New York seeks high-speed rail funds

(The following story by Jill Terreri appeared on the Democrat and Chronicle website on August 24, 2009.)

ALBANY, N.Y. The next stage in New York's bid to secure funds for a high-speed rail line continues today, but about 40 other states are expected to take the same step.

The state will submit an application for a portion of $8 billion in stimulus funds, and it will likely be up against California, which has already borrowed money for high-speed rail, the Midwest-Chicago area, Texas, Georgia, Florida, Michigan and Louisiana, among others.

The state would like to build a third track alongside existing track between Buffalo and Albany, down to New York City and north to Montreal. Trains would travel at speeds of 110 miles per hour, which could increase to 150 mph with greater improvements.

New York has given its high-speed rail needs at least an $8.3 billion price tag, said state Department of Transportation spokesman Skip Carrier.

Even if the entire fund were given to New York, it wouldn't cover the total cost, and the state also has its eye on a yearly $1 billion allocation over the next five years included in the federal budget.

Despite the competition, Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-Fairport, is encouraged by the Federal Railway Administration's involvement with the state's grant application. Federal officials helped state officials construct the application, she said.

"We're 30 years behind on rail," Slaughter said during a visit with the editorial board of the Democrat and Chronicle last week. "As far as I'm concerned, it's part of national security, to make sure that the rail system is up, moving and adequate."

In addition to funding, the state must acquire rights-of-way owned by CSX. Those negotiations are ongoing, Carrier said.

New York has one of 10 rail corridors designated by the federal government as possibilities for high-speed rail.

Members of a group of upstate representatives in the House, convened by Slaughter, received $5 million in July spread out across upstate to improve crossings and other changes necessary for high-speed rail.

Monday, August 24, 2009

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