Trains For America

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New York State high-speed rail plan stagnant

Out of the Utica Observer-Dispatch comes an article about the status of the proposed upstate New York high-speed rail plan. The original idea was to undertake a number of improvements to the tracks between NYC and Buffalo in order to reduce rail travel times and reinvigorate the upstate area. Here are some of the possible methods from the article:

Among the proposals:
* Make improvements in the next several years to fix outdated tracks and signals.

* Over the next two decades, use new technology and, in some cases, new tracks and bridges to reduce the train travel time from 2½ hours between Albany and New York City to as little as one hour.

* In the long run, reduce train travel time between western New York and Albany from about five hours and 45 minutes to as little as two hours to three hours.

* Total spending proposed over two decades could exceed $10 billion. However, the report cited numerous benefits, including a five-million gallon reduction in gasoline use by upstate drivers.

The state would have to establish a rail authority to manage such a plan, said state Sen. Tom Libous, chairman of the Senate’s Standing Committee on Transportation. And authorities across the state are under scrutiny right now, so it would be difficult to convince the state government to establish a new one, he said.

The article indicates that there is still some optimism about the project, but with fuel prices the way they are, now is not the time for the state to be sitting on its laurels.

It seems like a common pattern with state HSR plans, actually. Voters demand better passenger rail, and a grand plan is developed. Then it’s either killed off by short-sighted politicians (see: Jeb Bush and Florida) or those with a vested interest in limiting Americans’ transportation options (see: Southwest Airlines and Texas). In New York it seems to be nothing more than bureaucracy. Let’s hope that the current fuel crisis and what looks to be a probable victory for HSR in California will help bolster efforts in other states.


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July 2008