Monday, March 09, 2009

New York State unveils sweeping rail plan

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Gov. David A. Paterson Monday released the 2009 New York State Rail Plan with a "comprehensive strategy forsupporting freight and intercity passenger rail service."

The plan includes “an inventoryof freight and passenger rail system infrastructure needs in New York Statetotaling more than $10.7 billion over the next 20 years. “ It also outlinespriorities for the award of funds from the $9.3 billion dedicated to intercityrail in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, as well as funds that willbe included in the reauthorized Federal Transportation Act that’s due next Oct.1.

Patterson was joined by StateDOT Commissioner Astrid Glynn in announcing the plan, which they described in astatement as “providing the first comprehensive update of the state’s railstrategy in 22 years and fulfilling requirements for federal funding for railcapital improvements."

The plan lists these specificgoals:

“Doubling the number of intercity rail passengers along New York’s three major corridors:New York City to Albany, Albany to Niagara Falls and Albany to Montreal, as well as strategies to increase reliability on all three corridors.

"Providingfrequent and convenient passenger rail service connecting cities across theState as an energy and time-saving alternative to driving or flying. 

"Achievingon-time performance of at least 95 % between Albany and New York City.

“Improvingrail service between Albany and Niagara Falls, with connections in Utica,Syracuse and Rochester. (The Plan also includes a Third Track Initiative, forwhich funding has not been identified, which would establish a dedicated newtrack for high speed passenger rail service from Niagara Falls to Albany.)

“Shorteningthe travel time for rail service between Albany and Montreal. Currently, trainstake about eight hours to make that trip. The s goal is to reduce that time to6.5 hours.

“Establishingnew passenger service where viable, such as between Saratoga and Albany, NiagaraFalls and Buffalo, and Binghamton and New York City.

“Increasingfreight rail usage by 25% to reduce growth of truck traffic and energyconsumption.

“Allowingmodern freight cars to access the New York City metro area and Long Island alongroutes east of the Hudson River.

“Addingat least three new intermodal facilities/inland ports across the state to servethe rapidly growing container segment of rail traffic, which will help removelong-haul trucks from highways and deliver products to consumers faster.

“Creatingthe first ‘green’ short line fleet in the nation.” 

Excludingthe third track initiative, the “priority” infrastructure projects areestimated to cost $671 million over the next five years and are expected to beeligible for federal funding assistance.

House Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), a longtime rail advocate, commented: “Today’s announcement ofa state rail plan is truly historic. For decades, I have worked on this issueand have long awaited a forward-looking and comprehensive policy to guide andimprove the region’s vast rail network. This is big news for both passengersand freight, and it could have a major, lasting effect on our economy.”