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MBTA, Amtrak say they expect to end Northeast Corridor fight

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority and Amtrak say they’re on track to end a heated legal dispute. Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

By Adam Vaccaro Globe Staff 

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority and Amtrak say they’re on track to end a heated legal dispute that, at its peak, saw Amtrak threaten to cut Massachusetts out of its highly trafficked Northeast Corridor rail service.

The MBTA sued Amtrak in January, after the federally subsidized transit service demanded the T pay nearly $30 million per year to help maintain the railway between the Rhode Island border and South Station as part of a new multi-state policy. The MBTA said it did not need to pay Amtrak, because a 2003 contract that said Amtrak could use the MBTA-owned tracks for free if it handled certain service and maintenance costs.

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The T and Amtrak said in a Wednesday court filing that they are close to a peace accord. They expect to reach terms on a new agreement governing the “going-forward relationship with respect to operation of trains and related work” on the tracks before the holidays and to finalize it by Feb. 1, settling the case, they said.

MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo said the agency would not comment on the details of a possible deal while settlement discussions are ongoing. Amtrak did not respond to a request for comment.

The parties also said in the filing they expect to soon settle counterclaims made by Amtrak in August, which said the MBTA owed Amtrak $175,000 for engineering, maintenance, and construction work the T had agreed to pay for.

Amtrak said at the time that the alleged missed payments “could potentially jeopardize Amtrak’s ability to provide rail service in Massachusetts,” a seeming threat to eliminate Northeast Corridor service to Boston.

Apart from the legal wrangling, the T earlier this year publicly criticized Amtrak when Amtrak equipment problems led to MBTA commuter rail delays and cancellations out of South Station. State Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack has suggested that the T could fine Amtrak for the problems as part of a new agreement over the use of the T’s tracks.

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Pollack and Governor Charlie Baker met with Amtrak chief executive Wick Moorman during a trip to Washington, DC last month, where they discussed the lawsuit.

“The governor and secretary were pleased to meet with the new CEO of Amtrak to discuss the Commonwealth’s infrastructure and rail needs and ongoing relationship with federal transit officials,” Baker spokesman William Pitman said in a statement.

The Northeast Corridor connects Boston, New York, Washington, DC, and other major east coast cities. South Station is the sixth most trafficked station in the US for Amtrak, according to its website.


Adam Vaccaro can be reached at adam.vaccaro@globe.com
Follow him on Twitter at @adamtvaccaro.