Amtrak Northeast Corridor Improvement Project records1956-1994
The National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak) first began operations on May 1, 1971, following the passage of the Rail Passenger Service Act of 1970. Through the passage of the Railroad Revitalization and Regulatory Reform Act of 1976, Congress authorized the Northeast Corridor Improvement Project (NECIP), a comprehensive program with the goal of improving intercity rail passenger service between Washington, D.C., through New York City, to Boston, the most heavily used passenger train corridor in the United States. Records related to Amtrak's involvement in the NECIP include preliminary and ongoing technical and financial reports, leases and agreements, as well as minutes, agendas, and other working project files.
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The National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak) first began operations on May 1, 1971, following the passage of the Rail Passenger Service Act of 1970.
As both rail passenger and freight service declined in the face of increasing competition from truck, barge, air carriers, and automobiles, several proposals were brought forward to address the issue. Such proposals included route subsidies, equipment subsidies, and the formation of a semi-public corporation to overtake operations of intercity passenger operations. After the Penn Central Corporation, then the largest railroad in the Northeastern United States, filed to discontinue the majority of its passenger trains early in 1970, Congress passed the Rail Passenger Service Act in October of the same year, with proponents of the bill seeking government funding to maintain passenger service. As a result, Amtrak, a private entity funded by taxpayer dollars, was formed to take over passenger service formerly operated by private railroads.
Consequently, Amtrak inherited a litany of problems, including redundant facilities previously used by competing railroads, poorly maintained train stations, and the responsibility of rerouting passenger trains in major cities such as Chicago and New York. In Chicago, for example, passenger routes were rerouted from seven terminals into just one, that being Union Station. However, in the early 1970s, Amtrak had the opportunity to acquire several high-profile lines following the bankruptcy of numerous northeastern railroads. This included the Northeast Corridor, primarily owned and operated by Penn Central and situated between Boston and Washington, D.C., the most heavily used passenger train corridor in the United States.
After a long, drawn-out attempt to reorganize, Penn Central declared bankruptcy in 1976. Amtrak acquired much of the Northeast Corridor from Penn Central through the Regional Rail Reorganization Act of 1973 and the Railroad Revitalization and Regulatory Reform Act of 1976 (4R Act), despite a large portion of the latter legislation directed toward the creation of Conrail. Through the 4R Act, Congress authorized the Northeast Corridor Improvement Project (NECIP), a comprehensive program with the goal of improving intercity rail passenger service between Washington, D.C., through New York City, to Boston. The NECIP set an initial goal of achieving scheduled passenger rail service in three hours or less between New York City and Boston, and two hours and forty minutes between New York City and Washington, D.C.
To achieve this, a general overhaul of the line was required. NECIP construction began in 1977 with a planned funding level of $2.5 billion, though Congressional budget restructuring reduced the program by $310 million in 1979. Early funding was largely concentrated on correcting deferred maintenance and making improvements, including safety, new Centralized Electrification and Traffic Control centers, and modernization of the signaling system, setting the stage for later high-speed operation. Additionally, the NECIP focused on other auxiliary improvements such as terminals, shops and yard facilities, grade crossings, and conducting risk analysis for joint passenger and freight operations. Amtrak also introduced the AEM-7 locomotive, which served to lower travel times between major cities, becoming Amtrak’s most successful locomotive operating on the corridor. Despite these improvements, however, Amtrak’s scheduled passenger rail service goals were not achieved until the 1990s due to reduced funding from Congress throughout the 1980s.
In 1991, a separate program called the Northeast Highspeed Rail Improvement Project was implemented to improve the New York to Boston segment of the Northeast Corridor. Similar to the NECIP, it encompassed numerous infrastructure improvements, including electrification of the New Haven-Boston line.
The Amtrak Northeast Corridor Improvement Project records are arranged into three series:
Series I. Reports, is divided into three subseries, each arranged alphabetically by document type and then chronologically.
Series II. Leases and agreements, is arranged alphabetically.
Series III. Working files, is arranged alphabetically by document type.
Scope and Content
Records related to Amtrak’s involvement in the Northeast Corridor Improvement Project (NECIP) primarily include technical and financial reports, leases and agreements, as well as working files that include agendas, committee minutes, articles, and other documents highlighting critical operational concerns along the Northeast Corridor.
Status, technical, and financial reports comprise the largest segment of the records. The reports highlight the statistical, operational, and financial status of the NECIP following its commencement in 1977. Also included are monthly progress reports issued between 1978 and 1980. Technical reports prepared for the Federal Railroad Administration cover issues involving electrification, shops and yard facilities, management of planning and control systems, bridge analysis and inspection, as well as grade crossings and terminals. Reports covering the Corridor Master Plan outline specific program objectives, Federal Railroad Administration guidelines, and qualifications and uncertainties with the NECIP. Of note in this series is a 1973 reorganization plan for the Penn Central Transportation Company proposed by Richard J. Smith, trustee of the property of the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad Company.
Leases and agreements between Amtrak and Conrail following the implementation of the Railroad Revitalization and Regulatory Reform Act in February 1976 cover the operation of rolling stock and other equipment, maintenance issues, management of the Northeast Corridor and Amtrak’s Corridor Service, and the lease and purchase of off-corridor properties.
Working files include memos, studies, articles, correspondence, and minutes related to the NECIP. Of note is a 1978 observational study of the Japanese National Railroad’s Shinkansen Line running from Tokyo to Hakata. Additional files comprise background data on the NECIP as well as statistics used in generating reports, such as the evaluation of safety measures involving track curvatures, rail failures, breaking systems, passenger handling, and electrification systems. Lastly, minutes and agendas from the NECIP Committee summarize the status of specific projects, including subcontractors, work in the Baltimore and New York tunnels, and issues with labor.
This collection is open for research. Litigators may not view the collection without approval.
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Finding Aid & Administrative Information
- Amtrak Northeast Corridor Improvement Project records
- Dave Burdash and Clayton J. Ruminski
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