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NY’s high speed rail chief quits over governor’s “lies”

(The following story by Brendan Scott appeared on the New York Post website on April 19, 2010.)

ALBANY, N.Y. — Gov. Paterson's high-speed rail effort ground to a screeching halt last week after the program's chief quit in disgust amid claims of lies and chaos, The Post has learned.

High-speed rail director Ann Purdue announced her resignation Tuesday in the wake of clashes with the administration over a sudden policy shift that "poisoned" critical talks with CSX, the railroad that owns much of New York's passenger track, one Department of Transportation insider said.

"She is leaving because of the lies which Gov. Paterson and his deputy for transportation and infrastructure, Timmy Gilchrist, have told CSX," the source said.

The abrupt departure of Purdue, whose arrival from the Virginia Attorney General's Office was announced with great fanfare last year, casts doubt on state efforts to spend $151 million in federal stimulus money to speed Amtrak service between New York City and Buffalo, Albany and Montreal.

Her resignation came just days after US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood joined acting Transportation Commissioner Stanley Gee in Rochester to boast that high-speed rail projects would save upstate's moribund economy.

Purdue, who earned $125,000 a year, could not be reached for comment. DOT spokeswoman Deborah Strum Rausch confirmed Purdue's pending April 30 resignation, but could not explain why she decided to leave.

"She's certainly done a wonderful job while she's been here," Rausch said, insisting the high-speed rail program is still on track. "We are moving forward with all of those plans."

Relations between state officials and CSX were running smoothly as recently as the fall, when the state inked an agreement not to push passenger trains faster than 90 mph on tracks shared by freight. Trains now reach top speeds of 79 mph between Albany and Buffalo.

Talks unraveled in February after administration officials -- over the objections of Purdue -- suddenly demanded train speeds of 110 mph, sources said.

The DOT insider said the speed issue has "just poisoned the relationship between CSX and the state. There's been virtually no movement on anything since."

Monday, April 19, 2010

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