PA: High-speed rail Chief Leaving as Amtrak Reorganizes Corridor Efforts

As part of a reorganization of Amtrak's Northeast Corridor planning efforts, the railroad's high-speed rail chief is leaving.

Al Engel, a Philadelphia engineer who was named vice president of high-speed rail in September 2010, will leave Amtrak next month "to pursue other opportunities," Amtrak said in a statement Tuesday.

Amtrak said it was combining its Northeast Corridor development offices and its high-speed rail efforts into a new Northeast Corridor Infrastructure and Investment Development department.

Stephen Gardner, Amtrak's vice president of policy and development, was named to head the department.

Amtrak wants to develop a high-speed corridor between Washington and Boston, with trains operating up to 220 m.p.h. Now, the fastest Acela Express trains reach 150 m.p.h. for brief stretches.

The railroad will issue its updated plans for the high-speed corridor by the end of this year, it said Tuesday.

Last year, Amtrak outlined plans for spending $117 billion to develop true high-speed rail service along the Northeast Corridor, with trains that could travel between Philadelphia and New York in 38 minutes.

At that time, Amtrak said the new high-speed service would require its own dedicated tracks and a new route north of New York and could take up to 30 years to complete.

Amtrak chief executive Joseph Boardman said Tuesday the Northeast Corridor was "Amtrak's premier asset, and expanding high-speed rail service is essential to maximizing its success.

"The NEC requires more capacity, greater connectivity and increased operating speeds for all corridor users," Boardman said in a statement. "Improving and expanding our high-speed rail capabilities is central to achieving those goals."

Contact staff writer Paul Nussbaum at 215-854-4587 or pnussbaum@phillynews.com.

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