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I-95 upgrade

01 Jun 2002

PUBLIC consultation began at the end of April for a $6·2bn package to upgrade freight railways in the US Mid-Atlantic Corridor linking Virginia to New Jersey. A study by the I-95 Corridor Coalition has recommended a programme of 71 improvement projects to relieve bottlenecks over the next 20 years.

The corridor serves 47 million people, and 25% of all employment in the USA. The coalition brings together representatives from Amtrak, CSX and Norfolk Southern with all 12 states in the Mid-Atlantic and New England regions, to promote transport improvements 'across jurisdictional, public interest and financial boundaries'. According to the report, the region faces a transport capacity crisis, with over 10000 lorries a day using the I-95 highway and traffic expected to grow by 3% a year. Improving the rail network would add capacity for growth.

Among the bottlenecks identified are three river bridges on Amtrak's Northeast Corridor, which must be strengthened for faster and heavier trains. Tunnels in Baltimore and Washington, plus numerous other structures, need enlarging to accommodate double-stack trains. Extra tracks at 25 locations will increase capacity or remove conflicts between freight, commuter and inter-city passenger services. New or improved links between the three rail networks are planned in Baltimore, Wilmington and Philadelphia.

The coalition recommends the formation of a public-private partnership, which would raise funding from various federal and state programmes to augment the railways' own resources.