NY to Start High-Speed Rail Construction for “Empire Corridor”

New York State is on track to install high-speed  rail lines from Niagara Falls all the way down to NYC, says the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT).

The state received $1 million of a promised $151 million in a first round of grants from the federal government as part of President Obama's stimulus bill, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, NYSDOT Acting Commissioner Stanley Gee announced late last month.

The new trains will run at up to 110 mph and are set to be completed by mid-2012.

The $1 million will go toward an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that will "study and document proposed improvements to intercity passenger rail services in New York State."  The EIS will cost an estimated  total of $4.5 million; the difference will come from New York State. The NYSDOT has not confirmed whether this $3.5 million will come from the contentious 2010-11 budget to be decided in Albany this month.

"High speed rail is already making a difference for New Yorkers," said NYSDOT spokeswoman Deborah Sturm Rausch to NBCNewYork.  "It will bring jobs to New York and has great potential to increase our economy."

Gov. David Paterson recently announced that the NYSDOT has reached an agreement with CSX Transportation, Inc., a freight rail stakeholder with track from Florida to Quebec. The deal will enable the state to move forward with the EIS.

"Empire Corridor" refers to the 463 miles beginning in Penn Station, NYC and continuing through Poughkeepsie, Albany, Schenectady, Syracuse, Rochester, and ending at Niagra Falls.

New York State was one of five states selected to receive the first round of grants from a total of $8 billion promised to mass transit projects across the country in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.  The Act includes provisions allocating funds to a variety of projects including Medicaid, low-income workers, and alternative energy.

The Federal Railroad Association calls the Act "an extraordinary response to a crisis  unlike any since the Great Depression, and includes measures to modernize our nations infrastructure, enhance energy independence, expand educational opportunities, preserve and improve affordable health care, provide tax relief and protect those in greatest need."

"As [Recovery and Reinvestment  Act] funds have begun to work their way through the economy, several key indicators show that they have clearly halted an economic freefall," according to the White House. 

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