© 2024 Innovation Trail

Are there or aren’t there plans for a third track?

Whether upstate New York is getting a dedicated passenger-only third track spanning the entire Empire corridor is under discussion.
Seth Anderson
via Flickr
Whether upstate New York is getting a dedicated passenger-only third track spanning the entire Empire corridor is under discussion.

State officials know they want to bring high-speed rail to New York, but what the final project will look like, and how many billions of dollars it will cost haven’t yet been determined.

That’s because the New York Department of Transportation must finish an environmental impact study to determine what the state needs/wants in terms of rail improvements.

One much-discussed feature of rail upgrades in upstate New York is a dedicated third track to alleviate congestion along the Empire Corridor.

Right now, there are two tracks. Amtrak trains have to share with freight rail, and often have to wait for freight traffic to pass, causing delays. Democrat Rep. Louise Slaughter and other upstate representatives in Congress and municipal organizations strongly support a dedicated third track.

“I think it’s fair to say lawmakers, with Louise Slaughter leading the charge, want as much dedicated third track as possible,” said a spokeswoman for Rep. Slaughter.

But according to Marie Corrado, a project director with the NYSDOT, a third track spanning the entire corridor is only under discussion at this point.

“We know lots and lots of people have ideas, lots of people say ‘dedicated third track’ and it should be up in the air and etc etc etc. We’re not there yet. We’re working on that,” said Corrado. “We’re not ready to say with any certainty what the ultimate product will look like.”

Even if a third track running the entire length of the state doesn’t happen, Corrado says parts of the line near Rochester will get a third track. 

Another big goal for high-speed boosters is to get trains going at least 110 miles per hour.

The upstate congressional delegation is generally unified in support of high-speed rail. That could change if Republican Richard Hanna from the Utica area defeats Democrat Michael Arcuri in the coming election.

High speed rail is the gift that eats,” said Hanna during a debate earlier this week. “There is no evidence in the world, especially in a low density population like ours, where it makes sense.”

Critics or other people curious about high-speed rail can visit with members of the state DOT at an informational session during the next couple weeks.

Innovation Trail alumnus Ryan Morden is originally from Seattle. He graduated from the University of Washington with a bachelor's in journalism, minoring in political science and Scandinavian studies. Morden was Morning Edition producer and reporter at WRVO before moving over to the Innovation Trail project. Before landing at WRVO, Morden covered the Washington State legislature as a correspondent for Northwest News Network (N3), a group of nine NPR affiliates in the northwest.
Related Content