Amtrak. The travel time between New York and Boston would go from 215 minutes to 84 minutes.
About 12 million riders a year use Amtrak along the northeast corridor.
Under the high-speed system envisioned, the trains would be able to accommodate about 33.7 million passengers by 2040. Amtrak officials estimated the high-speed system would generate an $900 million more a year with the added ridership.
High-speed rail would not only help reduce congestion on the rails, but also in the skies, since it would be more enticing to passengers making shorter trips, according to Amtrak officials and others.
"No one should take a plane for a trip shorter than 500 miles (800 kilometers),"said Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, noting that the system would be comparable to service now linking European countries.
The Democratic governor added that political leaders must generate the will to get the project done before current system is overwhelmed.
"It isn't a dream, it isn't a fantasy, it isn't an illusion," Rendell said. "Can we afford it? ... We can't afford not to do it."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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