Amtrak's 2012 construction program has a heavy emphasis on the Northeast Corridor, with several new and continuing projects. In a move that could assist longer-range plans, the White House on Jan. 13 announced a pilot program to expedite environmental reviews for future high-speed-rail projects on the Washington, D.C.-to-Boston line.

But that initiative isn't expected to affect Amtrak's 2012 projects. Amtrak President Joseph Boardman says this year's list includes moving forward on engineering for a $450-million electrical system and track upgrade from Trenton to New Brunswick, N.J.

The railroad also will spend $15 million for planning, design and environmental review for the so-called Gateway program, which envisions two new trans-Hudson River tunnels and a replacement for the 100-year-old Portal Bridge over New Jersey's Hackensack River. Other funding for the huge project is not yet in place.

A $125-million project to replace Connecticut's 105-year-old Niantic River Bridge is well under way. A contractor team of Cianbro Corp., Pittsfield, Maine, and Middlesex Corp., Littleton, Mass., is building a double-track bascule bridge parallel to the existing one as rail service continues. Cianbro President Andi Vigue says, "It's the main corridor for Amtrak, so it's very important that there's no interruptions in train traffic." The job is expected to be completed by May 2013.

A $72-million track replacement in four tunnels under New York City's East River continues. Completion is expected in 2015. Other projects include $50 million to improve 10 stations and finishing a $42-million Seattle maintenance facility.