Amtrak plans improvements in Pennsylvania service
By biconews On 22 Feb, 2000 At 05:00 AM | Categorized As Archives | With 0 Comments

By Matt Sharp

According to a recent press release, Amtrak’s line from Philadelphia to Harrisburg is slated for $140 million worth of improvements over the next five years.

The Keystone Corridor, which has a stop at Ardmore and shares tracks with SEPTA’S R5, will receive $70 million each from Amtrak and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in an agreement between Amtrak and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT).

The goal of the project is to increase running speeds on the line and to achieve a 90-minute travel time between Philadelphia and Harrisburg, a trip that now takes almost two hours. The 90-minute trip would be considerably shorter than driving.

“High-speed rail is coming to Pennsylvania, moving the Keystone State to the forefront nationally of states that have turned to passenger rail to attract new jobs,” said Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. Mark Schweiker in the press release.

Higher speeds would be attained primarily through $40 million allocated to upgrade existing trackwork, including replacing ties and installing continuous welded rail, $20 million to upgrade the signaling system, and $10 million for bridge repairs.

Most of the highway crossings on the line are split-grade, with underpasses or overpasses like those in the Haverford area. Three grade crossings remain, and as part of the agreement, PennDOT will take measures to improve safety at these locations.

Also included in the agreement is a $41.5 million allocation for electric engines and upgraded passenger cars, $15 million for improvements to the electric power system, and another $5 million for station construction, including a new station at Harrisburg International Airport and station improvements at Lancaster, Harrisburg and Elizabethtown.

“In short,” said Schweiker, “we’re looking at the largest infusion of capital in the Keystone Line since the days of the Pennsylvania Railroad.”

The corridor was purchased by the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1857. It remained under operation by the railroad until it became part of the Penn Central System in 1968, when the

Pennsylvania Railroad merged with the New York Central Railroad. Amtrak took control of the line in 1976, shortly after the company’s foundation.

Today, Amtrak operates nine weekday and five weekend Keystones per day in each direction between Philadelphia and Harrisburg, most of which also serve New York and points in New Jersey. In addition, the corridor carries the Three Rivers and the Pennsylvanian, each daily in both directions between New York and Chicago.

The improvements to the Keystone Corridor are part of a nationwide trend to improve equipment and infrastructure and increase speeds on high-traffic corridors. Amtrak plans to

develop 110-mph service in Wisconsin, Illinois and Michigan; improvements are also planned on the Richmond, VA-Washington, DC corridor. In addition, the railroad conglomerate made significant improvements recently in the Portland-Seattle-Vancouver corridor, trying to improve the quality of service and equipment.

The Keystone Corridor project also goes hand in hand with the more sweeping changes Amtrak has been making in the Northeast. It is in the process of renaming all its Northeast services to new Acela names, which will be divided into three classes.

Keystone trains, along with NortheastDirect and Empire service, will become Acela Regional; New York-Philadelphia Clocker trains will become Acela Commuter; and the new Acela

Express, to provide 150-mph service between Boston, Washington, and intermediate points, will eventually replace the Metroliner.

The changeover to Acela service will include a number of improvements, including new and refurbished passenger cars and locomotives, faster travel times and a simplified system of first,coach and business classes. Acela Express will use all-new high-speed trainsets, which are now being tested, and has required improvements to the infrastructure of the Northeast Corridor such as upgraded trackwork and new electric power between New Haven and Boston.

Amtrak began to phase in Acela Regional service between Boston and Washington on January 31. It said Acela Regional service should start on the Keystone Corridor next summer.

Further information is available at www.amtrak.com and www.acela.com

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