Northeast Corridor

The Northeast Corridor (NEC) is an electrified railroad line in the Northeast megalopolis of the United States. Owned primarily by Amtrak, it runs from Boston through Providence, New Haven, New York City, Philadelphia, Wilmington, and Baltimore to Washington, D.C. The NEC closely parallels Interstate 95 for most of its length, and is the busiest passenger rail line in the United States both by ridership and by service frequency as of 2013.[2] The NEC carries more than 2,200 trains daily.[3]

Northeast Corridor
Amtrak Acela Express near Old Saybrook, Connecticut
OwnerMassachusetts Department of Transportation (Boston–Mass/RI border)
Amtrak (Mass/RI border–New Haven)
Connecticut Department of Transportation (New Haven–CT/NY border)
Metro-North Railroad (CT/NY border–New Rochelle)
Amtrak (New Rochelle–Washington)
LocaleNortheastern megalopolis
TerminiBoston South Station
Washington Union Station
Stations108 (30 Amtrak stations, 78 commuter-rail-only stations)
TypeHigh-speed rail
Higher-speed rail
Inter-city rail
Commuter rail
CSX Transportation
Norfolk Southern Railway
Providence and Worcester Railroad
Operator(s)Amtrak, MBTA, CTrail, Metro-North Railroad, Long Island Rail Road, NJ Transit, SEPTA, MARC
Ridership12,525,602 (Amtrak FY2019)[1]
Opened1834 (first section)
1917 (final section)
Line length457 mi (735 km)
Number of tracks2–6
Track gauge4 ft 8+12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
ElectrificationOverhead catenary
25 kV at 60 Hz (Boston to Mill River)
12.5 kV at 60 Hz (Mill River to Sunnyside Yard)
12 kV at 25 Hz (Sunnyside to Washington D.C.)
Operating speed150 mph (240 km/h) (Acela)
125 mph (201 km/h) (other)
Route map

Boston South
Greenbush, Old Colony,
and Fairmount Lines
Back Bay
Inland Route
Boston to Route 128
Boston to Route 128
Forest Hills
Hyde Park
Franklin Line and
Fairmount Line
Route 128
Route 128 to Providence
Route 128 to Providence
Canton Junction
Stoughton Branch
Framingham Secondary
Middleboro Subdivision
East Junction Branch
South Attleboro
East Providence Branch
Providence and Worcester RR
Providence to New London
Providence to New London
T. F. Green Airport
Seaview Railroad
Wickford Junction
Groton Wharf Branch
Norwich and Worcester Railroad
New England Central Railroad
New London
New London to New Haven
New London to New Haven
Valley Railroad
Old Saybrook
Branford Steam Railroad
Air Line
New Haven–Springfield Line
New Haven State Street
New Haven
New Haven to Stamford
New Haven to Stamford
Waterbury Branch
Fairfield Metro
Green's Farms
East Norwalk
Danbury Branch
South Norwalk
Noroton Heights
New Canaan Branch
Stamford to New York City
Stamford to New York City
Old Greenwich
Cos Cob
Port Chester
New Rochelle
New Haven Line
Oak Point Link
New York Connecting Railroad
LIRR Main Line
Lower Montauk Branch
LIRR Main Line
New York
New York City to Newark
New York City to Newark
Empire Corridor
CSX River Subdivision
NJ Transit
Secaucus Junction
Waterfront Connection
Kearny Connection
Newark Penn Station
Newark to Metropark
Newark to Metropark
Raritan Valley Line / Lehigh Line
Newark Liberty Int'l Airport
North Elizabeth
Staten Island Railway
Linden Industrial Track
North Jersey Coast Line
Metropark to Trenton
Metropark to Trenton
Port Reading Railroad
New Brunswick
Millstone Branch
Jersey Avenue
Jamesburg Branch
Princeton Junction
Princeton Branch
Trenton to Philadelphia
Trenton to Philadelphia
Trenton Cutoff /
NJT Morrisville Yard
Fairless Branch
Cornwells Heights
Bustleton Branch
Holmesburg Junction
Atlantic City Line
North Philadelphia
SEPTA Main Line
Chestnut Hill West Line
Philadelphia to Harrisburg Main Line
Zoo Junction
Philadelphia–30th Street
 Philadelphia to Wilmington
 Philadelphia to Wilmington
West Chester Line
Philadelphia Subdivision
Airport Line
Curtis Park
Sharon Hill
Prospect Park
Ridley Park
Crum Lynne
Chester T.C.
Highland Avenue
Chester Secondary
Marcus Hook
Shellpot Branch
Wilmington to Baltimore
Wilmington to Baltimore
Philadelphia Subdivision
Shellpot Branch
Churchmans Crossing
Delmarva Secondary
Newark, DE
Port Road Branch
Martin State Airport
Port of Baltimore
Baltimore to BWI Airport
Baltimore to BWI Airport
West Baltimore
Camden Line
BWI Airport
BWI Airport to Washington
BWI Airport to Washington
Bowie State
Pope's Creek Subdivision
New Carrollton
Landover Subdivision
Alexandria Extension
Camden Line
Brunswick Line
Washington, D.C.
RF&P Subdivision

The corridor is used by many 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, Long Island Rail Road, New Jersey Transit, SEPTA, and MARC. While large through freights have not run on the NEC since the early 1980s, several companies continue to run smaller local freights over some select few sections of the NEC including CSX, Norfolk Southern, CSAO, Providence and Worcester, New York and Atlantic and Canadian Pacific, with the former two considered to have part ownership over those routes.

The only high-speed rail services in the Americas operate exclusively on the corridor: Amtrak operates Northeast Regional, Keystone Service, Silver Star, Vermonter and Acela Express trains, the first four reaching 125 mph (201 km/h) and the latter reaching 150 mph (240 km/h) on a few sections in Massachusetts and Rhode Island; the MARC commuter rail system, which has operations on the line, also has certain express trains going up to 125 mph (201 km/h). Acela covers the 225 mi (362 km) between New York and Washington, D.C., in under 3 hours, and the 229 mi (369 km) between New York and Boston in under 3.5 hours.[4][5] Concepts for improvements to achieve "true" high-speed rail on the corridor, which have been estimated by Amtrak to cost $151 billion, envision cutting travel times roughly in half, with trips between New York and Washington that would take 94 minutes.[6][7]



Sections owned by Amtrak are in red; sections with commuter service are highlighted in blue.

The Northeast Corridor was built by several railroads between the 1830s and 1917. The route was later consolidated under two railroads: the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad (NYNH&H) between Boston and New York, and the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) between New York and Washington.

Boston–New York

  • BostonProvidence: Boston and Providence Railroad opened 1835, partially realigned in 1847 and in 1899. Became part of the Old Colony Railroad in 1888.[8]
  • Providence–Stonington: New York, Providence and Boston Railroad opened 1837; partially realigned 1848.
  • Stonington–New Haven: New Haven, New London and Stonington Railroad opened 1852–1889, realigned in New Haven, 1894.
  • New Haven–New Rochelle: New York and New Haven Railroad opened 1849.
  • New Rochelle–Port Morris: Harlem River and Port Chester Railroad opened 1873.
  • Port Morris–Sunnyside Yard: New York Connecting Railroad (joint venture between NYNH&H and PRR): opened 1917.

New York–Washington, D.C.

  • Sunnyside Yard–Manhattan Transfer: Pennsylvania Tunnel and Terminal Railroad opened 1910.[9]
  • Manhattan Transfer–Trenton: United New Jersey Railroad and Canal Company opened 1834–1839, 1841; partially realigned 1863 and 1870.
  • Trenton–Frankford Junction: Philadelphia and Trenton Railroad opened 1834; partially realigned 1911.
  • Frankford Junction–Zoo Tower: Connecting Railway opened 1867.
  • Zoo Tower–Grays Ferry Bridge: Junction Railroad opened 1863–1866.
  • Grays Ferry–Bayview: Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad opened 1837–1838,[10] 1866, 1906.
  • Bayview Yard–Baltimore Union Station: Union Railroad opened 1873.[11]
  • Baltimore Union Station–Landover: Baltimore and Potomac Rail Road opened 1872.[12]
  • Landover–Washington, D.C.: Magruder Branch opened 1907[13]

New York section

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 in the Park Avenue Tunnel near the present Grand Central Terminal 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.[14][15][16]

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 on February 13, 1907, and all NYC passenger service into Grand Central was electrified on July 1. NH electrification began on 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. In June 1914, the NH electrification was extended to New Haven, which was the terminus of electrified service for over 80 years.[17]

The PRR was building its Pennsylvania Station and electrified approaches, which were 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 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 United States entered World War I. This plan was not carried out because of the war and the company's financial problems. Electrification north of New Haven did not occur until the 1990s, using a 60 Hz system.

New York to Washington electrification

"K" Tower, north of Washington Union Station, is the only remaining interlocking tower on the Northeast Corridor south of Philadelphia

In 1905, the PRR began to electrify its suburban lines at Philadelphia, an effort that eventually led to 11 kV, 25 Hz AC catenary from New York and Washington.[18] Electric service began in September 1915, with multiple unit trains west to Paoli on the PRR Main Line (now the Keystone Corridor).[19] 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.[20] The tunnels at Baltimore were rebuilt as part of the project. Electric service between New York and Washington began February 10, 1935.[21] 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.[22] The ACSES will enable Amtrak to implement positive train control to comply with the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008.

Reorganization and bankruptcy

Pennsylvania Railroad's Congressional west of the North River Tunnels on its way to Washington, DC

In December 1967 the UAC TurboTrain set a speed record for a production train: 170.8 miles per hour (274.9 km/h) between New Brunswick and Trenton, New Jersey.[23]

In February 1968 PRR merged with its rival New York Central Railroad to form the Penn Central (PC). Penn Central was required to absorb the New Haven in 1969 as a condition of the merger, which brought the entire Washington–Boston corridor under the control of one company.

On September 21, 1970 all New York–Boston trains except the Turboservice were rerouted into Penn Station from Grand Central; the Turboservice moved on February 1, 1971 for cross-platform transfers to the Metroliners.[24]

In 1971 Amtrak began operations, and various state governments took control of portions of the NEC for their commuter transportation authorities. In January, the State of Massachusetts bought the Attleboro/Stoughton Line in Massachusetts, later operated by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. The same month, the New York State Metropolitan Transportation Authority bought and Connecticut leased from Penn Central their sections of the New Haven Line, between Woodlawn, Bronx, New York and New Haven, Connecticut.[24]

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.[25]

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.[26]

By April 1976 Amtrak owned the entire NEC except Boston to the RI state line which is owned by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and New Haven to the New Rochelle, New York, which is owned by States of Connecticut and New York. Amtrak still operates and maintains the portion in Massachusetts, but 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.

Northeast Corridor Improvement Project

Northeast Corridor Improvement Project track work in April 1979

In 1976, Congress authorized an overhaul of the system between Washington and Boston.[27] 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 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.[28] These goals were not met because of the low level of funding provided by the Reagan Administration and Congress in the 1980s.[29]

Electrification between New Haven and Boston was to be included in the 1976 Railroad Revitalization and Regulatory Reform Act.[27]

The last grade crossings between New York and Washington were closed about 1985; eleven grade crossings remain in Connecticut.

1990s implementation of high-speed rail

Amtrak Acela Express crosses the Susquehanna River in Maryland on a bridge built by the PRR in 1906.

In the 1990s, Amtrak upgraded the NEC north of New Haven, CT to get it ready for the high-speed Acela Express trains.[29] Dubbed the Northeast High Speed Rail Improvement Program (NHRIP), the effort eliminated grade crossings, rebuilt bridges, and modified curves. Concrete railroad ties replaced wood ties, and heavier continuous welded rail (CWR) was laid down.[30]

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.[31]


Service with electric locomotives between New Haven and Boston began on January 31, 2000.[32] The project took four years and cost close to $2.3 billion: $1.3 billion for the infrastructure improvements, and close to $1 billion for both the new Acela Express trainsets and the Bombardier–Alstom HHP-8 locomotives.[33]

On December 11, 2000, Amtrak began operating its higher-speed Acela Express service.[34] Fastest travel time by Acela is three and a half hours between Boston and New York, and two hours forty-five minutes between New York and Washington, D.C.[35]

In 2005, there was talk in Congress of splitting the Northeast Corridor, which was opposed by then acting Amtrak president David Gunn. The plan, supported by the Bush administration, would "turn over the Northeast Corridor – the tracks from Washington to Boston that are the railroad's main physical asset – to a federal-state consortium."[36]

With the passage of the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008, the Congress established the Northeast Corridor Commission (NEC Commission) in the U.S. Department of Transportation to facilitate mutual cooperation and planning and to advise Congress on Corridor rail and development policy. The commission members include USDOT, Amtrak and the Northeast Corridor states.

In August 2011 the United States Department of Transportation committed $450 million to a six-year project to support capacity increases on one of the busiest segments on the NEC, a 24-mile (39 km) section between New Brunswick and Trenton, passing through Princeton Junction. The Next Generation High-Speed project is designed to upgrade electrical power, signal systems, and overhead catenary wires to improve reliability and increase speeds up to 160 mph (260 km/h), and after the purchase of new equipment, up to 186 miles per hour (299 km/h).[37] In September 2012, speed tests were conducted using Acela train sets, achieving a speed of 165 miles per hour (266 km/h).[38][39] The improvements were scheduled to be completed in 2016, but due to delays, the project had not been completed until 2020.[40][41]

2015 derailment
NTSB officials inspect the derailed locomotive 601

Eleven minutes after leaving 30th Street Station in Philadelphia on May 12, 2015, a year-old ACS-64 locomotive (#601) and all seven Amfleet I coaches of Amtrak's northbound Northeast Regional (TR#188) derailed at 9:21pm at Frankford Junction in the Port Richmond section of the city while entering a 50 mph (80 km/h) speed limited (but at the time non-ATC protected) 4° curve at 106 mph (171 km/h), killing eight and injuring more than 200 (eight critically) of the 238 passengers and five crew on board as well as causing the suspension of all Philadelphia–New York NEC service for six days.[42][43]

This was the deadliest crash on the Northeast Corridor since 16 died when Amtrak's Washington–Boston Colonial (TR#94) rear-ended three stationary Conrail locomotives at Gunpow Interlocking near Baltimore on January 4, 1987.[44] Frankford Junction curve was the site of a previous fatal accident on September 6, 1943 when an extra section of the PRR's Washington to New York Congressional Limited derailed there killing 79 and injuring 117 of the 541 on board.[45]


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.


Constant-tension catenary on Amtrak's 60 Hz system

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 25 Hz traction power system (originally built by the Pennsylvania Railroad) supplies 12 kV at 25 Hz. 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 60 Hz. From Mill River to Boston, the much newer 60 Hz traction power system supplies 25 kV at 60 Hz. All of Amtrak's electric locomotives can switch between these systems at speed.

In addition to catenary, the East River Tunnels have 750 V DC third rail for Long Island Rail Road trains, and the North River Tunnels have third rail for emergency use only.

In 2006, several high-profile electric-power failures delayed Amtrak and commuter trains on the Northeast Corridor up to five hours.[46] 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.[47]

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.[48]


There are 109 active stations on the Northeast Corridor; 30 are used by Amtrak. All but three (Kingston, Westerly, and Mystic) see commuter service. Amtrak owns Pennsylvania Station in New York, 30th Street Station in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Station in Baltimore, and Union Station in Washington.

The main services of the Northeast Corridor are indicated using the following abbreviations. Other services are listed in the right-most column. Note that not all trains necessarily stop at all indicated stations.

  • Amtrak corridor: AE (Acela Express), KS (Keystone Service), NR (Northeast Regional), PA (Pennsylvanian), VT (Vermonter)
  • Amtrak long distance: CD (Cardinal), CL (Carolinian), CS (Crescent), PL (Palmetto), SM (Silver Meteor), SS (Silver Star)
  • MBTA Commuter Rail: P/S (Providence/Stoughton Line), NE (Needham Line), FR (Franklin Line)
  • CTrail: SLE (Shore Line East)
  • Metro-North Railroad: NHV (New Haven Line)
  • Long Island Rail Road: CTZ (City Terminal Zone)
  • NJ Transit Rail: NEC (Northeast Corridor Line), NJC (North Jersey Coast Line)
  • SEPTA Regional Rail: TRE (Trenton Line), NWK (Wilmington/Newark Line)
  • MARC Train: PEN (Penn Line)
Station listing
State Distance
from NYP
City Station Amtrak corridor services Amtrak long distance services Commuter services Additional services/connections
MA 228.7 mi (368.1 km) Boston South Station AE NR P/SNE FR Amtrak: Lake Shore Limited
MBTA Commuter Rail: Fairmount, Framingham/Worcester, Greenbush, and Old Colony lines
MBTA subway: Red Line
227.6 mi (366.3 km) Back Bay AE NR P/SNE FR Amtrak: Lake Shore Limited
MBTA Commuter Rail: Framingham/Worcester Line
MBTA subway: Orange Line
226.5 mi (364.5 km) Ruggles P/SNE FRMBTA subway: Orange Line
223.7 mi (360.0 km) Forest Hills NE MBTA subway: Orange Line
220.6 mi (355.0 km) Hyde Park P/S FR
219.2 mi (352.8 km) Readville FRMBTA Commuter Rail: Fairmount Line
217.3 mi (349.7 km) Westwood Route 128 AE NR P/S
213.9 mi (344.2 km) Canton Canton Junction P/S
210.8 mi (339.2 km) Sharon Sharon P/S
204.0 mi (328.3 km) Mansfield Mansfield P/S
196.9 mi (316.9 km) Attleboro Attleboro P/S
191.9 mi (308.8 km) South Attleboro P/S
RI 185.1 mi (297.9 km) Providence Providence AE NR P/S
177.3 mi (285.3 km) Warwick T. F. Green Airport P/S
165.8 mi (266.8 km) North Kingstown Wickford Junction P/S
158.1 mi (254.4 km) West Kingston Kingston NR
141.3 mi (227.4 km) Westerly Westerly NR
CT 132.3 mi (212.9 km) Mystic Mystic NR
122.9 mi (197.8 km) New London New London AE NR SLE
105.1 mi (169.1 km) Old Saybrook Old Saybrook NR SLE
101.2 mi (162.9 km) Westbrook Westbrook SLE
96.8 mi (155.8 km) Clinton Clinton SLE
93.1 mi (149.8 km) Madison Madison SLE
88.8 mi (142.9 km) Guilford Guilford SLE
81.4 mi (131.0 km) Branford Branford SLE
72.7 mi (117.0 km) New Haven New Haven State Street SLE NHV Amtrak: Hartford Line
CTrail: Hartford Line
72.3 mi (116.4 km) New Haven Union Station AE NR VT SLE NHV Amtrak: Hartford Line
CTrail: Hartford Line
69.4 mi (111.7 km) West Haven West Haven SLE NHV
63.3 mi (101.9 km) Milford Milford SLE NHV
59.0 mi (95.0 km) Stratford Stratford SLE NHV Metro-North Railroad: Waterbury Branch
55.4 mi (89.2 km) Bridgeport Bridgeport NR VT SLE NHV Metro-North Railroad: Waterbury Branch
52.3 mi (84.2 km) Fairfield Fairfield Metro NHV
50.6 mi (81.4 km) Fairfield NHV
48.9 mi (78.7 km) Southport NHV
47.2 mi (76.0 km) Westport Green's Farms NHV
44.2 mi (71.1 km) Westport NHV
42.1 mi (67.8 km) Norwalk East Norwalk NHV
41.0 mi (66.0 km) South Norwalk NHV Metro-North Railroad: Danbury Branch
39.2 mi (63.1 km) Rowayton NHV
37.7 mi (60.7 km) Darien Darien NHV
36.2 mi (58.3 km) Noroton Heights NHV
33.1 mi (53.3 km) Stamford Stamford AE NR VT SLE NHV Metro-North Railroad: New Canaan Branch
31.3 mi (50.4 km) Greenwich Old Greenwich NHV
30.3 mi (48.8 km) Riverside NHV
29.6 mi (47.6 km) Cos Cob NHV
28.1 mi (45.2 km) Greenwich NHV
NY 25.7 mi (41.4 km) Port Chester Port Chester NHV
24.1 mi (38.8 km) Rye Rye NHV
22.2 mi (35.7 km) Harrison Harrison NHV
20.5 mi (33.0 km) Mamaroneck Mamaroneck NHV
18.7 mi (30.1 km) Larchmont Larchmont NHV
16.6 mi (26.7 km) New Rochelle New Rochelle NR NHV
3.2 mi (5.1 km) Queens Sunnyside CTZ Planned to open in 2022
0.0 mi (0 km) New York Penn Station AE NR VT KS PA CD CL CS PL SM SS CTZNEC NJCAmtrak Empire Corridor: Adirondack, Ethan Allen Express, Empire Service, Lake Shore Limited, Maple Leaf
Long Island Rail Road: Port Washington Branch, Main Line
NJ Transit Rail: Gladstone, Montclair-Boonton, Morristown, and Raritan Valley lines
New York City Subway: A, C, and E and 1, 2, and 3 trains
NJ 5.0 mi (8.0 km) Secaucus Secaucus Junction NEC NJCNJ Transit Rail: Bergen County, Gladstone, Main, Meadowlands, Montclair-Boonton, Morristown, Pascack Valley, and Raritan Valley lines
Metro-North Railroad: Port Jervis Line
10.0 mi (16.1 km) Newark Penn Station AE NR VT KS PA CD CL CS PL SM SS NEC NJC NJ Transit Rail: Raritan Valley Line
Newark Light Rail
PATH: Newark–World Trade Center
12.6 mi (20.3 km) Newark Liberty Int'l Airport NR KS NEC NJC AirTrain Newark
14.4 mi (23.2 km) Elizabeth North Elizabeth NEC NJC
15.4 mi (24.8 km) Elizabeth NEC NJC
18.6 mi (29.9 km) Linden Linden NEC NJC
20.7 mi (33.3 km) Rahway Rahway NEC NJC
24.6 mi (39.6 km) Woodbridge Metropark AE NR VT KS PL NEC
27.1 mi (43.6 km) Metuchen Metuchen NEC
30.3 mi (48.8 km) Edison Edison NEC
32.7 mi (52.6 km) New Brunswick New Brunswick NR KS PL NEC
34.4 mi (55.4 km) Jersey Avenue NEC
48.8 mi (78.5 km) Princeton Junction Princeton Junction NR KS PL NEC NJ Transit Rail: Princeton Branch
54.4 mi (87.5 km) Hamilton Township Hamilton NEC
58.1 mi (93.5 km) Trenton Trenton AE NR VT KS PA CD CL CS PL SM SS TRENEC River Line
PA 64.7 mi (104.1 km) Tullytown Levittown TRE
67.8 mi (109.1 km) Bristol Bristol TRE
70.7 mi (113.8 km) Croydon Croydon TRE
72.4 mi (116.5 km) Eddington Eddington TRE
73.7 mi (118.6 km) Cornwells Heights Cornwells Heights NR KS TRE
75.8 mi (122.0 km) Philadelphia Torresdale TRE
78.3 mi (126.0 km) Holmesburg Junction TRE
79.3 mi (127.6 km) Tacony TRE
81.2 mi (130.7 km) Bridesburg TRE
86.0 mi (138.4 km) North Philadelphia NR KS TRE SEPTA Regional Rail: Chestnut Hill West Line
90.5 mi (145.6 km) 30th Street Station AE NR VT KS PA CD CL CS PL SM SS TRENWK SEPTA Regional Rail: Airport, Cynwyd, Chestnut Hill East, Chestnut Hill West, Fox Chase, Lansdale/Doylestown, Manayunk/Norristown, Media/Elwyn, Paoli/Thorndale, Warminster, and West Trenton lines
NJ Transit Rail: Atlantic City Line
SEPTA City Transit Division: Market-Frankford Line, subway–surface trolley lines
94.8 mi (152.6 km) Darby Darby NWK
95.5 mi (153.7 km) Sharon Hill Curtis Park NWK
96.2 mi (154.8 km) Sharon Hill NWK
96.7 mi (155.6 km) Folcroft Folcroft NWK
97.3 mi (156.6 km) Glenolden Glenolden NWK
98.0 mi (157.7 km) Norwood Norwood NWK
98.7 mi (158.8 km) Prospect Park Prospect Park NWK
99.4 mi (160.0 km) Ridley Park Ridley Park NWK
100.1 mi (161.1 km) Crum Lynne NWK
101.3 mi (163.0 km) Eddystone Eddystone NWK
102.4 mi (164.8 km) Chester Chester T.C. NWK
104.5 mi (168.2 km) Highland Avenue NWK
105.7 mi (170.1 km) Marcus Hook Marcus Hook NWK
DE 108.6 mi (174.8 km) Claymont Claymont NWK
115.8 mi (186.4 km) Wilimington Wilmington AE NR VT CD CL CS PL SM SS NWK
121.5 mi (195.5 km) Churchmans Crossing NWK
127.7 mi (205.5 km) Newark Newark NR NWK
MD 148.5 mi (239.0 km) Perryville Perryville PEN
154.5 mi (248.6 km) Aberdeen Aberdeen NR PEN
164.1 mi (264.1 km) Edgewood Edgewood PEN
173.0 mi (278.4 km) Middle River Martin State Airport PEN
184.7 mi (297.2 km) Baltimore Penn Station AE NR VT CD CL CS PL SM SS PEN MTA Maryland: Light RailLink
187.5 mi (301.8 km) West Baltimore PEN
192.3 mi (309.5 km) Halethorpe Halethorpe PEN
195.3 mi (314.3 km) Linthicum Heights BWI Airport AE NR VT PL PEN
202.6 mi (326.1 km) Odenton Odenton PEN
208.4 mi (335.4 km) Bowie Bowie State PEN
213.7 mi (343.9 km) Seabrook Seabrook PEN
216.0 mi (347.6 km) New Carrollton New Carrollton NR VT PL PEN Washington Metro: Orange Line
DC 224.7 mi (361.6 km) Washington Washington, D.C. AE NR VT CD CL CS PL SM SS PEN Amtrak: Capitol Limited
MARC Train: Brunswick and Camden lines
Virginia Railway Express: Fredericksburg and Manassas lines
Washington Metro: Red Line

Grade crossings

Passengers crossing the State Street crossing in New London after departing a northbound train
A Northeast Regional train crosses Miner Lane in Waterford, the site of a fatal accident in 2005

The entire Northeast Corridor has 11 grade crossings, all in southeastern New London County, Connecticut. The remaining grade crossings are along a part of the line that hugs the shore of Long 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 with induction loop sensors, which allow vehicles stopped on the tracks to be detected in time for an oncoming train to stop.[49]

FRA rules limit track speeds on the corridor to 80 miles per hour (130 km/h) over conventional crossings and 95 miles per hour (153 km/h) over crossings with four-quadrant gates and vehicle detection tied into the signal system.[50]


The New York to New Haven line has long been completely grade-separated, and the last grade crossings between Washington and New York were eliminated in the 1980s. In 1994, during planning for electrification and high-speed Acela Express service between New Haven and Boston, a law was passed requiring USDOT to plan for the elimination of all remaining crossings (unless impractical or unnecessary) by 1997.[51] Some lightly used crossings were simply closed, while most were converted into bridges or underpasses. Only thirteen remained by 1999, of which lightly used crossings in Old Lyme, Connecticut and Exeter, Rhode Island were soon closed.[52]

Despite six nonfatal accidents in the previous sixteen years, there was substantial local opposition to closing the remaining 11 crossings. Outright closing the crossing would eliminate the sole access points to several of the places they served, while grade separation would have been expensive and required land takings.[52] Instead, the crossings were supplied with additional protections. In 1998, School Street in Groton was the first four-quadrant gate installation in the country with vehicle detection sensors tied into the line's signal system.[53] It cost $1 million rather than the $4 million for a bridge.[54] Seven more crossings received similar installations in 1999 and 2000; only the three in New London (which are on a tight curve with speed limits under 30 miles per hour (48 km/h)) did not.[55]

On September 28, 2005, a southbound Acela Express struck a car at Miner Lane in Waterford, Connecticut, the first such incident since the additional protections were implemented.[56] The train was approaching the crossing at approximately 70 miles per hour (110 km/h) when the car reportedly rolled under the lowered crossing gate arms too late for the sensor system to fully stop the train. The driver and one passenger were killed on impact; the other passenger died nine days later from injuries sustained in the crash. The gates were later inspected and declared to have been functioning properly at the time of the incident.[57] The incident drew public criticism about the remaining grade crossings along the busy line.[58]

Crossing list

Crossing are listed east to west.[49]

Miles City Street DOT/AAR number Coordinates Details
140.6 Stonington Palmer Street 500263U 41.372491°N 71.835678°W / 41.372491; -71.835678 Connects the Pawcatuck residential area to the Mechanic Street arterial.
136.7 Elihu Island Road 500267W 41.340922°N 71.889912°W / 41.340922; -71.889912 Provides sole access to Elihu Island. Private crossing.
136.6 Walker's Dock 500269K 41.340073°N 71.891184°W / 41.340073; -71.891184 Provides sole access to a small marina. Private crossing.
134.9 Wamphassuc Road 500272T 41.342016°N 71.921605°W / 41.342016; -71.921605 Provides sole access to a residential area.
133.4 Latimer Point Road 500275N 41.341312°N 71.948967°W / 41.341312; -71.948967 Provides sole access to a residential area.
132.3 Broadway Avenue Extension 500277C 41.350813°N 71.963872°W / 41.350813; -71.963872 Next to Mystic station. Provides sole access to a residential and industrial area, several marinas, and the northbound platform.
131.2 Groton School Street 500278J 41.344933°N 71.977092°W / 41.344933; -71.977092 Provides sole access to the Willow Point residential area and marina.
123.0 New London Ferry Street 500294T 41.356984°N 72.094777°W / 41.356984; -72.094777 Provides sole access to Block Island Ferry and Cross Sound Ferry docks and other marine facilities. Does not have quad gates.
122.8 State Street 500295A 41.353845°N 72.092991°W / 41.353845; -72.092991 Next to New London Union Station. Provides access to the Fisher's Island Ferry, City Pier, Waterfront Park, and the northbound platform.
122.5 Bank Street Connector 500297N 41.35128°N 72.095957°W / 41.35128; -72.095957 Provides access to Waterfront Park.
120.2 Waterford Miner Lane 500307S 41.335726°N 72.123845°W / 41.335726; -72.123845 Provides sole access to a residential and industrial area.

Passenger ridership

Annual passenger ridership
FY*Northeast RegionalAcelaTotal ridership % Change
Sources: 2004–2014;[59] 2015–2016[60]

2017–2018[61] 2018–2019[62]

Current rail service

Intercity passenger services

New Orleans-bound Crescent in Trenton, New Jersey

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).[63] 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.[64] Amtrak's share of the air or rail passenger traffic between New York City and Boston has grown from 20 percent to 54 percent since 2001, and 75 percent between New York City and Washington, D.C., go by train.[65]

These Amtrak trains serve NEC stations and run at least partially on the corridor:

  • Acela Express: high-speed rail Boston–Washington, D.C.
  • Cardinal: New York–Chicago via Washington, D.C. (Wednesdays, Fridays, & Sundays only)
  • Carolinian: New York–Charlotte, North Carolina
  • Crescent: New York–New Orleans
  • Keystone Service: higher-speed rail Harrisburg, Pennsylvania–New York
  • Northeast Regional: higher-speed rail Boston/Springfield/New York–Washington D.C./Richmond/Newport News/Norfolk/Roanoke, Virginia
  • Palmetto: Savannah, Georgia–New York
  • Pennsylvanian: Pittsburgh–New York via NEC and Philadelphia to Harrisburg Main Line
  • Silver Meteor: Miami, Florida–New York
  • Silver Star: Miami/Tampa, Florida–New York
  • Vermonter: St. Albans, Vermont–Washington, D.C. via NEC and New Haven–Springfield Line

Seven other Amtrak trains terminate at NEC stations, but do not use any NEC infrastructure outside the terminus:

  • Hartford Line: operated in conjunction with ConnDOT, runs across Amtrak-owned New Haven–Springfield line from Springfield Union to New Haven Union, the latter of which uses NEC infrastructure.
  • Capitol Limited: runs from Washington, D.C. Union to Chicago Union, the former of which uses NEC infrastructure.
  • Five Amtrak services operate via the Empire Corridor, a line largely owned by CSX, with other sections owned by Metro-North Railroad and Amtrak. It meets the NEC at New York Penn Station.
    • Adirondack: runs from New York Penn to Montreal Central
    • Empire Service: higher-speed rail from New York Penn to Albany–Rensselaer and Niagara Falls
    • Ethan Allen Express: runs from Rutland to New York Penn
    • Lake Shore Limited: runs from Chicago Union to New York Penn; also has a branch to the NEC's terminus at Boston South
    • Maple Leaf: runs from New York Penn to Toronto Union

Due to the wide availability of Northeast Regional frequencies, the Acela Express, the Keystone Service, and the Pennsylvanian as well as commuter rail, most long- and medium-haul trains operating along the New York-Washington leg of the NEC do not allow local travel between NEC stations. In most cases, long- and medium-haul trains only stop to discharge passengers from Washington (and in some cases, Alexandria) northward, and to receive passengers from Newark to Washington. This policy is intended to keep seats available for passengers making longer trips. The Vermonter is the only medium-haul train that allows local travel in both directions between New York and Washington.

Commuter rail

SEPTA commuter train on the NEC in Prospect Park, Pennsylvania

In addition to Amtrak, several commuter rail agencies operate passenger service using the NEC tracks:

Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA)

  • Providence/Stoughton Line: Wickford Junction–Boston
  • Franklin Line: Readville–Boston
  • Needham Line: Forest Hills–Boston
  • Framingham/Worcester Line: Back Bay Station–Boston


  • Hartford Line: New Haven Union Station–New Haven-State Street
  • Shore Line East: Stamford–New London, Connecticut

Metro-North Railroad (MNRR)

Long Island Rail Road (LIRR)

  • City Terminal Zone: Sunnyside Yard, Queens–New York

New Jersey Transit (NJT)

NJT commuter train on the NEC in New Brunswick, New Jersey
  • Northeast Corridor Line: Trenton, NJ–New York
  • North Jersey Coast Line: Rahway, NJ–New York
  • Morristown Line, Gladstone Branch, Montclair-Boonton Line: Kearny Connection–New York
  • Raritan Valley Line: Hunter Connection–New York
  • Atlantic City Line: 30th Street Station–Frankford Junction


  • Trenton Line: Philadelphia–Trenton, New Jersey
  • Airport Line: 30th Street Station–Southwest Philadelphia
  • Media/Elwyn Line: 30th Street Station–Arsenal Junction
  • Chestnut Hill West Line: 30th Street Station–North Philadelphia Station
  • Wilmington/Newark Line: Newark, Delaware–Philadelphia

MARC Train

  • Penn Line: Washington, D.C.–Perryville, Maryland via Baltimore Penn Station

Freight services

Norfolk Southern Railway freight operating on the NEC in Aberdeen, Maryland

Freight trains operate on parts of the NEC through trackage rights. Prior to the 1970s when Amtrak took over all passenger service, the NEC routinely saw lengthy freight trains sometimes numbering over one hundred cars traversing great lengths of the corridor. All freight operations ultimately came under the control of Penn Central in the late 1960s and later Conrail upon its formation in 1976, however Amtrak, whose ridership was steadily increasing began demanding heavier taxes for longer trains. Ultimately Conrail began reducing freight service to only small, local trains on certain sections of the corridor where most needed once longer freights began causing congestion and bigger delays with passenger service. Currently, 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, to 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 overhead trackage rights from New Haven to New York (see Rail freight transportation in New York City and Long Island). Additionally the Canadian Pacific Railway and the New York and Atlantic Railway both trackage rights over the Hell Gate Bridge in order to connect with their own routes near New York.[66]


In the 2010s, the Federal Railroad Administration drew 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 was completed in spring 2015.[67] Much of the proposed improvements are unfunded.[68]


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.[69] Projected to cost about $117 billion (2010 dollars), the project would allow speeds of 220 miles per hour (350 km/h), 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,[70][71] with an aspirational completion date of 2030 for travel from Washington to New York and 2040 for New York To Boston. In 2012, Amtrak revised its cost estimate to $151 billion.[6]

In 2012, the Federal Railroad Administration began developing a master plan for bringing high-speed rail to the Northeast Corridor titled NEC FUTURE, and released the final environmental impact statement in December 2016.[72] The proposed alignment would closely follow the existing NEC south of New York City; multiple potential alignments north of New York City were studied, including the existing shoreline route, a route through Hartford, Connecticut, and a route out along Long Island which would traverse a new bridge or tunnel across Long Island Sound to Connecticut. On July 12, 2017, the Federal Railroad Administration revealed the record of decision for the project.[73] The proposed upgrades have not been funded.

Gateway Program

In February 2011, Amtrak announced plans for the Gateway Project between Newark Penn Station and New York Penn Station.[74] 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.

New trains for Acela

On August 26, 2016, Vice President Joe Biden announced a $2.45 billion federal loan package to pay for new Acela equipment, as well as upgrades to the NEC. The loans will finance 28 trainsets that will replace the existing fleet. The trains will be built by Alstom in Hornell and Rochester, New York. Passenger service using the new trains is expected to begin in 2021 and the current fleet is to be retired by the end of 2022 when all the replacements will have been delivered. Amtrak will pay off the loans from increased NEC passenger revenue.[75]

Northeast Maglev

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.[76] Northeast Maglev, using SCMaglev technology developed by Central Japan Railway Company, is currently working with the FRA and MDOT to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement.[77] The project has received a $27.8 million grant from the FRA.[78]

North Atlantic Rail

The North Atlantic Rail initiative, launched in 2017, has advocated building new high-speed railroads providing speeds up to 225 mph (200 mph by different sources) in the northeast, where the densely-populated core of New England is struggling with traffic and environmental overload. In long-term plans, there is also proposal of building several lines branching out of Northeast corridor (which is bypassed by this proposal, cutting travel time), their maximum speed is yet unknown. Despite being the fastest railroad in the USA today, New York to Boston segment is planned to be replaced by even faster line.[79]

Harold Interlocking

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.[80][81] Financing for the project was jeopardized in July 2011 by the House of Representatives, which voted to divert the funding to unrelated projects.[82] The project is currently funded by FRA and the MTA.[83]

New Brunswick–Trenton high-speed upgrade

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.[37] The project is designed to upgrade electrical power, signal systems and catenary wires on a 24-mile (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.[84][85][86] The improvements were scheduled to be completed in 2016, but have been delayed; the project is now scheduled to be finished in 2020.[87] The track work is one of several projects planned for the "New Jersey Speedway" section of the NEC, which include a new station at North Brunswick, the Mid-Line Loop (a flyover for reversing train direction), and the re-construction of County Yard, to be done in coordination with NJT.[88]

Replacement of bridge over Hutchinson River

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 Pelham Bay Bridge (just west of Pelham Bridge) over the Hutchinson River in the Bronx that has been limiting speed and train capacity. The goal is for a new bridge to support expanded service and speeds up to 110 mph (180 km/h).[89]

See also

  • Corridor (Via Rail)


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  • Churella, Albert J. (2013). The Pennsylvania Railroad: Volume I, Building an Empire, 1846–1917. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. ISBN 978-0-8122-4348-2. OCLC 759594295.
  • Cudahy, Brian J. (2002), Rails Under the Mighty Hudson (2nd ed.), New York: Fordham University Press, ISBN 978-0-82890-257-1, OCLC 911046235
  • Middleton, William D. (2001) [1974]. When the Steam Railroads Electrified (2nd ed.). Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press. ISBN 978-0-253-33979-9.
  • Middleton, William D. (March 2003). "Super Railroad". Trains. 63 (3): 36–59. ISSN 0041-0934.

Further reading

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