Amtrak, CSX Transportation and other freight railroads in New York state will benefit after state officials got clearance from the Department of Transportation to spend $149.3 million in federal grants to improve intercity passenger rail service.
The money is targeted at Amtrak’s Empire Corridor that runs between New York City and Buffalo, but the DOT said the work will also reduce train delays on other Amtrak routes that include tracks shared with freight lines Canadian Pacific Railway and Canadian National Railway.
Some of the money now cleared for New York’s track work came from funds rejected early this year by Florida Gov. Rick Walker, when he killed a planned bullet train project. DOT Secretary Ray LaHood then redistributed $2 billion in grants to other states.
Some of the New York funding also comes from an earlier round of the Obama administration’s intercity passenger rail grants, awarded last year. After rail grants are awarded, all the parties first have to negotiate detailed agreements on how to spend them and that process usually takes many months.
Actual construction will not start until next year, but it is the latest in a series of recent moves by the DOT to conclude its rail contracts and formally obligate grant funds amid congressional efforts to find more budget cuts.
Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph Szabo said the new implementing agreement between the state DOT, Amtrak and CSX shows that “rail partners are coming together to deliver improved service. Passengers will see a reduction in delays and better reliability as a result of this additional rail capacity in central New York.”
One grant for $91.2 million will allow the state to add a 17-mile second mainline track between the Albany-Rensselaer and Schenectady stations, untangling a single-track area where trains now wait up to 26 minutes for one coming from the other direction to pass by.
Another grant for $58.1 million will fund track and platform improvements at those stations, plus relocation of signal wires on the Hudson Line that “have been prone to outages,” the DOT said. “These improvements will result in greater reliability and on-time performance, more flexibility in train schedules and reduced congestion between freight and passenger trains.”