(Photo: Amtrak Locomotive (cc) by Flickr User Slideshow Bruce)
Amtrak will begin the groundwork for faster trains in New Jersey, building electric locomotives, and extending electronic ticketing to all trains in 2012.
The rail company released a list of major projects (pdf) it hopes to begin, continue, or complete in 2012.
Amtrak also will roll out an e-ticketing system this year that will allow passengers to receive tickets via email, and then display them on their smartphones in the form of barcodes -- which conductors can then scan. The rail provider said it would also continue to work on modernizing its 30-year-old reservation system.
Many of the new projects focus on the Northeast -- the most heavily-traveled rail corridor in the country -- and also the region that House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee head John Mica says represents the best hope for high-speed rail.
In New York, Amtrak will be moving forward on a study for the Gateway Tunnel -- a replacement option for the now-canceled ARC trans-Hudson tunnel. Amtrak had initially requested $50 million for the study but was granted $15 million by the Senate.
Amtrak will also begin working on upgrading a portion of track in New Jersey to allow trains to travel at 160 miles per hour (a 25-mph increase over current speeds), and will continue upgrading track switches at the western entrance to New York's Penn Station to minimize congestion.
The first of 70 new electric locomotives will also be built in 2012, and will be put into operation on both the Northeast Corridor (Boston to Washington) and the Keystone Corridor (Philadelphia to Harrisburg.) In the spring of 2012, Amtrak says it will release a plan on how it will meet the forecasted growth in ridership nationwide.
Amtrak set an all-time ridership record of over 30 million passengers for FY 2011 -- the eighth ridership record in the last nine years. Congress cut its funding to $1.42 billion for FY2012, or $64 million less than Amtrak received in FY 2011.