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Only bid $10M too much for Schenectady train station

Only bid $10M too much for Schenectady train station

The proposed new downtown Schenectady railroad station will cost significantly more than expected, a
Only bid $10M too much for Schenectady train station
The Amtrak train station in Schenectady is pictured in 2014.

The proposed new downtown Schenectady railroad station will cost significantly more than expected, about $10 million more, based on the only construction bid submitted and opened on Thursday.

Whether the bid result will delay the start of construction isn’t yet clear.

Jersen Construction of Waterford submitted the sole bid for construction of the project, which is seen in Schenectady as a further component of downtown revitalization efforts.

The review of the bid is being handled by the state Department of Transportation, though federal funds would pay the majority of the cost.

The bid was much higher than the $15 million total transportation officials had hoped to see. It was not immediately clear whether that would prove to be a major obstacle to the start of work, which was scheduled for this spring.

The current regional federal transportation plan has a budget for the station of $14.6 million. Jersen’s bid totaled $24.9 million.

DOT could put the project out to bid a second time, hoping to get more responses and a lower cost, or it could see whether the project could be redesigned to reduce the cost.

“Everything is on the table,” said DOT spokeswoman Carol Breen.

DOT just received the bid, and needs time to review it before making further comments, Breen said.

Rebidding the project would delay work by a couple of months in a “best case scenario,” she said.

The new station has been in the planning stages for years. It is currently going forward under the auspices of Amtrak, the national rail passenger service, after a series of shifts among government agencies over who will own and maintain the facility.

The new station would replace a 1970s-era station that many visitors find dingy and uninspiring.

The design of the new station was inspired by the architecture of the former Union Station, which was built in 1910, in a far grander style than the current station. Union Station was demolished to make way for the current station.

If the project goes forward, work is expected to take at least 18 months. A temporary station would be built, followed by demolition of the old station and then construction of the new facility.

Discussion about Schenectady’s new railroad station will be high on the agenda as the Empire State Passengers Association holds its annual meeting this Saturday at Proctors. The meeting is customarily held in Schenectady because of its central location, but plans for the station are expected to be a focus of discussion.

“We are certainly going to be highlighting Schenectady, with construction of the new station,” said association President Bruce Becker.

Between construction of the new station and completion of a second track between Schenectady and Albany, passenger rail advocates like Becker think a new Schenectady station would lead to a boost in business.

The $91 million second track project, currently under construction, is expected to reduce delays and increase reliability between Schenectady and Albany. It will allow two-way traffic to resume in a 17-mile corridor where the single track has allowed only one train at a time ever since old tracks were torn out in the 1960s. That work is being done by an Amtrak contractor under a separate contract from the new station.

Currently, most people taking the train to or from New York City drive to the Rensselaer Amtrak station, which is the ninth busiest passenger station in the United States. It handled 764,000 people in 2013, according to Amtrak, while the Schenectady station handled 61,000.

Becker thinks riders’ behavior patterns could change, to the Schenectady station’s benefit, were it to be built.“All across the country, whenever there’s a new station rail ridership gets a boost,” Becker said Thursday. “We think people will come to Schenectady to take the train.”

Local officials also believe more people will take a train into Schenectady, once the Rivers Casino opens in 2017.

Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.

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