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New York seeking $11.6 billion in stimulus money to develop empire corridor

(The following appeared on the Empire State News website on October 6, 2009.)

ALBANY, N.Y. — Governor David Paterson announced that the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) has applied for $11.6 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funding to improve high-speed rail service along the Empire Corridor between New York City and Niagara Falls.

The ARRA grants will be awarded by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and would support the State’s high-speed intercity passenger rail initiative. The initiative would substantially upgrade the existing 460-mile Empire Corridor, modernize locomotives and cars used by Amtrak, and make other rail infrastructure improvement throughout the State. Rail stations along the corridor also would be upgraded.

“This application for economic recovery funds builds on the State rail plan unveiled earlier this year and is in line with President Obama’s vision for high-speed rail service across our country,” Governor Paterson said. “This funding will support a vigorous program of high-speed rail improvements that will promote economic development and job creation throughout Upstate New York, as well as energy and environmental benefits in the years ahead.”

The State’s high-speed intercity passenger rail plan is aimed at increasing the frequency of trips between major cities and reducing the travel times, as well as increasing speeds and improving on-time performance to make passenger rail service the first-choice mode of travel connecting our primary population centers. Some of the key initiatives include: additional mainline capacity between Schenectady and Buffalo; acquisition and rehabilitation of rail cars to support increased Amtrak service; and operational improvements between Schenectady and Poughkeepsie.

In addition to improvements on the Empire Corridor, the program also would result in benefits to Amtrak rail lines the Maple Leaf (New York City–Niagara Falls–Toronto), the Lake Shore Limited (New York City-Buffalo-Chicago), the Adirondack (New York City-Albany-Montreal) and Ethan Allen (New York City-Albany-Rutland, VT).

Under the application guidelines, grants must be used to target a group of projects that collectively advance the use of a corridor for high-speed intercity passenger rail service. A corridor program also must have independent utility and measurable public benefits. The State’s corridor program application was developed with its rail partner CSX Transportation, Amtrak and FRA.

The FRA will appropriate the grants from a discretionary program with $8 billion in ARRA funding, which will be allocated to states on a competitive basis for high-speed intercity passenger rail programs. In addition to the economic recovery funds for rail, President Obama has requested an annual high-speed rail appropriation of $1 billion for each of the next five years. The FRA and the federal Administration envision this program to be a multi-year, long-term commitment to high-speed rail comparable to the Interstate Highway Program created in the 1950s.

In March, the Governor released the 2009 New York State Rail Plan, the first comprehensive update on the State’s rail strategy in 22 years and a prerequisite for future federal funding for rail capital improvement projects. In August, the State presented a far-reaching package of rail projects to federal authorities for economic recovery funding totaling more than $561 million.

For more information on the high-speed rail application for economic recovery funds, please visit: www.nysdot.gov/recovery/sponsors/rail.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

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