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N.Y. fast-train plan picks up speed

(The following article by Cathy Woodruff was posted on the Albany Times-Union website on February 14.)

ALBANY, N.Y. -- A recently revived push to bring faster trains to upstate New York will gain new fuel from an $8 billion high-speed rail component in the federal economic stimulus bill, lawmakers said Friday.

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer said projects to improve the 430-mile Empire Corridor that runs from Buffalo to Albany to New York City and includes Rochester, Syracuse, Utica, Schenectady and Poughkeepsie will be prime candidates for funding from the stimulus package moving through Congress late Friday.

"The dream of high-speed rail that spans our state from Buffalo to New York City is one step closer to reality," Schumer said in a statement issued by his office. "We have an aging and ailing rail system in Upstate New York and this funding will be critical to the future of our transportation systems."

Support from several state lawmakers and members of Congress has recently rekindled enthusiasm for developing fast train service upstate.

Amtrak service on the Empire Corridor has long been plagued by delays, in part because the passenger trains must share tracks also used by freight trains. Highway grade crossings and other structural details also are obstacles to high-speed rail.

U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, said the rail money also may help fund a second track between Albany and Schenectady, now a bottleneck.

"Rail is the most efficient form of travel, and it fits into strategies for creating a comprehensive energy plan because it will take cars off the road, reducing congestion, pollution and saving fuel," Tonko said.

Schumer said the sorts of activities that could qualify for high-speed rail stimulus funding include:
• Acquiring, building, improving or inspecting equipment, track and facilities;
• Incidental work, such as designing, engineering, location surveys, mapping, environmental studies and acquiring rights-of-way;
• Highway rail-grade crossing improvements;
• Communication and signal improvements; and
• Rehabilitating, remanufacturing or overhauling passenger rail cars, locomotives and facilities.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

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