New rail track between Albany, Schenectady is ridiculously overpriced
In the beginning of February, the media announced that CSX Transportation would be installing 18 miles of second track on its river line (on the west side of the Hudson River between Selkirk and northern New Jersey). This line was originally double-tracked, but when business fell off during the late 1950s, it was single-tracked for most of its length. Now, because of increased traffic, CSX is planning on installing an additional 18 miles, at a cost of $26 million.
The 18 miles CSX proposes to construct is several miles longer than the length of second track pending installation between Rensselaer and Schenectady as part of the stimulus package to eliminate a bottleneck for passenger trains in our area.
Back in 2000, according to Capital District Transportation Committee REVEST reports, the projected cost of adding a double track between Rensselaer and Schenectady was $14 million. At one time, this section of railroad supported four tracks, all but one of which was removed by the 1970s. Its present width and the creek culverts and underpasses under the present rail line are still built for a four-track line. However, the cost of the Rensselaer-Schenectady second track project, to get under way this spring, now has a price tag of $90 million.
[It] is way out of line, based on comparisons to the CDTC’s projected price in 2000 (even considering inflation) and the proposed cost of the CSX river line’s longer second track planned for this year. I believe the high cost of projects like the Rensselaer-Schenectady second track are the result of contractors and consultants overinflating bids for government projects.
The rebuilding of the turbo trains at Super Steel is another example. After the state invested upwards of $70 million, we recently read where the projects were cut up and hauled away as scrap. Whether the plan was to not provide oversight so that the contractor (Super Steel) had carte blanche in the contract, or whether this was the Department of Transportation’s [DOT] incompetence, is unclear. But Super Steel did not know what they were doing and DOT had no way to monitor the situation and address any problems that might have come up. This is a prime example of where contractors didn’t want responsible government staff to be in control of the project.
Because worthwhile projects to improve passenger rail will cost so much due to contractors and consultants bleeding the projects, we may ultimately not be able to afford their completion and realize their benefits. Please, Gov. Cuomo, don’t let this happen again here in New York state.
Thomas J. Coates
The writer is a former Empire State Passenger Association delegate for the Capital District Transportation Committee REVEST Group.
Reflections on a tragic day in Boston
What a sad day for America — what took place in Boston April 15. America has changed not for the better since 9/11.
In my opinion, TV networks should not be allowed to bring “major tragedy” into our living rooms for most of the day. They should have 10 or 15 minutes to give the news, then have everyone wait for the regular news hour.
Another thing we should do is not allow backpacks to be carried by anyone anymore.
We should also continue to have the most advanced and strongest armed forces in the world. We are living in trying times, and have to be ready for anything that takes place that may harm our country.
We should ask our [allies] for all the help they can give us.
God bless our country.
Bravo for Saratoga school board’s stance on testing
Thank you for your April 10 front-page article [“Schools reject reliance on tests”] on the New York state standardized tests.
Bravo to the Saratoga Springs Board of Education and superintendent for having the insight and courage to confront the state Education Department’s overreliance on these tests to the detriment of students and schools.
As a recently retired middle school principal, it is refreshing to see the Gazette spotlight a school district where the leadership is truly focused on the best interests of educating the students and assessing them with a much more balanced approach.
I would encourage other school districts to follow Saratoga’s lead and speak out to advocate for their students rather than simply comply with the state Education Department’s politically motivated mandates.
Heating bills up; so much for global warming!
Re April 10 letter, “Whatever happened to ‘global warming’?”: Was I the only one who breathed a colossal sigh of relief when I read on these pages that Bob Nicolella’s heating bill increased this winter, thus putting an end to all that pesky chatter about global warming?
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