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Commissioner: New rail station by Nov. 2018

Commissioner: New rail station by Nov. 2018

Officials believe project can be done for $15 million

SCHENECTADY -- The long-delayed Schenectady rail station project will go out for construction bids this year and will be complete by November 2018, state Department of Transportation Commissioner Matthew Driscoll said Wednesday.

The project will be bid in two phases, Driscoll said, after a brief tour of the aging Erie Boulevard station with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. The construction steel work will be released for bid Feb. 24 and is expected to cost about $6 million, while the rest of the work will cost be bid in the fall, at an estimated cost of $9 million, Driscoll said.

Replacement of the station, which was built in 1973, has been long-planned but ran into a delay last winter, when the first round of construction bidding drew only one bidder, at a cost of $24 million, or $10 million more than was budgeted.

Since then, the project has been redesigned, and Amtrak has agreed to absorb some costs not directly associated with the station building, including track work.

Driscoll said there will also be pre-bid meetings, which should help contractors better understand the project before they bid and hopefully lower costs. The goal is to replace the station with something modern and handicapped-accessible.

Driscoll said the building alone -- without repairs to a 100-year-old viaduct included in the first bid proposal -- can be done with a $15 million budget. Some of the viaduct repair work has been absorbed into Amtrak's second track project, which is underway, and Amtrak and DOT are negotiating responsibility for a temporary station that will be used by travelers as the new station is being built. The temporary station was part of the original bid package.

Driscoll indicated the new station will be something of which the city will be proud.

"It will be state-of-the-art, ADA compliant," Driscoll said.

Cuomo, who highlighted plans for the Schenectady station in one of his State of the State speeches, had a brief tour Wednesday of the station, where chipped concrete and missing ceiling tiles have caused some people to term its condition "third-world."

"This is way past its prime, and that's being polite," Cuomo said after the tour.

The governor was also in Schenectady for the grand opening of the Rivers Casino & Resort, which is expected to be another reason for people to come to Schenectady by train. About 60,000 people a year now travel through the station, though 900,000 annually use the Albany-Rensselaer station.

"We're going to do a full renovation here that will make this a critical part of the transportation system, not just here in Schenectady, but in the region," said Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy, who was also on Wednesday's tour.

McCarthy noted there are already people from New York City who take the train to Schenectady to see shows at Proctors.

The $91 million second track between Albany and Schenectady, which will eliminate a major bottleneck for train passengers, is due for completion this fall, after three years of work.

Once Schenectady has a new station, the state's Empire Corridor will have new or modern stations in Niagara Falls, Rochester, Schenectady and Rensselaer, said Jay R. Green, Amtrak's district manager for station operations.

"We'll have a very nice rail corridor here, once we get done," Green told Cuomo during the tour.

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

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