The Northeast is a powerhouse of density and economic output, producing 20% of the nation's GDP with 17% of the population on 2% of the nation's land area. Over the next generation, the Northeast will add 17 million new residents. This population growth will demand infrastructure investments and economic growth to accommodate these new residents while preserving quality of life.

Principal Cities: Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington D.C.
Population 2010: 52,332,123
Percent of U.S. Population: 17%
Population 2025: 58.4 million
Population 2050: 70.8 million
Projected Growth (2010 - 2050): 35.2% (18.4 million)
Gross Domestic Product (2010): $2.92 trillion
Percent of U.S. GDP (2010): 20%

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Photo: MTA / Kevin Ortiz

The New Haven Line needs such substantial repair work that at the current pace of investment it will take two decades to restore the line to full operating capacity, a new study by Regional Plan Association found. An analysis by RPA determined that $3.6 billion will be needed beyond what is currently budgeted to modernize the rail line, the busiest in the U.S.

Infrastructure on the 60-mile stretch of track between New York and Connecticut has been allowed to deteriorate, largely due to decades of underinvestment in critical repairs and upgrades. Delaying the repair work significantly raises the risk of unplanned outages and limits the line’s capacity to accommodate growing ridership. 

The New Haven Line carries 125,000 passengers every day on the Metro-North commuter line and on Amtrak trains between Boston and New York and plays a vital role in the economic life of the Northeast. The line's owners, the states of Connecticut and New York, have made significant progress improving the rail infrastructure they inherited in the 1970s in poor physical condition, despite major funding constraints. But funding shortfalls have forced both states to defer long overdue capital investment necessary to protect the line's operations and passengers.

The age-related problems that plague the line can be felt by passengers nearly every day. Five movable rail bridges, all well beyond their replacement age, get stuck open several times a week, delaying train traffic and causing ripple effects up and down the line. This year, the line suffered two major outages, including a derailment and collision in May that injured 76 people and an electrical outage in September that disrupted service on the line for more than two weeks.

RPA’s study, Getting Back on Track: Unlocking the Full Potential of the New Haven Line, documents the key issues affecting the rail line and outlines critical capital investments necessary for the line to function as a reliable, four-track railroad. RPA researchers found that an additional $3.6 billion is needed to repair or replace aging and obsolete infrastructure, beyond the $1 billion already budgeted by the state of Connecticut for this work.

“The New Haven Line supports the biggest and most diverse economy in the country, yet this crucial piece of infrastructure is no longer up to the task,” said RPA President Robert D. Yaro. “If we don’t maintain our vital infrastructure, we will be subjecting a generation of commuters and long-distance travelers to relentless, disruptive repair work and jeopardizing the growth and prosperity of our region,” he said. 

Expediting construction would mean disruptions to service in the short term, but would get the line back to its full, four-track capacity far sooner. This would allow the line to accommodate anticipated population growth and economic development along the New York-to-New Haven corridor. The upgrades also are crucial to accommodating passengers transferring from the region’s branch lines, including from the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield commuter line, which is expected to begin service in 2016.

The study outlines an emergency action plan for the rail line to address major needed improvements, including: upgrades to power and signal systems; repairs to tracks and station platforms; and rehabilitation or replacement of the five movable bridges that are a source of continued service disruptions.

The full study can be viewed here:

Members of the U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure convened in New York City on Friday for a hearing about the importance of the Northeast Corridor. The hearing took place in the Farley Post Office, home of the future Moynihan Station. Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA), chair of the Railroads Subcommittee, wielded the gavel while Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA), chair of the full committee, participated along with Ranking Member Corrine Brown (D-FL) and Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY). The witnesses included the President and CEO of Amtrak, Joe Boardman; Commissioner of New York State Department of Transportation, Joan McDonald; President of Drexel University, John Fry; and President of Regional Plan Association (RPA) and Chair of the Northeast Alliance for Rail (NEAR), Bob Yaro.

The impetus for the hearing is that the current federal rail bill, PRIIA, expires this fall and Congress will begin negotiating the next bill this summer. The next federal rail bill will authorize a five to six years worth of appropriations for the Federal Railroad Administration and Amtrak, and hence capital improvements to the Northeast Corridor (NEC). The FRA's High-Speed & Intercity Passenger Rail Program is a potential source of future funding for NEC improvements. After Florida Governor Rick Scott rejected $2.4 billion in federal high-speed rail funds in 2011, nearly $1 billion was redirected to the Northeast. Amtrak's federal funding for capital improvements is also largely dedicated to the NEC, where nearly 40% of their capital budget is spent.

In his testimony before the Committee, Bob Yaro outlined the main components of an improvement program that can be authorized in the reauthorization of the rail bill. RPA calls this program, "NEC Now." The NEC Now proposal addresses the corridor's highest-priority infrastructure needs: to remove bottlenecks, increase capacity, improve reliability and reduce travel times along the entire corridor. It also proposes funding for the construction of an Acela Express train optimization program which, along with other NEC Now projects, would cut trip times between New York and Philadelphia to well under an hour.

Download RPA's NEC Now Legislative Proposal & Infrastructure Program.

Download Bob Yaro's testimony as prepared.

Thumbnail image for cover_nelandscapes.jpgConservation needs to be approached at the regional level in order to ensure that wildlife habitat, water supplies and working farms and forests throughout the U.S. Northeast are protected for future generations, a new report by Regional Plan Association and America 2050 concludes.

The research examines how landscape conservation initiatives are working across the Northeast to protect vital natural and cultural resources. The report, "Landscapes: Improving Conservation Practice in the Northeast Megaregion," makes recommendations for improving conservation efforts that stretch across city and state boundaries, from addressing governance questions and ensuring adequate financial resources to creating tools for measuring the impact of these regional efforts.

Read the Release | Read the Report (Web) (Print) | Read the Project Summary

HSR-Charrette_invite-cover_small.pngA Business Breakfast Forum

The Hartford Club
46 Prospect Street,
Hartford, Connecticut
Friday, June 3, 2011
8:00 - 10:00 a.m.

The New Haven-Hartford-Springfield Rail project will connect Hartford and Springfield to new business, educational, and cultural opportunities along the Knowledge Corridor, and in Southwestern Connecticut and New York City. What are these opportunities, and what should we do to maximize them? We'll hear from local business leaders as well as representatives from other successful rail corridors on how we can best leverage state and federal rail investments for economic growth.


  • Bob Yaro, President, Regional Plan Association
  • Patricia Quinn, Northern New England Rail Authority (Downeaster Service, Portland, ME/Boston, MA)
  • Gene Skoropowski, HNTB (Capitol Corridor Service, Sacramento/San Jose, CA)
  • Matthew Nemerson, Connecticut Technology Council
  • Rob Little, Chief Investment Officer, Finance, Cornerstone Real Estate Advisers

There is no charge for attendance but registration is required at:

Sponsored by:
America 2050 and Regional Plan Association, with support from the Rockefeller Foundation and Surdna Foundation.

Co-sponsored by:
Capitol Region Council of Governments and ULI Boston.

water map 1 water map 2 water map 3

Even in the damp northeastern United States, water is a precious resource. Whether it's to protect human health, sustain wildlife populations, or to support recreational opportunities, more than two thirds of the initiatives in an inventory of landscape conservation initiatives have protecting water resources as a priority.

To help understand how landscape initiatives are addressing water issues in the 13 state Northeast Megaregion, Regional Plan Association and America 2050 have compiled federal, state, and private information about water quality for inclusion in our Northeast Landscape Initiatives Atlas.

habitat map 1habitat map 2habitat map 3

Nature does not respect political boundaries, which is why landscape initiatives working across jurisdictions have been successful at conserving critical habitat. Landscape conservation initiatives protect the health of ecosystems by ensuring that core habitat needs are met, by providing corridors for movement and migration, and by helping to coordinate management. State wildlife action plans and other federal and state policies have stressed the need for landscape-scale planning to implement their recommendations. Pennsylvania's Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy underscores the importance of forest landscapes for critical habitats:

Where large areas of contiguous, high-quality forest habitat remain, forest-dependent species may reproduce at high rates, creating a large population surplus on a yearly basis. On the other hand, forest species occupying highly fragmented forests, especially those in an agricultural or developed landscape, may have lower reproductive rates as a result of the effects of predators and nest parasites. Area-sensitive species may not occupy these patches at all (12-25).

To help understand how landscape initiatives are addressing habitat priorities in the 13 state Northeast megaregion, Regional Plan Association and America 2050 have compiled federal, state, and private information about habitat priorities for inclusion in our Northeast Landscape Initiatives Atlas

open space 1 thumbnail open space 2 thumbnail open space 123 thumbnail

Access to outdoor recreation has never been more difficult - or more needed. According the recent America's Great Outdoors (AGO) report, one out of three acres of urban land in the United States was developed between 1982 and 2007. It's no wonder that the AGO report finds that today's youth spend half as much time as their parents did outdoors. For the residents and visitors to the densely populated northeastern United States, landscape conservation can help secure meaningful outdoor experiences by offering close to home recreation and by protecting distinct landscapes that reflect the nation's natural and cultural heritage.

To help understand how landscape initiatives are addressing open space and recreation issues in the 13 state Northeast Megaregion, Regional Plan Association and America 2050 have gathered information about available open space in the Northeast for inclusion in our Northeast Landscape Initiatives Atlas. This information is being used to understand how landscape conservation initiatives can keep land open for recreation. We have identified over 165 landscape conservation initiatives. More than 110 of these initiatives have identified recreation and tourism as a priority.

Ag Map 1 Ag Map 2 Ag Map 3

Ag Maps 123

Regional Plan Association and America 2050 have added Agriculture and Forestry resource maps to our Northeast Landscape Initiatives Atlas.  Over the past several months, we have undertaken a major GIS-based mapping and research project to help the over 160 landscape conservation initiatives in our inventory succeed. With help from state agencies and other key stakeholders, we have created maps that reflect priority areas for conservation of important natural resources.  We have produced maps for the following resources:

  • Agriculture & Forestry
  • Water
  • Habitat
  • Open Space
  • Stewardship

Our Agriculture and Forestry resource maps show areas where food and fiber is an important part of the local economy, and where preservation of working farms and forests is a critical conservation concern. Map 1 shows the most important agricultural and forest lands in the Northeast, according to state agencies and the US Forest Service.  Map 2 shows the counties with the strongest agriculture and timber economies.  Map 3 identifies prime agriculture and forest land according to the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service.

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