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Sen. Schumer urges NY DOT, CSX to move forward on high-speed rail

(The following story by Eric Anderson appeared on the Albany Times-Union website on May 4, 2010.)

ALBANY, N.Y. — U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer is urging the state Department of Transportation and CSX Transportation to agree on a plan to speed up passenger trains across upstate New York. New York state has received $151 million for various projects to allow faster trains, but CSX and DOT haven’t agreed on how fast those trains should go, or how far apart the passenger and freight tracks should be.

DOT wants 110-mph passenger trains. CSX, citing safety concerns, wants the top speed to be 90 mph unless a separate, sealed corridor is built at least 30 feet away from the freight tracks.

Their dispute was the subject of a business story in the Sunday Times Union.

“High speed rail is too important to the Upstate economy to let disputes about details get in the way,” Schumer said in a press release. “With unemployment hovering near 10 percent, we can’t allow internal disputes to put at risk over $100 million that will go directly to economic development and putting people to work today building the faster transportation system of the future.”

The state’s plan calls for a third track dedicated to passenger service to be built between Schenectady and Buffalo. A CSX official wrote to DOT Commissioner Stanley Gee reminding him of the conditions the state had agreed to in a memorandum of understanding after state officials said publicly that they wanted 110 mph service. In the memorandum, the DOT had agreed to 90 mph service unless freight and passenger traffic were separated with the dedicated corridor.

Currently, the top speed that CSX, which owns the tracks, permits Amtrak trains to travel is 79 mph.

DOT spokeswoman Deborah Sturm Rausch said discussions between the DOT and CSX are ongoing. In addition to planning for improvements including the new corridor west of Schenectady, the money also would be used to construct a second high-speed track between Rensselaer and Schenectady, now a bottleneck for Amtrak trains.

An Environmental Impact Statement that will look at the environmental and safety impacts of 110 mph passenger train operation will be prepared, Rausch said.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

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