Stimulus funds may aid local rail travel

The proposed federal stimulus package is expected to put on track a long-discussed second rail line

The proposed federal stimulus package is expected to put on track a long-discussed second rail line between Schenectady and Albany, local officials said on Friday.

The second line would eliminate a delay-causing bottleneck and would improve passenger rail and freight rail services between the two cities, officials said.

The Capital District Transportation Committee last week added the project to its list of regional programs. The rail line would be built using only federal economic stimulus package funds and would not be built using allocated money for existing projects, CDTC officials said.

The state Department of Transportation requested that the CDTC put the project on the list during its planning meeting on Wednesday. It said that the second rail line would stretch 18 miles between the two cities and would cost $60 million to build.

In a letter to the CDTC, DOT Region 1 Planning Manager Robert Hansen said the new track will improve passenger and freight rail operations “at this critical point.” Hansen wrote, “Reductions in delays … will improve service and make rail travel in the Empire Corridor more attractive.”

Schenectady Mayor Brian U. Stratton said the second rail line “would help to invigorate our economy and make us a more appealing destination.” The second line would tie into a new Amtrak station to be built at Erie Boulevard and State Street. The station also would tie in to bus service.

Stratton said the city has $5 million committed toward the project. The city is seeking another $8.7 million in federal stimulus money to finish the project.

Schenectady County Legislator Gary Hughes, D-Schenectady, called the proposed second rail line “phenomenal news for Schenectady. It would help the whole eastern end of the Capital Region by providing faster and better service.”

Stratton said the need for a second rail line between Albany and Schenectady has been a long-standing issue. The lack of a second track has “impeded the ability to travel more efficiently between the Schenectady station and New York City because you have to wait for trains to pass.”

Hughes said many people drive directly to the Rensselaer Amtrak station to board a train to New York City because the service is better. A second line would allow people to board in Schenectady and head straight to New York City without delay.

Ray Gillen, commissioner of the Schenectady County Department of Planning and Development, said the second rail line would also further develop the county’s industrial parks.

“Freight is very important for economic development. We have business parks with rail access, and it is good for our business parks in Rotterdam and Glenville,” he said.

The CDTC said the project could quickly be ready for bidding as soon as the federal stimulus money becomes available. The Senate has yet to approve President Barack Obama’s proposed package.

Categories: Schenectady County

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