FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 25, 2009
SCHUMER: CSX READY AND WILLING TO WORK WITH NEW YORK STATE TO MAKE HIGH SPEED RAIL A REALITY
U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer met today with CSX Chief Executive Officer Michael Ward in Washington, D.C. to discuss the importance of high speed rail in Upstate New York and to push for CSX's active cooperation in developing this initiative. Schumer urged CSX to actively partner with New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT), as well as members of the congressional and state delegations and the Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, to ensure the state is able to take advantage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act’s (ARRA) $8 billion pot of high speed rail funding. Schumer, along with many of New York’s elected officials, hope to attract ARRA funds to the Empire Rail Corridor- the 430 mile corridor which runs from Niagara Falls to Albany, and down to New York City.
“Because they own the rights-of-way, CSX's participation is fundamental to building a better, faster and more reliable passenger rail system from Niagara to Albany and beyond,” said Schumer. “CSX indicated a willingness to work with the state so that all parties will benefit from an upgrade to high speed passenger rail. This is the first stop on a long journey, but it is a terrific first step. I am very optimistic that all parties are committed to working together and that we can start moving down the track that will lead us to fast, efficient and affordable rail in Upstate New York.”
NYSDOT commissioned a study to assess the feasibility of a adding a third, dedicated track for passenger rail alongside the existing track of the Empire Corridor. The resulting analysis identified the possibility of constructing a third track to accommodate a high-speed diesel train, dedicated solely to passenger rail, to run from Niagara Falls to Albany, reaching speeds of 110 miles per hour. Noting that CSX owns the right-of-ways where this track would be constructed, and that leasing or purchasing agreement would have to be made, Schumer secured a commitment from the CSX CEO that he would work in cooperation with New York State as plans develop.
CSX indicated a willingness to work with the state in such a way that all parties will benefit from an upgrade to high speed passenger rail. Ward did note, however, that the planning stages are still in their infancy. Schumer promised the CEO that he will convene future meetings of every involved party in the state as a way to ensure that everyone is clear on what needs to be done to bring high speed rail to Upstate New York.
In the meeting Schumer also noted that his first priority for Upstate New York rail is to ensure the Empire Rail Corridor be brought to a state of good repair, and he pledged to work with all the relevant parties to ensure the state can make the most out of ARRA’s funding pots. Schumer raised two particularly important and shorter-term projects that are critical to unclogging congestion along the Empire Rail Corridor: adding double track between Schenectady and Rensselaer to alleviate a frustrating bottleneck, and making important infrastructure upgrades to the Livington Avenue Bridge- a CSX-owned railroad bridge over the Hudson River that connects Albany and Rensselaer. Schumer said that the CEO promised would be cooperative in advancing both projects, which are included on Governor David Paterson’s New York State Rail Plan.