To directly respond to Mr. Tarheel's inquiry, if there is to be any serious initiative to establish or upgrade passenger service over a route, then the public agency sponsoring such had best be prepared to acquire that right of way. This is the only way to positively assure that the passenger trains will have priority and whatever freight operations remain will be conducted at the sufferance of such. The Northeast corridor is the best example of a public ROW acquisition. While the transaction between Conrail (yes, it WAS with Conrail and not PC) and Amtrak was essentially cash free (Amtrak "worked it off' by allowing freight access; it was roundly "paid off' by the '99 CR takeover).
Now I am mindful that there are "sixteen a day" Oakland-Sacramento ("twenty a day" Oakland Martinez) over a railroad owned ROW and that the Union Pacific has agreed to have publicly funded improvements made to support passenger traffic. No doubt, they have agreed to more stringent OTP provisions than they have regarding other Amtrak operations. However, there is an "alt route' for freight over the Western Pacific. Also of note, there are "six a day' over the BNSF Stockton-Bakersfield - again railroad owned.
Some could say that this Central California initiative indicates there can be railroad-passenger agency cooperation; to my best knowledge, these trains all run "more or less" on time. But I am really speculating now, somehow the California passenger agency will not consider the job to be done until they acquire these ROW's.
As I've noted, even if I was at first skeptical in view of previous initiatives' outcomes, I'm "pleased as punch" to learn the additional Illinois trains are "doing OK" and that the "broke" State has continued to find the wherewithal to fund such. However I still hold that to have a REAL initiative, Illinois should be considering (no doubt they are - well considering) acquisition of the GM&O and MILW to enable a Milwaukee St Louis corridor.
In closing, if there is to be real passenger service initiatives, where the service speed is 110 or higher instead of 79, and where options such as electrification can be considered, then the ROW must be in public hands.
But, remember "The Fifth' as Mr. Mudlake notes; allow myself to note there is more to it than Tony Soprano "on the stand' saying "I plea the Fifth'.