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CDTA eyes two new rapid routes

CDTA eyes two new rapid routes

The Capital District Transportation Authority will put more money behind plans for two new rapid-tra

The Capital District Transportation Authority will put more money behind plans for two new rapid-transit lines and a downtown Albany transit hub, according to its fiscal 2015 budget.

The CDTA board approved a $78.4 million operating budget for the fiscal year beginning April 1 to support its bus operations across the region, plus $20.3 million in capital spending.

“This year’s budget is more than numbers, it is a road map that will allow CDTA to pave the way for innovative service expansion and support increased ridership,” said CDTA board Chairman David Stackrow.

The operating budget is up 3.1 percent. It includes money to support recent expansions of service on the authority’s most popular routes. The authority expects to haul a near-record 16.3 million riders for the fiscal year that ends Monday.

The capital spending plan includes $3.7 million toward design and construction of a bus rapid-transit line linking Cohoes, Troy and Albany, plus $3.5 million for engineering and design work toward bringing a rapid-transit line to Albany’s Washington-Western avenues corridor.

Both lines could be launched as soon as 2016, though the Washington-Western project — which would have capital costs estimated at $65 million — will require receiving a major shot of federal funding.

“That’s our reasonable estimate,” authority CEO Carm Basile said of the proposed timetable.

The two new routes would build on CDTA’s success in attracting new riders with its BusPlus service between Schenectady and Albany, which it started in 2011.

The Albany intermodal station, being proposed on the site of the current Greyhound station on Broadway, is listed as a $35 million project for 2016, though no funding source has been identified.

“We have the transit center idea, which is moving, earning support from regional planning agencies. We’ve hit on something that is needed,” Basile told the CDTA board, which met at the Rensselaer Amtrak station.

An intermodal station would serve as an operating base for CDTA’s various Albany routes, combined with access to intercity bus service. The goal would be for retail and other commercial leases to make the three-story building self-supporting.

Basile said progress is being made on getting funding for the Washington-Western avenues project, which would provide limited-stop bus service between downtown Albany, the University at Albany’s uptown campus and Crossgates Mall.

CDTA earlier this month applied to the Federal Transit Administration for funding and U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., immediately issued a statement of support.

“With a significant percentage [25-35%] of the population that does not own an automobile, improved mobility for this transit-dependent population in Albany is much needed. Improved access to jobs, schools, universities and shopping centers would benefit these individuals,” Schumer wrote in a letter to the head of the FTA in Washington.

The Capital District Transportation Committee, which manages federal transportation funding for the region, also voted earlier this month to support the project.

“We need the [CDTC]’s endorsement for the next step in the federal funding process,” Basile said.

Should the bus rapid-transit routes get off the ground, they will cost an additional $5 million to $6 million annually to operate.

The CDTA board also approved a $130,000 contract for installation of 25 security cameras at nine Bus Plus stops along the Route 5 corridor in the city of Albany. The cameras will be monitored by the Albany Police Department. A similar camera system is already in place at Schenectady BusPlus stops.

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