If California didn’t pass the bonds for the first stage of its high speed rail project last Friday, I don’t think this happens. Amtrak has unveiled their new vision for the Northeast Corridor, the most-used rail lines in the country, with a 42-page report outlining the future of high speed rail in the Northeast. Idealab reports:

Amtrak, the government-owned national rail corporation, on Monday released an ambitious $151 billion plan to develop a high-speed rail line along the currently existing Northeast Corridor rail network by 2040.

The proposed high-speed rail line would travel at top speeds of 220 miles-per-hour in some sections and be able to deliver passengers from Washington, D.C. to Boston in a little over 3 hours.

Travel times between other major Northeastern cities would be shortened even more markedly, with travel times between New York and Boston or New York and Washington, D.C. down to 94 minutes, and a little over a half-hour between New York and Philadelphia.

Compare that to the current fastest Amtrak trains along the route, those in the Acela Express line, which take three-and-a-half hours to get from Boston to New York and a little under three hours to get from Washington, D.C. to New York.

My dad took the train from Philadelphia to New York for 15 years, and believe me, he’d be pleased with a half-hour commute as opposed to the 90 minutes it typically takes now.

This new vision consolidates some older plans for the Northeast Corridor, and the timeline is pretty gradual, with full implementation not expected until 2040. But California’s first-mover status certainly didn’t hurt, and I don’t think it’s any accident that Amtrak released this vision on the next business day.

Estimates expect a 30% increase in population in the NEC by 2030, and therefore a need to increase transit opportunities. The region, with its megalopolises close enough to one another to be reachable by rail, is perfectly suited for HSR.

Because of the long lead time, Amtrak believes the plan is feasible if implemented gradually. But the key is finding the funding through federal, state and local investment. That will be challenging, and without California’s leadership, I submit that Amtrak wouldn’t even make the attempt.

The report suggests that “the proposed Amtrak Gateway Program to improve travel to and through New York City via new tunnels under the Hudson River and the expansion of the Moynihan Station and Penn Station terminal complex is essential to the entire NEC network.” This is the tunnel that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie nixed in 2010, before he whined this week that the best way to create jobs is with infrastructure investment.