Hurdle cleared for 2nd rail line

Agreements announced Friday should clear the way for work to start next year on the second railroad

Agreements announced Friday should clear the way for work to start next year on the second railroad track between Albany and Schenectady and other rail improvements.

The agreements between rail companies and government agencies will free up $149 million in federal funding for high-speed rail projects that will include the second track between the region’s largest cities, a fourth loading platform track at the Rensselaer Amtrak station, and passenger platform improvements at the Schenectady station.

The money was appropriated by Congress in 2009 and 2010, but spending has been held up until CSX Railroad, Amtrak, the state Department of Transportation and the Federal Railroad Administration reached agreements on leasing, operations and maintenance of new facilities.

“I’m thrilled that everyone has signed off on this deal, and can’t wait to see the construction begin,” said U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y.

Congresswoman Louise M. Slaughter, D-Rochester, co-chair of the Congressional High-Speed and Passenger Rail Caucus, said work on the second track could begin as soon as spring.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provided $91.2 million for the 17-mile second track, which will relieve a bottleneck in Amtrak’s upstate system. The project has been sought by rail travel advocates for many years, because a single track now must accommodate freight and passenger traffic between the cities.

“For years trains traveling across the state have been delayed because of the congestion caused in these 20 miles,” Slaughter said.

Under the agreement, state DOT will administer final design and construction of the new track, along with associated improvements to grade crossings, bridges, controls and switches. The project will reduce delays and improve reliability on the Empire Corridor route, Schumer said.

Other projects

The agreements also allow the spending of $58.1 million in federal funds on other local rail improvements. Among them:

u The fourth track at the Abany-Rensselaer Amtrak station, now in final design. It will allow faster service with fewer delays in and out of the station, which is Amtrak’s ninth-busiest.

u A new platform and track layout at the Schenectady station, off State Street and Erie Boulevard. “This project will play into a larger scope of the revitalization of Schenectady station and downtown Schenectady, while promoting ridership for Amtrak’s intercity passenger rail service,” Schumer said.

u New underground signal wires will be installed on the Hudson Line between Poughkeepsie and Rensselaer, replacing worn overhead wires that sometimes fail, causing delays and safety concerns on the busy New York City-Rensselaer route.

Categories: Schenectady County

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