After 60 years and more than $1.9 trillion of investments, the United States has developed one of the world’s most advanced highway and aviation systems. However, these transportation systems are now at a gridlock. To reduce the congestion and increase efficiency of America’s regional transportation, rail transit should be considered as a promising, long-term solution. The recent stimulus package provides planners an opportunity to reconsider the potentials of regional passenger rail network, especially the high speed rail system. After examining the development history and current condition of America’s passenger rail network, the paper focuses on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor (NEC) and proposes three different improvement plans that can increase travel speeds and attract more ridership: (1) return the corridor to a state of good repair; (2) construct a new dedicated High-Speed Rail track; and (3) develop a multimodal-shared and connected corridor. Each plan has its advantages and drawbacks, and measuring the extent of each plan’s benefits and costs is known to be challenging. To evaluate these plans, the paper utilizes a non-traditional cost-benefit analysis method which considers changes in ridership, life-cycle costs as well as each plan’s economic and environmental impacts (negative or positive). It is found that returning the existing corridor to a state of good repair is the most efficient improvement plan in near term.

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