Advocates for the North Atlantic Rail high speed rail (between Washington and Boston) anticipate it would cost $105 billion and be completed within 20 years. There is no way of knowing if the final cost could double or triple to $210 or $315 billion. The time needed for completion could easily take years if not several decades more.
Amtrak has higher priorities, such as reaching a state of good repair before proceeding with any system expansion projects. Categories include such assets as existing rail fleets, stations including elevators to meet Americans with Disabilities Act and escalators, track including switches, signals and interlockings, communications, line structures including painting, protective netting on elevated structures and bridges, line equipment including tunnel lighting and pump rooms, traction power including power substations, yards and shops and supervisory vehicles.
Amtrak has both five year and longer term Capital Needs Assessment Plans. They document that it will take years if not decades before reaching a state of good repair for all system assets. The total cost is over $30 billion growing by billions every year. Amtrak customers desire safe, reliable and more frequent service on existing routes before system expansion projects or significant increases in speed proceed.
(Larry Penner is a transportation advocate, historian and writer who previously worked for the Federal Transit Administration Region 2 New York Office.)