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NYS Getting Another $28M for Upstate Rail Projects

Fri November 05, 2010 - Northeast Edition

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) New York will receive another $28 million for railroad projects upstate in the latest round of federal funding aimed at improving the nation’s rail infrastructure for high-speed trains, officials announced Oct. 28.

U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced in Iowa City, Iowa, that $2.4 billion in nationwide rail grants will go to 54 projects in 23 states, with California and Florida getting more than $1.7 billion between them.

The Syracuse area will get $18.5 million of New York’s $28.4 million, according to members of New York’s congressional delegation. Most of that will be used for signal upgrades at a suburban rail yard and to improve Onondaga County’s transportation center, home to the city’s Amtrak station and a bus depot.

The rest of the money, nearly $10 million, will go toward upgrading signal systems in the Hudson Valley and preliminary engineering work to replace a 144-year-old bridge that carries Amtrak trains over the Hudson River in Albany.

The second round of funding follows the previously announced $151 million in federal stimulus money New York is getting for high-speed rail projects across Amtrak’s Empire Corridor, stretching from New York City to Niagara Falls.

Rep. Louise Slaughter, a Rochester-area Democrat who has pushed for better rail service in upstate New York for years, said many of the projects are set to start in the coming months.

“Next spring, I think you’ll see a lot of movement,” she said Oct. 28.

The projects are part of the state’s ongoing high-speed rail initiative to improve Amtrak passenger service between Manhattan and Niagara Falls and between Albany and Montreal. State transportation officials have said the goal is to increase train passenger train speeds from the current maximum of 79 mph to 110 mph, and eventually to 150 mph.

The plan includes adding a second track between Albany’s Amtrak station in Rensselaer and the Schenectady station, a 12-mi. stretch plagued by bottlenecks because the current single track has to be shared by passenger and freight trains.

Slaughter called adding the second track “absolutely critical.”

“It’s one of the first things we’ll take care of,” she said in a telephone interview from Buffalo.

Work on the second track is scheduled to begin next summer and is expected to be completed two years later, said Stanley Gee, New York state’s transportation commissioner.

On Oct. 27, Amtrak executives and New York officials joined Gee at the Rensselaer station across the river from Albany to announce the impending demolition of two old buildings next to the new station, which opened in 2002. The demolition will allow the eventual installation of a fourth track that will help improve operations at Amtrak’s ninth busiest station, officials said.

The Albany station work wasn’t included in the funding announced Oct. 28. Neither was the money local officials sought for replacing Schenectady’s aging Amtrak station. Democratic Congressman Paul Tonko of Amsterdam said he and local officials will look for other funding for the Rensselaer and Schenectady projects.

Slaughter said Rochester has gotten $1.5 million from the first round of stimulus funding to design a new station to replace the city’s rundown, 32-year-old Amtrak station. That project also is expected to begin next year, she said.

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