Fix Amtrak Northeast Corridor Catenary First

Dear Editor:

Advocates for the $105 billion NY to Boston High Speed Rail via Long Island & Long Island Sound full $29 billion or no frills $11 billion Gateway Tunnel along with NY Governor Cuomo’s $16 billion NY Penn Station South projects overlooked something more critical.

Day to day operations for both commuter rail and Amtrak service on the Northeast corridor between Washington and Boston is dependent upon a reliable power system. The existing catenary system is over 80 years old. It continues to remain in use although well beyond its intended useful life based on industry standards.

What is the current status for design, engineering, procurement and actual installation for a new replacement? How many billions will be needed? Does Amtrak have any estimated cost, budget, funding source and project schedule from start to finish? What good will a new Gateway Tunnel along with any additional new Penn Station track and platform capacity be if Amtrak and NJ Transit trains are unable to access the facility due to inadequate power capacity? Safe and reliable service are a higher priority than any system expansion projects.

Larry Penner

(Larry Penner is a transportation advocate, historian and writer who previously worked for the Federal Transit Administration Region 2 New York Office. This included the development, review, approval and oversight for billions in capital projects and programs for the MTA, NYC Transit, Long Island and Metro North Rail Roads, MTA Bus, NJ Transit, NYC Department of Transportation along with 30 other transit agencies in NY & NJ).