Which Tracks Does Amtrak Own?

You are currently viewing Which Tracks Does Amtrak Own?

Which Tracks Does Amtrak Own?

Which Tracks Does Amtrak Own?

Amtrak, formally known as the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, is a passenger railroad service that operates in the United States. With an extensive network spanning from coast to coast, it is natural to wonder which tracks Amtrak actually owns. In this article, we will explore the tracks owned by Amtrak and provide some interesting insights and data about their ownership.

Key Takeaways:

  • Amtrak owns and operates tracks on several key routes throughout the country.
  • The ownership of tracks varies depending on the rail corridor and agreements with other entities.
  • Amtrak often shares tracks with freight railroads, which can sometimes lead to scheduling challenges.

Amtrak Track Ownership:

Amtrak owns and maintains tracks on a number of routes across the United States. While their primary focus is on passenger service, Amtrak also operates on tracks that it does not own. These tracks are either owned by freight railroads or leased from various government entities.

One interesting fact is that Amtrak owns most of the Northeast Corridor tracks, the busy route connecting major cities like Washington D.C., Philadelphia, New York City, and Boston. The ownership of these tracks allows Amtrak to have better control over the scheduling and maintenance of their services in this heavily trafficked region.

Shared Tracks with Freight Railroads:

In addition to the tracks Amtrak owns, it also shares tracks with several freight railroads across the country. This arrangement is often necessary due to the limited availability of rail infrastructure in certain areas or the existence of historic agreements between Amtrak and the freight railroads.

An interesting example is the Empire Builder route, which runs between Chicago, Illinois, and Seattle, Washington. This route is operated by Amtrak, but it shares tracks with the freight railroad Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF). The shared tracks present a unique challenge as the freight trains have priority when it comes to dispatching, which can affect Amtrak’s on-time performance.

Amtrak Track Ownership Data:

Region / Route Percentage of Owned Tracks
Northeast Corridor 100%
California Pacific Surfliner 67%
Midwest Hiawatha 33%

Amtrak’s ownership of tracks varies across different regions and routes. The table above provides some interesting data regarding the percentage of owned tracks on three popular routes. For example, Amtrak owns 100% of the tracks on the Northeast Corridor, which is crucial for maintaining efficient and reliable service on this busy route.

Tracks Leased from Government Entities:

While Amtrak owns many of its tracks, there are also instances where tracks are leased from government entities. These leases are typically in place to enable Amtrak to serve areas where infrastructure construction or maintenance would be cost-prohibitive.

One such example is the Adirondack route, connecting New York City, New York, and Montreal, Canada. Amtrak leases the tracks on this route from the government-owned Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA). This partnership allows Amtrak to provide a vital transportation link between the two cities without the burden of owning and maintaining the tracks.


Amtrak owns and operates tracks on several key routes throughout the United States, with a focus on providing efficient and reliable passenger service. While their ownership varies depending on the rail corridor and agreements with other entities, Amtrak’s control over the Northeast Corridor tracks demonstrates their commitment to maintaining a high level of service in this crucial region.

Image of Which Tracks Does Amtrak Own?

Common Misconceptions

Misconception 1: Amtrak owns all the railway tracks in the United States

Contrary to popular belief, Amtrak does not own all the railway tracks in the United States. While Amtrak is a major passenger railroad that operates on tracks throughout the country, it does not have sole ownership of the railway network.

  • Amtrak operates on tracks owned by various entities, including freight railroads and government agencies.
  • Various corridors, such as the Northeast Corridor, are shared by Amtrak and other railway companies.
  • Amtrak often has agreements with track owners to access their tracks for passenger services.

Misconception 2: Amtrak solely operates on its own tracks

Another common misconception is that Amtrak exclusively operates on tracks that it owns. While Amtrak does own certain sections of track, it primarily relies on tracks owned by other entities to provide its services.

  • Amtrak owns and maintains some key sections of track, such as those along the Northeast Corridor.
  • However, the majority of Amtrak’s routes utilize tracks owned by other entities, such as freight railroads.
  • Amtrak often collaborates with track owners to ensure safe and efficient operations.

Misconception 3: Amtrak has full control over all track maintenance and upgrades

Many people mistakenly believe that Amtrak has complete control over the maintenance and upgrades of tracks it operates on. However, track maintenance and upgrades often require collaboration with other entities.

  • Freight railroads, which own a significant portion of the tracks used by Amtrak, are responsible for maintaining and upgrading those sections.
  • Amtrak works closely with track owners to coordinate maintenance and upgrades that impact passenger services.
  • Funding for track improvements often involves multiple stakeholders, including federal and state governments, Amtrak, and track owners.

Misconception 4: Amtrak can freely expand its network by building new tracks

It is commonly misunderstood that Amtrak can expand its network by building new tracks wherever it wants. However, various factors come into play when considering track expansion for Amtrak services.

  • Acquiring land and securing necessary permits for new track construction can be complicated and time-consuming.
  • Expanding the network often involves collaboration with multiple entities, including government agencies, private landowners, and existing track owners.
  • Financial considerations and ridership demand play a crucial role in determining where track expansion is feasible or necessary for Amtrak.

Misconception 5: Amtrak’s track ownership determines its route availability

Lastly, there is a misconception that Amtrak’s track ownership directly determines which routes it can operate on. While track ownership does influence route availability, Amtrak’s ability to serve different destinations depends on various factors.

  • Amtrak’s route availability is influenced by agreements with track owners, demand for passenger services, and the feasibility of providing efficient and cost-effective routes.
  • Some routes depend on shared tracks, where Amtrak has agreements to operate alongside other rail companies.
  • Amtrak continuously assesses and adjusts its routes based on factors like ridership, infrastructure conditions, and operational considerations.
Image of Which Tracks Does Amtrak Own?

Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor

Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor is the busiest rail corridor in the United States, connecting major cities from Boston to Washington, D.C. It covers a distance of approximately 457 miles and serves as a vital transportation artery for both commuters and intercity travelers.

City State Owned Track Miles
Boston Massachusetts 8
Providence Rhode Island 16
New Haven Connecticut 62
New York City New York 774
Philadelphia Pennsylvania 10
Baltimore Maryland 31
Wilmington Delaware 2
Washington, D.C. District of Columbia 30

Amtrak Routes across the United States

Amtrak operates multiple routes spanning the breadth of the United States, connecting cities and regions across the country. These routes offer scenic journeys and serve as an alternative mode of transportation for long-distance travel.

Route Owned Track Miles
California Zephyr 2,438
Empire Builder 2,206
Coast Starlight 1,377
Texas Eagle 1,306
Lake Shore Limited 959

Urban Commuter Rail Services

Amtrak also provides commuter rail services in various urban areas, facilitating efficient transportation for daily commuters. These services help alleviate congestion on roads and offer a reliable alternative for those traveling to and from major metropolitan areas.

City Owned Track Miles
Chicago 71
Boston 60
San Francisco 120
Seattle 96
Portland 47

Amtrak’s High-Speed Rail

Amtrak introduced high-speed rail service on specific routes, offering travelers faster and more efficient journeys. These high-speed trains are designed to achieve higher speeds, decreasing travel times and enhancing passenger experience.

Route Owned Track Miles
Acela Express 363
Brightline 67
Texas Central 240

Amtrak’s Longest Route

Amtrak’s longest route, the Sunset Limited, stretches across the southern region of the United States, showcasing the diverse landscapes and beauty of this part of the country.

Route Owned Track Miles
Sunset Limited 1,995

Amtrak’s Pacific Northwest

Amtrak’s rail lines in the Pacific Northwest connect major cities in this picturesque region of the United States, offering travelers stunning views of mountains, forests, and coastal landscapes.

City Owned Track Miles
Seattle 6
Portland 57
Eugene 42

Amtrak’s Heartland Flyer

The Heartland Flyer is a regional service connecting major cities in the heartland of the United States, offering reliable and convenient transportation options for travelers within this region.

City Owned Track Miles
Oklahoma City 295
Fort Worth 34

Amtrak’s Downeaster

The Downeaster is a popular train route operating in the New England region, connecting cities and towns in Maine and New Hampshire, providing efficient and scenic transportation in this area.

City Owned Track Miles
Portland 33
Freeport 10
Brunswick 4

Amtrak’s Midwest Routes

Amtrak operates several routes in the Midwest region, connecting major cities and enabling efficient travel within this part of the United States.

Route Owned Track Miles
Hiawatha Service 86
Missouri River Runner 283
Illinois Zephyr 258
Lincoln Service 404

In conclusion, Amtrak, the national rail service of the United States, owns and operates an extensive network of tracks and routes that cover various regions across the country. From the bustling Northeast Corridor to the scenic Pacific Northwest, Amtrak connects major cities, provides commuter rail services, introduces high-speed rail options, and offers captivating travel experiences for both domestic and international travelers. With a commitment to efficient and reliable transportation, Amtrak continues to play a vital role in connecting people and places across the United States.

Amtrak Tracks FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

Which Tracks Does Amtrak Own?

Are all the tracks used by Amtrak owned by the company?

No, not all the tracks used by Amtrak are owned by the company. Amtrak operates on both tracks that it owns and tracks owned by other railroad companies, such as freight railroads. Amtrak has agreements with these companies to use their tracks for passenger service.

How many miles of track does Amtrak own?

Amtrak owns and operates approximately 623 miles of track in the United States. These tracks primarily cover the Northeast Corridor between Boston and Washington, D.C. In addition to the owned tracks, Amtrak also has agreements to use tracks owned by other railroads across the country.

Does Amtrak own any high-speed tracks?

Yes, Amtrak owns and operates the tracks of the Northeast Corridor, which are considered high-speed tracks. These tracks are used by Amtrak’s Acela Express trains, which are capable of reaching speeds up to 150 miles per hour (240 kilometers per hour). The Northeast Corridor is one of the busiest and most densely traveled rail corridors in the United States.

Which other railroads’ tracks does Amtrak use?

Amtrak uses tracks owned by various railroad companies across the country. Some of the major railroads that Amtrak operates on include Union Pacific, CSX Transportation, Norfolk Southern, and BNSF Railway. These tracks enable Amtrak trains to serve a wide range of destinations beyond its owned tracks.

Does Amtrak own any tracks on the West Coast?

While Amtrak does not own any tracks on the West Coast, it has agreements with several railroad companies such as Union Pacific and BNSF Railway to operate its long-distance trains, such as the Empire Builder and Coast Starlight, on their tracks. This allows Amtrak to provide service throughout the western region of the United States.

Are there any tracks that Amtrak shares with freight trains?

Yes, Amtrak trains often share tracks with freight trains on certain sections of the rail network. These shared tracks allow freight and passenger trains to operate efficiently. However, Amtrak typically has priority on the shared tracks, meaning that freight trains must yield to Amtrak trains when necessary to maintain the passenger train schedule.

How does Amtrak prioritize its trains on shared tracks?

Amtrak has agreements with freight railroads that govern the priority of its trains on shared tracks. In general, Amtrak trains are given priority over freight trains to ensure that passenger service is not significantly delayed. This priority is based on factors such as the train’s schedule, number of passengers, and overall importance of the route.

Does Amtrak have plans to expand its owned tracks?

Amtrak has plans to improve and expand its owned tracks as part of its ongoing infrastructure projects. For example, the Gateway Program is a major initiative aimed at creating new tunnels and tracks between Newark, New Jersey, and New York City, enabling increased capacity and reliability on the Northeast Corridor. Amtrak continuously evaluates opportunities to invest in and expand its owned track network.

Can Amtrak use tracks that it does not own if necessary?

Yes, Amtrak has agreements in place with other railroad companies to use tracks that it does not own when necessary. These agreements allow Amtrak to provide service on routes that extend beyond its owned track network. By leveraging partnerships with other railroads, Amtrak is able to connect passengers to a variety of destinations across the country.

How does Amtrak ensure the safety and maintenance of its tracks?

Amtrak follows stringent safety protocols and conducts regular inspections and maintenance to ensure the safe operation of its tracks. These activities include routine track inspections, track repairs and replacements, and monitoring of the infrastructure for any potential issues. Amtrak also collaborates with other railroad companies to ensure consistent safety practices on shared tracks.