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Amtrak at a Junction: Invest in Improvements, or Risk Worsening Problems



When Amtrak’s new chief executive took responsibility for two recent train derailments at Pennsylvania Station in New York, it was a low point for a railroad already confronting a series of urgent challenges.

Commuters have long complained that the station is overcrowded and dreary, but now Amtrak had acknowledged that its tracks were in poor shape and not being properly maintained.

The derailments have set off alarms over Amtrak’s management of the station, its safety record and the railroad’s perennial funding problems. The days of commuting turmoil prompted by the accidents also offered an ominous preview of the future if the railroad’s aging infrastructure is not soon overhauled.

Today, Amtrak finds itself at a crossroad: Is the 46-year-old national railroad at the cusp of a new era of investment as it pushes to build a train tunnel between New York and New Jersey — one of the country’s largest infrastructure proposals — or will service deteriorate to levels that could damage the economy in the corridor between Washington and Boston?