Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Amtrak takes charge of Empire Corridor stretch

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Delayed by one month at least in part due to Hurricane Sandy, Amtrak and the state of New York announced Tuesday Amtrak assumed control from CSX Corp. of the Empire Corridor right-of-way between Schenectady and Poughkeepsie, N.Y, which also includes Albany, the state capital.

Amtrak formally began leasing the roughly 85-mile stretch on Dec. 1, with dispatching moving from CSX's Selkirk Yard to Amtrak's Command and Conrol Center in New York. Amtrak owns a short stretch of the Empire Corridor in Manhattan, running from Penn Station to the Spuyten Duyvil swing bridge linking Manhattan and the Bronx by rail, where the route merges with Metro-North's Hudson Line. Metro-North controls the right-of-way between the bridge and Poughkeepsie.

Amtrak also already controlled a 9-mile stretch of right-of-way west of Schenectady to Hoffmans, N.Y., according to the Empire State Passengers Association, a grassroots advocacy group.

"With this historic agreement, Amtrak and our state partners can now move forward together and begin work on key infrastructure projects to enhance passenger rail travel in New York State," Amtrak President and CEO Joe Boardman said.

Amtrak and New York State are in the initial stages of implementing improvements to the Empire Corridor to improve speed and address some capacity issues. Plans include a second track between Schenectady and Albany, which has been postponed for decades, and building a fourth track to increase platform access at Albany-Rensselaer Station, Amtrak's fifth-busiest station. Grade crossing and signal improvements are also planned.

Amtrak hits a top speed of 110 mph between Albany and Hudson, N.Y. but plans also call for increasing current speeds on more of the right-of-way.

For its part, "CSX is very pleased that it could work with New York State and Amtrak on this historic agreement that establishes the foundation for even stronger rail connections between metropolitan and upstate New York. We look forward to working with Amtrak as it takes on responsibility for operations on the Hudson Line between Hoffmans and Poughkeepsie," said Louis Renjel, CSX's vice president-strategic infrastructure. "The agreement also ensures that CSX will have the ability to continue providing efficient, economical and environmentally beneficial freight rail service to customers and communities on the line."

CSX will pay Amtrak $1.5 million a year for use of the track by its freight trains, plus additional fees based on the number of freight cars and other usage by CSX. The agreement covers a 25-year period with an option to extend it another 23 years.

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