Congress created the Northeast Corridor Infrastructure and Operations Advisory Commission in recognition of the inherent challenges of coordinating, financing, and implementing major system improvements that cross multiple jurisdictions. The Commission is comprised of members from each of the Northeast Corridor states, Amtrak, and the U.S. Department of Transportation and includes non-voting representatives from freight railroads and states with connecting corridors. The expectation is that by coming together to take collective responsibility for the Northeast Corridor, these disparate stakeholders will achieve a level of success that far exceeds the potential reach of any individual organization.
The Commission’s mission is to:
- Lead the creation and implementation of a visionary, long-term, regional investment strategy for the Northeast Corridor;
- Advance near-term projects to improve Northeast Corridor performance;
- Coordinate regional planning and communication; and
- Educate stakeholders and the public about the Northeast Corridor’s investment needs and its role in the future economic growth and development of the region.
The Commission is accomplishing this mission by establishing coordinated regional leadership, informing sound policy development, providing a centralized means to generate input about the future of the Corridor, improving communication between Northeast Corridor stakeholders, and bringing the region together behind a unified vision. The members of the Commission, in recognition of the vital importance of the Northeast Corridor to the national and regional economy, are each committed to undertaking the necessary actions that will lead to its long-term success.
Goals for the Future of the NEC
The members of the Commission recognize the vital role the Northeast Corridor plays in the region’s economic growth and quality of life and are working collaboratively to maximize the potential of the Corridor to achieve a more prosperous future for the region. As an important first step in its new framework for cooperation, the Commission has agreed upon and endorses the following goals for the Northeast Corridor:
Economic Growth – Support the global economic competitiveness of the Northeast Region and the nation.
The Northeast Region supports the national economy and competes with economic centers across the globe. A well-functioning transportation system is central to the region’s ability to attract knowledge workers and to ensure the productivity of businesses throughout the region. The Commission will ensure that the Northeast Corridor provides the necessary capacity for intercity, commuter, and freight rail travel to support the long-term economic growth of the region and the nation.
Connectivity and Coordination – Support regional travel through improved connectivity and coordination among Corridor users and with other modes of transportation.
Rail service in the Northeast Corridor is a core component of the region’s transportation system. With enhanced coordination of service, travelers should be able to seamlessly journey from one destination to another, using a combination of air service, passenger rail, roadways, and transit. The Commission will identify and suggest strategies for enhancing the connections among different service providers on the Corridor and its feeder lines as well as with other transportation modes. This will occur through coordinated planning, information technology applications, service coordination, and infrastructure improvements that will serve to enhance the value and role of rail service within the region’s overall transportation system.
Market Share and Network Capacity – Increase the capacity of the rail network and expand rail’s market share to support the existing and future demand for passenger and freight rail service.
Investments in the Northeast Corridor are necessary to meet the increasing demands for passenger and goods movement in the Corridor. While the rail system today serves as a key part of the overall transportation system, it is not yet carrying a market share that represents its full potential given the travel needs in the region and the capacity constraints, congestion, and delays on the region’s roadway and aviation systems. The Commission will identify and recommend strategic and targeted infrastructure investments to support the system’s continued expansion and its role as a catalyst for the regional economy.
Service Reliability – Improve the reliability of passenger and goods movement in the Corridor.
The success of the Northeast Corridor rail system is based in large part on the ability of the transportation system to serve passengers and goods with reliable and consistent service. The Commission will identify and recommend the most effective investments necessary to meet customer demands and expectations related to on-time service.
Travel Time – Reduce trip time to enhance rail as a competitive choice in the Corridor.
Reducing travel times is central to increasing the competitiveness of rail travel and to support rail’s complementary role within the region’s transportation system. As travel time on rail service decreases, demand for rail travel increases, business travel becomes more productive, economic centers in the Corridor become more accessible and people living in the corridor have more travel options. The Commission will identify and recommend investments in the region that will offer the improvements in system operating speeds and on-time performance.
System Preservation – Bring the corridor up to and then maintain a state of good repair.
The Northeast Corridor rail system currently has a multi-billion dollar backlog in critical state of good repair needs. Bringing the corridor up to a state of good repair and maintaining it over time is essential to serve customers and stakeholders and to ensure the long-term success of the corridor. Absent a strategic investment strategy that sustains a state of good repair, it will become increasingly challenging to operate cost efficient and reliable passenger and freight rail services. The Commission will identify new resources and improve the coordination and prioritization of existing resources to support improvements in the condition of the Northeast Corridor rail system.
Safety and Security – Provide safe and secure transport of passengers and goods.
The personal safety of passengers is fundamental to the long-term success of the Corridor. The Commission will determine and recommend targeted investments to help ensure the personal safety of passengers traveling in the Corridor and to provide security for critical infrastructure assets. This work will be coordinated with the Northeast Corridor Safety Committee created by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Community Development – Enhance the integration between transportation investments and local development in communities throughout the corridor.
Increasingly, transportation investments are closely related to local community development strategies and land use decisions. Investments in the Northeast Corridor rail system support local economic activity in communities along the Corridor, including station-area redevelopment, transit-oriented land use, and increased economic activity in the vicinity of rail stations. The Commission will help ensure future system investments encourage local investment, enhance connections to stations with improved bicycle and pedestrian facilities, increase land values, and facilitate economic development.
Energy and the Environment – Reduce energy use and protect the environment.
With effective and strategic investments and use of advanced technology, an enhanced rail system has the potential to lower travel-related regional energy consumption leading to improved air quality and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. The Commission will explore how rail investments can best support sustainable transportation and help communicate these benefits to stakeholders.
To succeed in achieving the goals outlined above, it is essential to make significant infrastructure and operational improvements to the Northeast Corridor. A fundamental requirement for successfully implementing these rail investments is the development of a sustainable funding strategy with close coordination among states, Amtrak, the U.S. Department of Transportation, and other Corridor partners.