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What you need to know for 11/19/2017

2nd railroad track opens between Schenectady, Albany

2nd railroad track opens between Schenectady, Albany

Announcement comes as new design details released on train station
2nd railroad track opens between Schenectady, Albany
An Amtrak passenger train moves westbound on the new line near Chrisler Avenue on Wednesday.
Photographer: MARC SCHULTZ

The second railroad track between Schenectady and Albany has been completed, eliminating what has been a major bottleneck for passenger and freight traffic in upstate New York.

The $91.2 million track covering the 17 miles between the Capital Region's two largest cities went into service June 26 after three years of construction, according to an announcement from Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office.

RELATED: Editorial: Train station shows little accountability

The long-planned track eliminates a single-track situation that had forced trains to wait for up to 20 minutes in either Schenectady or Rensselaer until an oncoming train cleared the tracks, and is seen as vital if a high-speed rail line across upstate New York is ever to be developed.

The work was arranged jointly by the state Department of Transportation and Amtrak, which has a long-term lease over the tracks between Poughkeepsie and Schenectady, which are owned by freight-hauler CSX Corp.

"The double-track project has provided improved flexibility and scheduling in the operation of Amtrak trains between Albany and Schenectady and will reduce delays in this location, which have been a bottleneck and the cause of delays for years," Amtrak spokeswoman Chelsea Kopta said. "Amtrak was proud to partner with NYSDOT on completing this project, which will enhance transportation and tourism opportunities in the Capital Region."

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Cuomo's office announced completion of the track at the same as it released new design details about the plans for a new $23 million train station in downtown Schenectady, on the same site as the old station, which began to be demolished this week. The new station is expected to be completed by late 2018, under a state DOT contract.

“We are grateful to Gov. Cuomo and DOT for completing another significant infrastructure project that is beneficial to Schenectady County. The second track will eliminate delays in train service going west from Albany, making rail travel to Schenectady faster and more convenient,” said Ray Gillen, chair of the Schenectady County Metroplex Development Authority.  

The governor's announcement also updated several other Capital Region rail projects, all part of an effort to improve rail service in the region:

— At the Rensselaer Amtrak station — the nation's ninth-busiest Amtrak station — a $50.5 million project that constructed a fourth passenger loading track, extended the loading platforms and upgraded signals wrapped up this spring. A $3.5 million state-funded project to rehabilitate platform elevators and replace the escalators is to be completed by fall.

— Grade crossing and signal improvements have been done south of Rensselaer, on the busy line to New York City, with a little work still remaining.

The three projects together have received $155.5 million in federal funding, nearly all of it from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The state has contributed $23.15 million, according to Cuomo's office.

Separately, New York was recently awarded $33 million by the Federal Railroad Administration to install positive train control technology between Poughkeepsie and Schenectady. Positive train control systems are designed to prevent incidents such as derailments and collisions by reducing the risks of human error. That work has yet to be scheduled.

Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 395-3086, swilliams@dailygazette.net or @gazettesteve on Twitter.

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