New York high-speed rail

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High-speed rail in New York is in its infant stages. New York State has been actively discussing high-speed rail service since the 1990s, but thus far little progress has been made. Amtrak Acela service between Washington, D.C., and Boston, Massachusetts, is available to New York City, but the cities in Upstate New York and Western New York remain isolated from high-speed rail service. Further, destinations outside the New York metropolitan area have been plagued by delayed service for decades. Nonetheless, New York has been quietly endorsing and even implementing rail improvements for years.

Closer and faster railroad transportation links between New York City and the rest of the state are frequently cited as a partial solution to Upstate's stagnant economic growth. Many politicians also endorse closer ties with destinations in Canada.

Contents

[edit] History

Rail travel in New York has its roots in the early 19th century. The New York Central water-level route roughly followed the path of the Erie Canal. Rail travel largely stagnated in the post-World War II economic boom, as highway transportation and suburban lifestyles burgeoned. Nonetheless, rail culture lived on in the New York metropolitan area. It was kept alive by the subway culture in New York City, as well as suburban routes on Long Island and the northern suburbs of the city. The Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad are the two largest commuter railroads in the United States. New Jersey Transit, which serves New Jersey commuters to Manhattan, Philadelphia, and points within New Jersey, is also a major player in the U.S. commuter rail market.

Interest in updating the state's aging rail infrastructure was sparked in the 1990s. In the late 1990s, ground was broken on a new Rensselaer rail station, at the time reported as the ninth busiest station in the entire United States; federal funding was secured for the project.[1] In 2001, the state tested a newly rebuilt Turboliner RTL-III diesel locomotive capable of reaching 125 miles per hour.[2] In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, New York Governor George Pataki attempted to secure, among other things, a high-speed rail link to Schenectady using federal emergency aid money.[3]

Notably, federal planners identified New York State's Empire Corridor (Buffalo-Albany-New York City) as one of the best-suited for high-speed rail service.[4] In 2005, New York State Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno expressed renewed interest in high-speed rail proposed research into high-speed rail development in New York State as part of a plan to boost Upstate New York's economy.[5]

[edit] Current plans

Current plans call, first of all, for extensive upgrades to current New York State infrastructure; almost all the proposed high-speed rail corridors have existing rail lines, so it is considered easiest to get high-speed rail by upgrading them. As of 2006, many New York State politicians have taken interest in high-speed rail. Joseph Bruno's interest is notable, given the power he is afforded as Majority Leader of the New York State Senate. Along with George Pataki and New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Bruno is one of the most powerful politicians in the state. Possibly operating under the understanding that fast enough service could spur economic growth in economically isolated and dilapidated urban areas of New York State, other Upstate politicians have expressed interest as well. Fast enough service to other points in the state has the potential to create a much larger labor market for New York City. Senator Caesar Trunzo announced a long-term plan to bring high-speed rail service between Buffalo and New York City, via Albany, to under three hours.[6]

Some improvements are already under way. The Troy Record, a local newspaper in Troy, New York, reported on January 6, 2006, that "[t]he ambitious, decades long, multi-billion dollar plan [for faster rail service] starts with a $22 million investment in 2006 that would shorten trips from Albany to New York City to two hours and from Buffalo to NYC to under three hours."[7] The Times Herald-Record reported, under a plan that had been recently released by the New York State Senate, that "Metro-North trains running all the way to Albany by 2012, emphasized high-speed travel and increased rail service throughout the state in coming years."

The paper further reported that, "[b]y 2009, trips between New York and Albany should be far more frequent and take less than two hours. By 2025, at a cost upwards of $8 billion, maglev or other high-speed trains, traveling 200-300 mph could be flying up the [New York State] Thruway corridor." [8]

Joseph Bruno came out saying that he would even see the federal government's possible break-up of Amtrak as an opportunity to give New York State more say over its rail system.[9]

[edit] Proposals

Other proposals involve extensions of existing corridors or cooperation with agencies in other states or in Canada.

[edit] Montreal to New York City

On October 6, 2005, the Albany Times-Union reported that New York Governor George Pataki and Quebec Premier Jean Charest "called for the creation of high-speed rail service between Montreal and New York City as a way to boost the regional economy during the third Quebec-New York Economic Summit on Wednesday," October 4th, 2005. The article claimed that New York was Quebec's main trading partner, which perhaps explains some of the interest in linking the two major cities.[10]

According to a report by the New York State Senate High Speed Rail Task Force, such a route would serve Plattsburgh via Albany.[11] There is an existing passenger link between Montreal and Albany served by Amtrak.

[edit] Buffalo to Toronto

New York State Assemblyman Sam Hoyt of Buffalo has been active in promoting high-speed cross-border rail service, pointing out that Toronto is a large metropolis nearby Western New York. Buffalo, the largest city on the U.S. side of the border in the region, plays host to many Canadian companies that do business in the United States. Toronto, on the other hand, is a major cultural center for many Western New Yorkers, and high-speed rail service has the potential to increase environmentally-friendly traffic and decrease congestion on the Peace Bridge.[12] The existing passenger rail link is served by Amtrak and VIA Rail.

[edit] Scranton to Potsdam and Scranton to New York City

Another proposed corridor would link Scranton, Pennsylvania, to Potsdam, New York. Such a service would reach the New York cities of Binghamton, Syracuse, and Watertown.

A $15 million grant was announced in May 2006 for service from Northeastern Pennsylvania to New York City, with support from Congressman Paul Kanjorski.[13]

Combined with similar support by United States Senator Arlen Specter to bring service link Scranton and New York City via the Poconos, this could potentially mean high-speed direct, one-seat service from Potsdam to New York City through the Southern Tier of New York, Northeastern Pennsylvania, and northern New Jersey. This proposed restored line is discussed in the media as the Lackawanna Cut-Off or the New Jersey Cut-Off.[14] Northeastern Pennsylvania has been calling for expanded service for decades, however, but public support from both New Jersey and Pennsylvania officials was announced in May 2006. According to plans announced at the time, transfers at Secaucus Junction would be necessary to get to Manhattan.[15] This would still leave a one-seat to New York City using this new corridor an unlikely prospect, even assuming the project gets off the ground.

[edit] Other out-of-state connections

New high-speed routes through from Albany to Boston and Buffalo to Chicago through Cleveland are also proposed, most likely along the general corridor of the current Amtrak services. Through service from Washington, D.C. to upstate New York is also proposed.[11] These services would require heavy cooperation with other states and the United States federal government. Many civic and business leaders in New England have recently shown interest in better service to New York City and Boston.[16][17]

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1.   "Governor Pataki Breaks Ground At New Rensselaer Rail Station." New York State press release: June 2, 1999.
  2.   "Governor Announces Successful 125 MPH Run Of NY's High Speed Train." New York State press release: February 23, 2001.
  3.   Haberman, Clyde. "Isn't Heartland Still Part of Homeland?" The New York Times: June 9, 2006
  4.   http://www.fra.dot.gov/us/content/201, Federal Railroad Administration report; October 21, 2003
  5.   "Fast Trains in NY: Slashing Travel Time is Key to Accelerating Upstate Economy" by Joseph Bruno
  6.   "REPORT TO TASK FORCE WOULD IMPROVE NEW YORK'S RAIL SYSTEM," undated; see http://senatortrunzo.com/senate_reports_on.asp?id=517
  7.   Cristo, Robert. "Plans for rail system detailed," The Record. Troy, New York: January 6, 2006
  8.   Milgrim, John. "Senate envisions rapid transit." Times Herald-Record, Middletown, New York: January 6, 2006.
  9.   Eisenstadt, Marnie. "All Aboard!" Syracuse Post-Standard, Syracuse, New York: November 18, 2005
  10.   Rulison, Larry. "New York, Quebec seek high-speed rail link," Albany Times-Union. Albany, New York: October 6, 2005.
  11.  a  See map at end of page: http://www.cdta.org/High%20Speed%20Rail%20Task%20Force%20Home%20April%202006.htm (loaded May 9, 2006)
  12.   Hoyt, Sam. "Opportunities for Cross-Border High Speed Rail." City of Toronto: October 22, 1999
  13.   Pierce, David. Pocono Record. "Two Poconos projects promise jobs." Pocono Record, April 29, 2006.
  14.   SENS. SPECTER AND SANTORUM ANNOUNCE APPROVAL OF FEDERAL FUNDING FOR THE SCRANTON-NYC PASSENGER RAIL SERVICE PROJECT
  15.   Laylo, Bob. Rail restoration project gains momentum, The Morning Call, May 2, 2006.
  16.   Holhut, Randolph T. "Time To Put Some Real Money Into Rail Service," OpEdNews.com, May 9, 2006.
  17.   Pierce, Neil, et al. "N.E. states must pull together to re-link region with railroads," Telegraph of Nashua: June 4, 2006.

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