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N.Y. official criticizes Tuboliner delays, cost overruns

(The Associated Press circulated the following article on June 12.)

ALBANY, N.Y. -- A project aimed at modernizing passenger trains between New York City and Buffalo has fallen behind schedule and over-budget, according to state Comptroller Alan Hevesi.

Hevesi released three audits Thursday that show the state Department of Transportation project on Amtrak's Empire Corridor is $21 million over budget and years behind schedule. In the five years since the Turboliner modernization project began, $51.5 million dollars have been spent and two of the seven trains planned are in service.

''The millions spent for train modernization will not make travel noticeably faster until $140 million in improvements are made to tracks, signals and grade crossings,'' Hevesi added. ''Neither DOT nor Amtrak appear to have plans in place or funds identified to complete the necessary work, so it is as if they are creating Formula One race cars to drive on city streets.''

Phone calls to Amtrak and DOT officials seeking comment were not immediately returned.

Auditors examining the causes of the delays cited weaknesses in project management by the DOT and a lack of experience with both the DOT and Super Steel Schenectady Inc., who was contracted for the project.

Refurbished Turboliners can reach speeds of 125 miles per hour, but officials estimate $140 million in improvements to tracks, signals and grade crossings are needed to allow the trains to travel that fast.

Currently, most trains serving the Empire Corridor operate between 75 and 95 miles per hour.

Friday, June 13, 2003

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