In a big leap forward for American railroad transportation, Amtrak is accepting a $2.45 billion loan from the federal government to improve its technology. The project will span over the next several years and include the addition of 28 next-generation high-speed trains, major upgrades to four major Northeastern stations, and tons of amenities to draw in more passengers. When Amtrak’s new trains hit the tracks in 2021, travelers will have a high-tech transportation option unmatched by any other in the country.
Vice President Joe Biden made the historic announcement at the station that bears his name in Wilmington, Delaware on Friday, noting that the bulk of the loan—around $2 billion—is earmarked for the new high-tech train cars. Once they are put into service, the new cars will increase the Acela fleet by 40 percent. The new additions will be decidedly next-generation in nature, with one-third more rider capacity, additional outlets and USB connections, better Wi-Fi, and the ability to travel as fast as 186 miles per hour.
“This is a serious, serious upgrade,” Biden said during his announcement. “One out of every three jobs (in the country) are here, along this corridor… you’d need seven more lanes on I-95 to accommodate the traffic if Amtrak shut down.”
Amtrak’s new cars are promised to be 95 percent USA-made, built primarily in New York by Alstom. The 28 new cars will service the Northeast Corridor (NEC) between Boston and Washington D.C., and are expected to reduce energy usage by 20 percent. The increased passenger capacity combined with higher speed and lower energy consumption could represent a major win for travelers and commuters, as well as the surrounding environment.
The remaining $450 million of the federal loan will be used to upgrade four major Northeast Amtrak stations, including Union Station in Washington DC and Penn Station in New York City. The railroad infrastructure between Boston and D.C. will also get a long-awaited sprucing up. All work is expected to be completed by 2021.