The Northeast Corridor (NEC) is a fully electrified railway line that serves the Northeast megalopolis of the United States. Owned primarily by Amtrak, it runs from Boston through New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore to Washington, D.C.
Norfolk Southern Railway
Providence and Worcester Railroad
|Termini||Boston South Station
Washington, D.C Union Station
|Stations||108 (30 Amtrak stations, 78 commuter-rail-only stations)|
|Opening||1834 (first section)
1917 (final section)
|Owner||Amtrak (most sections)
Metro-North Railroad (New Rochelle - New Haven)
Massachusetts (Boston - MA/RI border)
|Line length||453.3 miles (729.5 km)|
|No. of tracks||2-4+|
|Track gauge||1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in) standard gauge|
|Operating speed||150 mph (240 km/h) (Acela)
125 mph (201 km/h) (other)
The Northeast Corridor (NEC) is a fully electrified railway line that serves the Northeast megalopolis of the United States. Owned primarily by Amtrak, it runs from Boston through New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore to Washington, D.C.
The corridor is used by a large number of Amtrak trains, including the high-speed Acela Express, intercity trains, and several long-distance trains. Most of the corridor also has frequent commuter rail service, operated by the MBTA, Shore Line East, Metro-North Railroad, New Jersey Transit, SEPTA and MARC. Additionally, freight service is operated over sections of the NEC by several companies.
The NEC, which closely parallels Interstate 95 for most of its length, is the busiest passenger rail line in the United States by both ridership and service frequency. Branches to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and Springfield, Massachusetts, though not considered part of the Northeast Corridor, see frequent service from routes that run largely on the corridor.
Much of the line is built for speeds higher than the 79 mph (127 km/h) generally permitted on U.S. tracks. This allows Amtrak to operate higher-speed rail service, such as the intercity Northeast Regional and Keystone Service trains that go up to 125 mph (201 km/h), as well as North America's only high-speed train, the Acela Express, which runs up to 150 mph (241 km/h) on several sections in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Acela covers the 225 miles between New York and Washington, D.C., in under 3 hours, and the 229 miles between New York and Boston in under 3.5 hours.
The NEC is a cooperative venture between Amtrak and various state agencies. Amtrak owns the track between Washington and New Rochelle, New York, a northern suburb of New York City. The segment from New Rochelle to New Haven is owned by the states of New York and Connecticut; Metro-North Railroad commuter trains operate there. Amtrak owns the tracks north of New Haven to the border between Rhode Island and Massachusetts. The final segment from the border north to Boston is owned by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
At just over 453 miles (729 km), the Northeast Corridor is the longest electrified rail corridor in the United States. Most electrified railways in the country are for rapid transit or commuter rail use; the Keystone Corridor is the only other electrified intercity mainline.
Currently, the corridor uses three catenary systems. From Washington, D.C., to Sunnyside Yard (just east of New York Penn Station), Amtrak's 25Hz traction power system (originally built by the Pennsylvania Railroad) supplies 12 kV at 25Hz. From Sunnyside to Mill River (just east of New Haven), the former New Haven Railroad's system, since modified by Metro-North, supplies 12.5 kV at 60Hz. From Mill River to Boston, the much newer 60Hz traction power system supplies 25 kV at 60 Hz. All of Amtrak's electric locomotives can switch between these systems at speed.
In 2006, several high-profile electric-power failures delayed Amtrak and commuter trains on the Northeast Corridor up to five hours. Railroad officials blamed Amtrak's funding woes for the deterioration of the track and power supply system, which in places is almost a hundred years old. These problems have decreased in recent years after tracks and power systems were repaired and improved.
In September 2013, one of two feeder lines supplying power to the New Haven Line failed, while the other feeder was disabled for service. The lack of electrical power disrupted trains on Amtrak and Metro-North Railroad, which share the segment in New York State.
There are 109 active stations on the Northeast Corridor; all see commuter service, and 30 are used by Amtrak as well. Amtrak owns Pennsylvania Station in New York, 30th Street Station in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Station in Baltimore, and Union Station in Washington.
The following is a list of active Amtrak and commuter rail stations, plus two interlockings where milepost numbering is reset. (For a full accounting of past and present stations plus interlockings, bridges, and tunnels, see List of Northeast Corridor infrastructure.)
|MA||228.7||Boston||South Station||AE NR LS||MBTA||MBTA Red Line, Old Colony Lines, Greenbush Line, Framingham/Worcester Line, Fairmount Line|
|227.6||Back Bay Station||AE NR LS||MBTA||MBTA Orange Line; split with Framingham/Worcester Line|
|226.5||Ruggles||MBTA||MBTA Orange Line|
|223.7||Forest Hills||MBTA||MBTA Orange Line; split with Needham Line|
|219.2||Readville||MBTA||MBTA Fairmount Line; split with Franklin Line. NEC platforms only used in emergencies|
|217.3||Westwood||Route 128||AE NR||MBTA||Park and ride|
|213.9||Canton||Canton Junction||MBTA||Split with Stoughton branch|
|190.8||state line Massachusetts / Rhode Island|
|177.3||Warwick||T. F. Green Airport||MBTA|
|141.1||state line Rhode Island / Connecticut|
|122.9||New London||New London||AE NR||SLE|
|105.1||Old Saybrook||Old Saybrook||NR||SLE|
|72.9||Division Post – Metro-North Railroad / Amtrak|
|72.7||New Haven||State Street Station||MNR||SLE|
|72.3||Union Station||AE NR VT||MNR||SLE||Amtrak Shuttle|
|69.4||West Haven||West Haven||MNR||SLE|
|59.0||Stratford||Stratford||MNR||SLE||MNRR Waterbury Branch|
|41.0||South Norwalk||MNR||MNRR Danbury Branch|
|33.1||Stamford||Stamford||AE NR VT||MNR||SLE||MNRR New Canaan Branch|
|26.1||state line Connecticut / New York|
|NY||25.7||Port Chester||Port Chester||MNR|
|16.6||New Rochelle||New Rochelle||NR||MNR||Metro-North to Grand Central|
|3.2||New York City||Sunnyside||LIRR||Not yet open|
|0.0||Penn Station||AE AD CD CL CS EAE ES KS LS ML NR PA PL SM SS VT||LIRR||NJT||LIRR: Trains to Long Island
NJT: Trains to New Jersey
NYCS: A C E trains at Eighth Avenue,
1 2 3 trains at Seventh Avenue
|1.2||state line New York / New Jersey|
|NJ||5.0||Secaucus||Secaucus Junction||NJT||NJT to Hoboken and northern New Jersey|
|10.0||Newark||Penn Station||AE CD CL CS KS NR PA PL SM SS VT||NJT||Newark City Subway, PATH|
|12.6||Newark Airport||KS NR||NJT||AirTrain|
|15.4||Elizabeth (Broad Street)||NJT|
|24.6||Woodbridge||Metropark||AE KS NR VT||NJT||Park and ride|
|32.7||New Brunswick||New Brunswick||KS NR||NJT|
|34.4||North Brunswick||Jersey Avenue||NJT||Park and ride|
|48.8||Princeton Junction||Princeton Junction||KS NR||NJT||NJT Princeton Branch to Princeton|
|58.1||Trenton||Trenton||AE CD CL CS KS NR PA SM SS VT||SEPTA||NJT||NJT River Line to Camden|
|59.2||state line New Jersey / Pennsylvania|
|73.7||Cornwells Heights||Cornwells Heights||KS NR||SEPTA|
|86.0||North Philadelphia||KS NR||SEPTA|
|ZOO Interlocking||Split with Philadelphia to Harrisburg Main Line|
|1.5||30th Street Station||AE CD CL CS KS NR PA PL SM SS VT||SEPTA||NJT||New Jersey Transit Atlantic City Line, all SEPTA commuter rail lines
Market-Frankford Line, Subway-Surface Trolley Lines
|6.5||Sharon Hill||Curtis Park||SEPTA|
|9.7||Prospect Park||Prospect Park||SEPTA|
|10.4||Ridley Park||Ridley Park||SEPTA|
|13.4||Chester||Chester Transportation Center||SEPTA|
|15.5||Highland Avenue Station||SEPTA|
|16.7||Marcus Hook||Marcus Hook||SEPTA|
|18.2||state line Pennsylvania / Delaware|
|26.8||Wilimington||Wilmington||AE CD CL CS NR PL SM SS VT||SEPTA|
|41.5||state line Delaware / Maryland|
|84.0||Middle River||Martin State Airport||MARC|
|95.7||Baltimore||Penn Station||AE CD CL CS NR PL SM SS VT||MARC||Maryland Transit Administration Light Rail|
|106.3||Linthicum||BWI Airport Rail Station||AE NR VT||MARC|
|127.0||New Carrollton||New Carrollton||NR VT||MARC||Orange Line (Washington Metro), park and ride|
|131.6||state line Maryland / District of Columbia|
|Washington||C Interlocking||Junction with CSX Capital Subdivision and Metropolitan Subdivision|
|0.0||Union Station||AE CPL CD CL CS NR PL SM SS VT||MARC||VRE||VRE commuter rail, Metro Red Line, Amtrak trains to Virginia, Chicago, New Orleans, Miami, MARC commuter Rail|
The New York to New Haven line had long been completely grade-separated. The last grade crossings between Washington and New York were eliminated in the 1980s. Most crossings between New Haven and Boston were replaced in the late 1990s with bridges and underpasses in preparation for electrification.
The remaining grade crossings are along a part of the line that hugs the shore of Fishers Island Sound. Without these crossings many waterfront communities and businesses would be inaccessible from land. Except for three grade crossings near New London Union Station, all have four-quadrant gates without exit gate delays and induction loops to alert Amtrak personnel about trapped vehicles.
From east to west, the crossings are:
On September 28, 2005, a southbound train became the first Acela Express to be involved in a collision at a grade crossing when it struck a car at Miner Lane in Waterford, Connecticut, one of the few remaining grade crossings on the Northeast Corridor. The train was approaching the crossing at approximately 70 miles per hour (110 km/h) when the car reportedly rolled under the crossing gate arms at a low speed and was struck by the train and dragged 1,000 feet (300 m). The driver, a 62-year-old woman, and her 8-year-old grandson, were killed instantly; a 4-year-old girl survived and was airlifted to a hospital where she died nine days later. The gates were later inspected and declared to have been functioning properly at the time of the incident. The incident drew much criticism from the public about the 11 remaining grade crossings along Amtrak's busy Northeast Corridor
In 2003, Amtrak accounted for about 14% of intercity trips between the cities served by the NEC and its branches (the rest were taken by airline, automobile, or bus). A 2011 study estimated that in 2010 Amtrak carried 6% of the Boston-Washington traffic, compared to 80% for automobiles, 8-9% for intercity bus, and 5% for airlines. Amtrak's share of passenger traffic between New York City and Boston has grown from 20 percent to 54 percent since 2001, and 75 percent of public-transport travelers between New York City and Washington, D.C., go by train.
These Amtrak and other long-distance trains serve NEC stations:
In addition to Amtrak, several commuter rail agencies operate passenger service using the NEC tracks:
Freight trains operate on parts of the NEC through trackage rights. The Norfolk Southern Railway operates over the line south of Philadelphia. CSX Transportation has rights from New York to New Haven; in Massachusetts; and in Maryland from Landover, where its Landover Subdivision joins the NEC, and Bowie, where its Pope's Creek Subdivision leaves it. Between Philadelphia and New York, Conrail operates as a local switching and terminal company for CSX and Norfolk Southern. (See Conrail Shared Assets Operations.) The Providence and Worcester Railroad operates local freight service from New Haven into Rhode Island and has incidental trackage rights from New Haven to New York.
The Northeast Corridor was built by several railroads between the 1830s and 1917. The route was later owned by two railroads:
The New York Central Railroad (NYC) began planning electrification between Grand Central Terminal and the split at Mott Haven after the opening of the first electrified urban rail terminal in 1900, the Gare d'Orsay in Paris, France. Electricity was in use on some branch lines of the NYNH&H for interurban streetcars via third rail or trolley wire. An accident that killed 17 people on January 8, 1902 was blamed on smoke from steam locomotives; the resulting outcry led to a push for electric operation in Manhattan.
The first section was the Park Avenue Tunnel of the New York and Harlem Railroad, part of the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad (NYC) to its Grand Central Terminal in New York, and also used by the NH via trackage rights.
The NH announced in 1905 that it would electrify its main line from New York to Stamford, Connecticut. Along with the construction of the new Grand Central Terminal, opened in 1912, the NYC electrified its lines, beginning on December 11, 1906 with suburban multiple unit service to High Bridge on the Hudson Line. Electric locomotives began serving Grand Central February 13, 1907, and all NYC passenger service into Grand Central was electrified July 1. NH electrification began July 24 to New Rochelle, August 5 to Port Chester and October 6, 1907 the rest of the way to Stamford. Steam trains last operated into Grand Central on June 30, 1908, after which all NH passenger trains into Manhattan were electrified. On June 22, 1914 the NH electrification was extended to New Haven, which was the terminus of electrified service for over 80 years.
At the same time the PRR was building its Pennsylvania Station and electrified approaches, served by the PRR's lines in New Jersey and the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR). LIRR electric service began in 1905 on the Atlantic Branch from downtown Brooklyn past Jamaica, and in June 1910 on the branch to Long Island City, part of the main line to Penn Station. Penn Station opened September 8, 1910 for LIRR trains and November 27 for the PRR; trains of both railroads were powered by DC electricity from a third rail. PRR trains changed engines (electric to/from steam) at Manhattan Transfer; passengers could also transfer there to H&M trains to downtown Manhattan.
On July 29, 1911 NH began electric service on its Harlem River Branch, a suburban branch that would become a main line with the completion of the New York Connecting Railroad and its Hell Gate Bridge. The bridge opened on April 1, 1917, but was operated by steam with an engine change at Sunnyside Yard east of Penn Station until 1918.
Electrification of the portion north of New Haven to Providence and Boston had been planned by the NH, and authorized by the company's board of directors shortly before the U.S. entered World War I. This plan was not carried out because of the war and the company's financial problems.
In 1905, the PRR began to electrify its suburban lines at Philadelphia, an effort that eventually led to 11kV, 25Hz AC catenary from New York and Washington. Electric service began September 11, 1915, with multiple unit trains west to Paoli on the PRR Main Line (now the Keystone Corridor). Electric service to Chestnut Hill (now the Chestnut Hill West Line), including a stretch of the NEC, began March 30, 1918. Local electric service to Wilmington, Delaware, on the NEC began September 30, 1928, and to Trenton, New Jersey, on June 29, 1930.
Electrified service between Exchange Place, the Jersey City terminal, and New Brunswick, New Jersey began on December 8, 1932, including the extension of Penn Station electric service from Manhattan Transfer. On January 16, 1933, the rest of the electrification between New Brunswick and Trenton opened, giving a fully electrified line between New York and Wilmington. Trains to Washington began running under electricity to Wilmington on February 12, with the engine change moved from Manhattan Transfer to Wilmington. The same was done on April 9 for trains running west from Philadelphia, with the change point moved to Paoli.
In 1933, the electrification south of Wilmington was stalled by the Great Depression, but the PRR got a loan from Public Works Administration to resume work. The tunnels at Baltimore were rebuilt, and electric service between New York and Washington began February 10, 1935. On April 7, the electrification of passenger trains was complete, with 639 daily trains: 191 hauled by locomotives and the other 448 under multiple-unit power. New York-Washington electric freight service began May 20 after the electrification of freight lines in New Jersey and Washington. Extensions to Potomac Yard across the Potomac River from Washington, as well as several freight branches along the way, were electrified in 1937 and 1938. The Potomac Yard retained its electrification until 1981.
In the 1930s, PRR equipped the New York-Washington line with Pulse code cab signaling. Between 1998 and 2003, this system was overlaid with an Alstom Advanced Civil Speed Enforcement System (ACSES), using track-mounted transponders similar to the Balises of the modern European Train Control System. The ACSES will enable Amtrak to implement Positive train control to comply with the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008.
In 1969, PRR merged with its former rival, the NYC, to form the Penn Central (PC). Penn Central was required to absorb the New Haven as a condition of the merger, which brought the entire Washington-Boston corridor under the control of a single company.
On September 21, 1970, all New York-Boston trains except the Turboservice were rerouted into Penn Station from Grand Central; the Turboservice was moved on February 1, 1971.
Amtrak began operations in 1971.
In 1971, various states took control of portions of the NEC for their commuter transportation authorities. In January, the state of New York bought and the state of Connecticut leased from Penn Central their sections of the New Haven Line, between Woodlawn, New York, and New Haven, Connecticut. The line was later operated by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. In the same month, the State of Massachusetts bought the Attleboro/Stoughton Line in Massachusetts, later operated by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.
In 1973, the Regional Rail Reorganization Act opened the way for Amtrak to buy sections of the NEC not already been sold to these commuter transportation authorities. These purchases by Amtrak were controversial at the time, and the Department of Transportation blocked the transaction and withheld purchase funds for several months until Amtrak granted it control over reconstruction of the corridor.
In February 1975, the Preliminary System Plan for Conrail proposed to stop running freight trains on the NEC between Groton, Connecticut, and Hillsgrove, Rhode Island, but this clause was rejected the following month by the U.S. Railway Association.
By April 1976, Amtrak owned the entire NEC except for the section between New Haven and the Rhode Island/Massachusetts state line, which were sold to the Providence and Worcester Railroad; those rights remained until the 1999 breakup of Conrail, when they were split between the Norfolk Southern Railway to the south and CSX Transportation to the north.
Today, Amtrak operates and maintains the portion in Massachusetts. The line from New Haven to New Rochelle, New York, is operated by the Metro-North Railroad, which has hindered the establishment of high-speed service.
In 1976, Congress authorized an overhaul of the system between Washington and Boston. Called the Northeast Corridor Improvement Project (NECIP), it included safety improvements, modernization of the signaling system by General Railway Signal, and new Centralized Electrification and Traffic Control (CETC) control centers by Chrysler at Philadelphia, New York and Boston. It allowed more trains to run faster and closer together, and set the stage for later high-speed operation. NECIP also introduced the AEM-7 locomotive, which lowered travel times between cities and became the most successful engine on the Corridor. The NECIP set travel time goals of 2 hours and 40 minutes between Washington and New York, and 3 hours and 40 minutes between Boston and New York. These goals were not met because of the low level of funding provided by the Reagan Administration and Congress in the 1980s.
A project for electrification between New Haven and Boston was included in a bill signed by President Gerald Ford in 1976 but it stalled after 1980 because of opposition from the Reagan Administration.
All grade crossings on the line have been eliminated between New York and Washington since the mid-1980s. Eleven grade crossings remain in Connecticut.
In the 1990s, Amtrak upgraded the NEC north of New York to ready it for the higher-speed Acela Express trains. Dubbed the Northeast High Speed Rail Improvement Program (NHRIP), the effort eliminated grade crossings, rebuilt some bridges, and modified some curves. Concrete railroad ties replaced wood ties, and heavier continuous welded rail (CWR) was laid down.
In 1996, Amtrak began installing electrification gear along the 157 miles (253 kilometres) of track between New Haven and Boston. The infrastructure included a new overhead catenary wire made of high-strength silver-bearing copper, specified by Amtrak and later patented by Phelps Dodge Specialty Copper Products of Elizabeth, New Jersey. Service with electric locomotives began on January 31, 2000.
Acela Express service began on December 11, 2000. Travel time by Acela is about three and a half hours between Boston and New York, and two hours and forty-five minutes between New York and Washington D.C.
As of 2013, the Federal Railroad Administration is drawing up a master plan for developing the corridor through 2040, taking into account various projects and proposals by various agency and advocacy groups. The plan is to be complete in spring 2015. 
In 2013, Japanese officials pitched the country's maglev train technology, the world's fastest, for the Northeast Corridor to regional U.S. politicians.The trains could travel from New York to Washington in an hour. 
In October 2010, Amtrak released "A vision for High-Speed Rail on the Northeast Corridor", an aspirational proposal for dedicated high-speed rail tracks between Washington, D.C., and Boston. Projected to cost about $117 billion (2010 dollars), the project would allow speeds of 220 mph, reducing travel time from New York to Washington to 96 minutes (including a stop in Philadelphia) and from Boston to New York to 84 minutes.
The proposed alignment would closely follow the existing NEC south of New York City; north of the city, several different alignments would be studied. One option would parallel Interstates 684, 84, and 90 through Danbury, Waterbury, and Hartford, Connecticut; another would follow the existing shoreline route (paralleling Interstate 95); a third would run along Long Island and a new bridge or tunnel across Long Island Sound to Connecticut.
In 2012, Amtrak revised its cost estimate to $151 billion. The 438-mile (705 km) HSR route is planned to be completed by 2030 (Washington to New York) and by 2040 (New York to Boston).
In February 2011, Amtrak announced plans for the Gateway Project between Newark Penn Station and New York Penn Station. The planned project would create a high-speed alignment across the New Jersey Meadowlands and under the Hudson River, including the replacement of the Portal Bridge, a bottleneck. It is projected to cost $14.5 billion and be completed in 2025.
In May 2011, a $294.7-million federal grant was awarded to fix congestion at Harold Interlocking, the USA's second-busiest rail junction after Sunnyside Yard. The work will lay tracks to the New York Connecting Railroad right of way, allowing Amtrak trains arriving from or bound for New England to avoid NJT and LIRR trains.    Financing for the project was jeopardized in July 2011 by the House of Representatives, which voted to divert the funding to unrelated projects. The project is currently funded by FRA and the MTA. 
In August 2011, Congress obligated $450 million to a six-year project to add capacity on one of the busiest segments on the NEC in New Jersey. The project is designed to upgrade electrical power, signal systems and catenary wires on a 24 miles (39 km) section between New Brunswick and Trenton to improve reliability, increase speeds up to 160 mph (260 km/h), and support more frequent high-speed service.
Amtrak has applied for $15 million for the environmental impact studies and preliminary engineering design to examine replacement options for the more than 100-year-old, low-level movable rail bridge (just west of Pelham Bridge) over the Hutchinson River in The Bronx that has been limiting speed in addition to train capacity. The goal is for a new bridge to support expanded service and speeds up to 110 mph (177 km/h).
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