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Pols on track to bring rail system up to speed

(The following article by Joe Mahoney was posted on the New York Daily News website on January 11.)

ALBANY, N.Y. -- The train ride from New York City to Albany could be cut to a zippy two hours under a plan engineered by Republican state senators.

"People are realizing that an updated rail system in New York State makes a great deal of economic sense," said Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Queens), a member of a high-speed rail task force created by Senate GOP leader Joe Bruno (R-Rensselaer).

The task force is calling for a single state authority to take responsibility for the roughly 150 miles of track between the city and Albany now overseen by CSX, Amtrak and Metro-North.

Such a move would make both Amtrak and freight runs far more efficient and reliable by unifying the signals and switches, the task force said.

The trip is supposed to take 2-1/2 hours, but 40% of the trains are late, statistics show.
The panel issued a report last week calling for an immediate investment of $22 million to create the new authority and make track improvements so that service could be speeded up by 2008.

Ultimately, the Senate wants the federal government to pay 80% of an $1.8 billion statewide rail upgrade that would convert the system to high-speed trains and encourage the production of rail cars by New York manufacturers. However, the request comes at a time when Amtrak's future is clouded.

As Padavan sees it, such an investment is crucial for New York to regain its competitive footing. "Our rail system has been left to flounder, despite the fact that we have some of the best transportation experts in the industry right here in our state," the senator said.
Bruno's rail study group has already begun talks with CSX, a freight line, and Amtrak on ways to realign how the tracks are managed.

The task force estimates that bringing high-speed rail to New York could create 12,000 construction jobs and boost the state's economic output by $2 billion a year.

Neither CSX nor Amtrak returned calls seeking comment.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

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