Like I said, you need to build a new 'corridor.' The 19th century one is beyond therapy. Expensive? Yes. Is the money there? NEC is the close to the largest concentration of corporate an personal wealth on the planet. AND they already favour the (relatively slow) train over the airlines. --> Hiper rich, captive market. Yes, it's worth it.
The train is favored over the airline largely because of price and the inconvenience of the airport (people traveling on coroporate business are at the whim of their company, often). A high-speed line would improve the time concern but the prices would almost certainly exceed airfare, which means companies would stop sending employees by train. AMTRAK's market share for NYC-WAS is around 70% of all rail/air travelers but their total numbers have remained relatively constant since 2012 at ~11.5 million. People are traveling less and less for business as the digital age makes the planet smaller and as the market shifts towards leisure travel, time/speed will matter less which will reduce much of the draw of a high-speed line. This is supported by both TGV's and Shinkansen's ridership numbers.
Can we please forget about the current lines and stations? You won't be using them for HSR. In France, Germany, Japan, Taiwan, Korea, China, etc. new infrastructure was built because it is the only way to do it and is totally worth it.
When was the infrastructure built in France and Germany? The bulk of new infrastructure in Asia is linking major, distant cities with few roads and low accessibility between them. That is considerably cheaper and easier than doing it in what you quoted as the largest concentration of corporate and personal wealth on the planet.
Not suggesting Amtrak is in a position to fix the old system. You need a new one. Refer to 1 and 2 above.
The NEC is one of the only places Amtrak makes any money (along with the awesome AutoTrain) which means it receives very little subsidy. If Amtrak doesn't pay for it, who else will?
Not sure what your image of European cities is. Yes, they're more compact, but the metro areas of London and Paris at 14Million and 12Million population respectively are bigger than nearly all US cities and relatively few live in the city centre. Yet, Paris - London city centre - city centre HSR has 85% of the market. Travellers in my example from DC to NY will typically be doing business and staying in a certain radius of the city centre, as they do in London and Paris. (I have lived in all four cities. Have you?)
Major European cities have several large train stations, which makes the size of the city MUCH smaller in the spirit my comment was intended. If London only had Waterloo Station and Paris only had Gard du Nord, you'd be right to compare the populations. Neither Americans nor Europeans live in large numbers in city centers, but the Europeans usually have a way of getting to their primary stations via mass transit, something that is severely lacking in the USA. Having to drive to a major terminus to catch a high-speed train is considerably more troublesome than being able to hop on a bus/metro as you can do in Europe.
You make the mistake of thinking I am proposing a self contained business case for a private venture. Nothing of the sort. This is a strategic infrastructure investment with a 10-25year pay back in GDP growth. No business can take that bet. That's what government is for: doing big things for the furtherment of civilisation; and it works and it produces GDP growth everywhere it has happened. The state sinks the costs of the dedicated line. The corporate sector sets up the services. Once profitable, this is opened to competition. This is the model in France and elsewhere.
I actually a PPP would be the only way a HSR line along the NEC would ever be built. No state, town, agency, or taxpayer is going to even consider footing the bill especially with the view Americans have on government (try telling a conservative that it's the government's job to "do big things").
Build a new dedicated high-speed track that is elevated in some parts bypassing level crossings and some stations. Heck, make it 400 kmh / 250 mph! If the average speed between WAS-NYP is 82 mph, then that's pathetic. IMO, from WAS-NYP the route should be: Washington Union-Baltimore Penn-Philadelphia 30th-NY Penn. (Yes cut out Newark Penn, that traffic can take regional. If they're catching a flight there, the can book a connection from DCA/IAD/BWI/PHL.
This is the real test for the rest of the nation, because this route is the most profitable, and would be even given a $20-25 billion investment in this type of dedicated rail.
Where would you put the new line? This area is the densest in the nation in terms of people, roads, business, and infrastructure. There's just no room because the country was built around cars and the interstate system. I agree with your routing, but if you want to use those stations you'd still have to build branches from your new line to those existing stations, which will slow trains considerably and for a long time going in/out of stations. There's no chance a new HSR line would cost 25 billion. Estimates in California, where their HSR is being analyzed and is much
easier to design/build (less dense population, fewer infrastructure concerns, etc), stand at around 103 million dollars per mile of track
. With the NYC-WAS line being around 220 miles, you're looking at 22.6 billion without all the consideration for new land, eminent domain, displacement of people/business/roads/etc or anything else. You say it would break even, but when? In 2011 (the last year I could find numbers for) Acela Express made a profit of 125 million (the NEC as a whole made a profit of 61 million). If we're conservative and say it costs 30 billion and even if I make the assumption that HSR is a roaring success and profits double, it will take 120 years
for the new NEC to turn a profit. By that time, it will be obscolete and new construction will have taken its place, increasing the break-even time considerably. Still a good idea?
Unfortunately, it will just never happen. Amtrak will continue to polish the turd that is the Acela Express but it will remain, at its crux, a turd.
Incidentally, I will be the happiest person alive if I am proven wrong - you're welcome to keep this post to shove down my throat - because as a rail signals engineer, I wish nothing more than to see rail (especially HSR) adopted here in the USA and especially where I grew up (NYC).