Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood met with New York legislators yesterday, and he agreed that the Albany-Buffalo HSR corridor looked like a good prospective place to spend stimulus money. From the Buffalo News:
“This is a very bipartisan effort that includes a project that represents 60 percent of the state,” LaHood said after a meeting with the state’s upstate congressional delegation. “This part of the state is hurting, and obviously this would be an economic engine, and we obviously will take all of that into consideration.”
Upstate lawmakers said they were thrilled with their meeting with LaHood, even while acknowledging that other parts of the country — and the state — could well be competing for the same high-speed rail money.
It’s a modest proposal for 110-150mph diesel service, and much of the ROW is available for purchase from CSX, keeping costs low. Like the Midwest High-Speed rail plan, which, you might have noticed, we’re big fans of here at TFA, it’s an incremental improvement to existing Amtrak service. It’s not flashy, but a brick by brick improvement of our national rail network is what’s necessary to strengthen the image of rail in this country and capitalize on the recent popularity of existing train service. As LaHood says, it’s a reasonable plan that should be able to compete for money with the other very important projects seeking funding.
Of course, any New York State HSR plan would have to connect with the city eventually, and that’s where our next bit of news comes from. Sen. Charles Schumer has long been a major backer of the redevelopment of New York’s Farley Post Office into a new, grander hub to relieve the overcrowded Penn Station. Now he says that the project needs $100 million of rail stimulus money, which he suggests should come out of the $1.3 billion Amtrak pot or the $8 billion HSR fund.
Not that the station doesn’t sound like a great plan, but the HSR money seems like an inappropriate source, and I’m not sure Amtrak will want to invest their precious budget when it may be commuter rail rather than intercity services that are housed there. Any thoughts from New Yorkers?