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DOT holds high speed rail public hearings upstate: video

It’s been a standard talking point for years, but state officials may have moved things a little closer towards making high speed rail a reality in New York. Public information sessions were being held across upstate in early March.

The Department of Transportation is presenting 5 options for improvements to the Empire State Corridor at the series of public hearings, including this one at the college of Nanoscience in Albany.

“The goal of the project is to reduce travel times and to make train service more reliable. It’s also to increase service and to put more trains on the tracks. And most of the improvements to the alternatives are Albany West towards Niagara Falls.”

The empire corridor is a 460-mile path of rail tracks, stretching from New York City to Niagara Falls. Once a plan is chosen, the DOT would be eligible for as much as 300-million dollars in federal high-speed rail funding for Amtrak passenger trains.

But first they must consider the public comments, and not everyone is sold on the idea.

Martin Robinson, an Albany Resident and self-proclaimed train enthusiast, pointed out that 4 of the 5 corridor proposals or alternatives include average speeds that don’t meet federal requirements for high speed rail, and barely match the standard of what rail used to be.

“Many of the speeds that are listed here would be slightly higher than average of what used to be the regular speeds of trains in the 1940’s. Trains used to average 60 to 70 miles per hour with express routes set up often enough to the 80 to 90 power on a regular basis.”

Others pointed out the Empire Corridor shouldn’t interfere with the state’s current freight rail traffic.

“No disruption to freight, that’s critical in the transportation of products and material across the state and throughout the region, the other is affordability for passengers.”

The revitalization of Albany’s Livingston Avenue Bridge was a popular theme amongst the attending locals. Numerous speakers argued the former rail bridge should be linked to proposals for the Empire Corridor and converted into a bike path and pedestrian walkway.

“To include the walkway as part of the construction of the Livingston Avenue Bridge is a very inexpensive item and looking at the projected cost of the numerous options of improving high speed rail in the Empire Corridor the walkway is a necessity, NOT an amenity.”

“I think it will be beneficial to the rail road, I think it will be beneficial to Amtrak because you can get to the rail road station easier and will certainly be beneficial to the neighborhood.”

Almost all of the DOT’s high speed rail options would include upgrades to railway infrastructure like stations, platforms, and tracks.

DOT Spokesman Beau Duffy says while safety is their number one priority, the goal is to make rail travel across New York more attractive, boosting upstate tourism and economies.

Comments can be emailed the New York State Department of Transportation office in Albany through March 24th at empirecorridor@dot.ny.gov.

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