By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S agency on Friday endorsed an expensive plan to expand and repair the busy U.S. Northeast Corridor rail lines over the next three decades, adding new tracks in most locations and cutting the time to travel from Washington to New York by 35 minutes.
But it will be up to the incoming Donald Trump administration and Congress, states, cities and railroads to decide whether to move forward with expensive improvements. New projects and tracks will require more review and more environmental studies, as well as significant funding.
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Trump has promised to spend billions of dollars on improvements in U.S. infrastructure such as highways, bridges and mass transit
The U.S. Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) on Friday recommended adding new tracks to increase the Northeast Corridor to four tracks in most locations - an expansion it says it would result in 4 billion fewer miles a year traveled on U.S. roads.
The FRA also proposes adding many regional trains and providing up to five times more intercity trains.
It estimates the plan's total cost at $123 billion to $128 billion.
In 2012, at the urging of Congress, Northeastern states and the federal agency began working together to develop a plan for the corridor.
Under the proposal, the agency said, travel time from Boston to New York would be 45 minutes faster for a total time of 2 hours and 45 minutes, while travel from New York to Washington would be 35 minutes faster for a total time of 2 hours and 10 minutes.
About 750,000 people a day ride along some section of the 457-mile (735-km) corridor, making them the busiest rail lines in the United States, while 70 freight trains use the corridor daily, moving over 350,000 carloads of freight annually.
Amtrak's high-speed Acela passenger train plies the Northeast Corridor from Boston to Washington, but currently cannot hit top speeds on many sections of the railroad because of the condition of the tracks.
The FRA also proposes adding intercity access to Philadelphia Airport so that passengers do not have to change trains at 30th Street Station and adding direct service to Hartford, Connecticut, and Springfield, Massachusetts.
The agency also proposes bringing the current corridor back to good condition before expanding it. The FRA estimates the project would create 47,000 jobs a year for 30 years.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)