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State applies for railroad funds

State applies for railroad funds

The state is seeking federal money to plan for replacement of the century-old rail bridge between Re

The state is seeking federal money to plan for replacement of the century-old rail bridge between Rensselaer and Albany, and to build the new Schenectady train-bus station.

The state Department of Transportation last week applied for $138.1 million in federal high-speed rail funding for 10 projects across the state, including six that would improve Capital Region railroad facilities.

A fourth track at the Albany-Rensselaer Amtrak station is on the list submitted to the Federal Railroad Administration, as are major track improvements in Saratoga and Montgomery counties.

Any new grants would be in addition to the $151 million for high-speed rail development awarded to the state last year from federal stimulus money. That funding included money for the long-sought second rail between Schenectady and Albany, to clear an existing rail bottleneck.

“We are seeking these grants, in addition to the $151 million already received, to further assist our efforts to modernize our rail infrastructure, increase the speed and reliability of passenger rail service, reduce travel times, strengthen our freight rail system and create and maintain jobs across the state,” Gov. David A. Paterson said in a statement.

aging bridge

Regarding the critical Lexington Avenue Bridge across the Hudson, the state seeks $2 million in federal money toward a $4 million project to do engineering work and environmental studies toward a replacement.

The bridge, which was originally built in 1866 and rebuilt in 1901, crosses the river just north of the Rensselaer station and brings trains through Albany. The center span is on a turntable that can be rotated to let large ships pass.

If it had to close due to age, it would interrupt all rail service between New York City and upstate cities, DOT officials noted.

The other applications fall under criteria in which the federal government would pay 80 percent of costs.

The state seeks $10.44 million in federal funds toward the $13.05 million estimated cost to complete final design and then build the new passenger rail station in downtown Schenectady. The state and the Capital District Transportation Authority would pay the rest of the cost.

On the funding request list:

u A fourth track at the Albany-Rensselaer station, with the state asking for $34.31 million of a $43 million project. The additional rail would reduce delays, while other improvements would lift the 30 mph speed restriction on trains approaching the station.

u Improvements in the signal system between Albany and New York City, where the signal system is 30 years old and prone to outages. DOT seeks $8 million toward the $10 million project.

u $5.85 million is requested for track and signal improvements to ease congestion on the rails in Montgomery, Herkimer and Oneida counties, where the Empire Corridor passenger line runs. It is also the state’s busiest freight corridor.

u $4.72 million is sought for final design and upgrades to 23 miles of track through Schenectady and Saratoga counties to Fort Edward. The upgrades would allow passenger trains on the Adirondack Corridor to increase their speed from 60 mph to 79 mph.

The state is also seeking money for major congestion relief work in the Syracuse area and to build a new Niagara Falls railroad station at a redeveloped historic 1863 customs house.

All the projects are consistent with the New York State Rail Plan approved in 2009.

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