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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 5, 2009

ON EVE OF CRITICAL STATE APPLICATION FOR STIMULUS RAIL FUNDING, SCHUMER RATCHETS UP HIS EFFORT TO BRING HIGH SPEED RAIL TO UPSTATE NY; HIGHLIGHTS NEED FOR THIRD TRACK ALONG EMPIRE CORRIDOR


In July, NYSDOT Submitted to Feds the Pre-Application for Rail Infrastructure Funding Through Recovery Act, Final Application for First Phase Funding is Due in August

In Letter to Federal DOT Commissioner, Schumer Goes To Bat for High Speed Rail In NYS, Highlights Importance of Dedicated Third Track Along Empire Corridor Connecting Albany to Niagara Falls

Schumer to Feds: As We Enter Critical Decision-making Stage, Financing Faster and More Frequent Rail Travel in Upstate New York is My #1 Rail Stimulus Priority

Today, in a continuing effort to bring high speed rail to Upstate New York, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer wrote to Department of Transportation head Ray LaHood aggressively supporting New York State’s pre-application for high speed rail funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment ACT (ARRA).  He expressed to federal DOT that this was his number one priority and specifically requested that New York receive the highest level of funding for a dedicated third track that would run along the Empire Corridor, a 430 mile route that connects Albany, Schenectady, Utica, Syracuse, Rochester, Buffalo, and Niagara Falls.  Currently, Amtrak passenger trains share the existing track with CSX, and in doing so are unable to reach speeds higher than 79 miles per hour.  With the construction of a separate track, for use solely by passenger trains, Amtrak will be able to reach higher speeds on the Empire Corridor.

New York’s Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) submitted its pre-application to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) in July highlighting its need for improved rail infrastructure to enable Upstate New Yorkers to travel across the state in a safe and efficient manner. Schumer said that obtaining funding for the third track, along which trains could run up to 110 miles per hour or more, is his highest rail priority.

 

“We are at the beginning of a new age for high speed rail, and we must be sure that Upstate New York is not left out,” said Schumer. “This is my #1 rail-stimulus priority; a dedicated third track along the Empire Corridor is a critical piece of the puzzle that will connect major cities throughout Upstate New York, and potentially make the dream of high speed rail a reality. I urge the FRA to support New York State’s pre-application for funding and work with them to improve their full application in the fall to ensure that New York State gets its fair share of funding.”

 

Schumer has been working with all involved parties – CSX, the White House, the congressional delegation and New York State – to make high speed rail a reality.  He met with CSX CEO Michael Ward this past March and pressed CSX, which owns the rights-of-way on the Empire Corridor, to negotiate in good faith to advance the third track initiative. 

 

In his letter to DOT Secretary Ray LaHood, Schumer said that although NYSDOT’s pre-application was a preliminary means of informing FRA of the State’s proposed high speed rail projects, he hopes that FRA will be supportive of the funding requests and help them improve upon their requests when it is time for the formal applications to be submitted this month.

 

A full copy of the letter is below

 

Dear Secretary LaHood:

 

I write to express my full support for New York State Department of Transportation’s (NYSDOT) applications for high speed rail funding for Upstate New York from the American Recovery and Reinvestment ACT (ARRA).  Upstate New York is poised to improve its rail infrastructure, and NYSDOT submitted a pre-application to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) on July 10, 2009 to start this process.  The pre-application included a variety of rail projects that will be instrumental to improving Upstate New Yorkers’ ability to traverse the state in an efficient and safe manner, and I would like to highlight the application for a dedicated, separate passenger rail track along the Empire Corridor as my number one priority for rail-stimulus funding.

 

Upstate New York is an ideal location for high speed rail infrastructure.  The state is densely populated, and the moderate distances between cities like Niagara Falls, Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Utica, and Albany make it time-consuming to travel by car, but inefficient to travel by plane.  High speed rail would provide a perfect middle ground by which Upstate New Yorkers could partake in business and leisure travel, all the while spurring local Upstate economies with their presence.

 

NYSDOT has multiple rail projects for Upstate New York that were included in the pre-application.  I would like to stress the importance of securing funding for the so-called “third track” which would run adjacent to CSX Corporation’s existing freight line on the Empire Corridor.  Currently, Amtrak passenger trains share the existing track with CSX, and in doing so are unable to reach speeds higher than 79 miles per hour.  With the construction of a separate track, for use solely by passenger trains, Amtrak will be able to reach higher speeds on the Empire Corridor.

 

It is also important that NYSDOT reduce the bottleneck on the Empire Corridor that stagnates passenger trains in the Capital Region, and that service from the south of Albany to New York City be made more efficient with important projects like upgrades to signal systems.  The Adirondack Corridor, while not an officially designated high speed rail corridor, will also benefit greatly from improvements to its infrastructure to ensure faster, safer, and more efficient trips for passengers.

 

I understand that NYSDOT’s pre-application was a preliminary means of engaging FRA on the State’s proposed high speed rail projects, and that formal applications will be submitted later this summer and into the fall.  In the meantime, I ask that FRA be supportive of NYSDOT’s funding requests, while also helping to guide NYSDOT in the ways by which they can improve their funding requests when it is time for the formal applications to be submitted.

 

Thank you for your attention to Upstate New York’s request to obtain much-needed and deserved high speed rail funding.  If you have any questions or need additional information please contact my Washington, DC office.

 

Sincerely,

 

Charles E. Schumer

United States Senator

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