Proposed Amtrak investments could halve Philly-NYC travel time

True, it would take until 2030 to complete, but a Philly to New York City train ride could last just 37 minutes.

Amtrak shared a revised plan to speed up traffic on the Northeast rail corridor Monday at a total cost of about $150 billion.

Amtrak spokesman Steve Kulm says the change is not a matter of convenience.”In the future, to move more people that are coming to the region, we have to increase speeds,” says Kulm. “We have to get to next generation high speed rail.”Kulm say Amtrak now has a plan all ready for funding. That, however, won’t be easy to get from the federal government, which Kulm says has not prioritized rail.

Today, the lowest fares start around $50 with the shortest rides clocking in at an hour and 15 minutes.

What will that look like after $151 billion in investments? It’s too early to say where fares will fit in, says Kulm. Staggering construction over three decades will dampen sticker shock — but Amtrak also has other revenue options, such as charging other rail services that use its rails, and bringing in business partners.

Kulm says the federal government would still need to take part under any funding model.

Art Guzzetti, the vice president for policy at the American Public Transportation Association, says the upgrades eventually will become inevitable for the eastern corridor.

“Taxes that provide investment in things that underpin the economy for growth, stability and prosperity are good investments to make,” Guzzetti argues. “So that’s the way it has to be seen.”

Whether it will be seen that way remains the $151 billion question. If the plan moves forward, Philadelphia’s train system could be remodeled — including the addition of a station at Philadelphia International Airport and a big switch in Center City.

The historic 30th Street Station would lose its status as the city’s main gateway to the rails. Market East would become Amtrak’s high-speed hub, while 30th Street Station would handle slower, regional trains.

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