Amtrak expects to power through a storm that is forecast to pummel the East Coast with snow and rain ahead of Thanksgiving, but the system is badly in need of infrastructure investment to make the nation's rails more reliable, the passenger railroad's CEO, Joseph Boardman, said Tuesday.
An average 750,000 passengers travel on Amtrak's system during the Thanksgiving season, Boardman told CNBC's "Squawk Box." Forecasts call for a nor'easter to descend on Eastern states late Wednesday, which could cause delays on Amtrak's heavily trafficked Northeast Corridor.
"We're going to be able to operate and move people, and we appreciate the fact it will be difficult for all the travelers," he said.
Read More Nor'easter may snarl Thanksgiving travel
However, Boardman cautioned that U.S. rail infrastructure dates to the Civil War and earlier, and there are multiple areas where a single point of failure could shut down service to New York City. That would cost the corridor region $100 million per day, according to the Northeast Corridor Commission.
Amtrak is also facing chronic delays in the Chicago area due to congestion caused in part by growth in commercial rail traffic. Boardman estimated that rail cars carrying oil have increased from about 10,000 units in 2009 to roughly 600,000 today.
Correction: This version corrected that a service shutdown to New York City could cost the entire Northeast Corridor region $100 million a day.