Rail proposals need a look

While high-speed passenger train service is not on track in the area yet, it may be soon.

Local residents would be well served to take a look at the different proposals, and make sure the state Department of Transportation gets their opinion on the option they like best.

Officials with the Federal Railroad Administration and the state DOT are evaluating proposed rail system improvements to intercity passenger rail services along the 463-mile Empire Corridor. The corridor connects Pennsylvania (Penn) Station in New York City with Niagara Falls Station.

DOT said five train service options for the Empire Corridor were considered in an environmental review, which was required for federal funding.

Faster passenger rail service is something that has been discussed for years, but is now starting to take shape.

However, before the DOT and FRA choose a proposal, local residents should take a look at the various plans and decide which one makes the most sense.

It must be noted the proposals that would give us the fastest trains – at 110 and 125 mph – could have a significant effect on the area.

Some of the rail work could lead to significant changes in Montgomery County – and a great deal of headaches while the work is under way.

The proposal for the 110 mph trains would add a dedicated third main passenger track and a fourth passenger track in some locations, including in Montgomery County. The proposal would realign several existing roadways adjacent to the railroad right-of-way. Some of the work could involve other properties. The proposal could affect properties on or near Route 5, such as Old Fort Johnson, the Fort Johnson Fire Station, the Fonda Post Office and the Fonda Municipal Building.

The proposal for the fastest trains would maintain existing Amtrak services and add a new high-speed rail line between Albany-Rensselaer and Buffalo with a maximum speed of 125 mph.

However, the faster train service would not be available at the Amsterdam train station.

The new line for the 125 mph trains also would break new ground and be well south of the current railroad lines. The new line would run through the southwest corner of the town of Charleston, and through the towns of Root, Canajoharie and Minden. While officials expect property displacements to be minimal, the tracks would cross some roads and could pass through the Canajoharie Country Club property.

Keep in mind: None of these options will come cheap. While the federal government is expected to help pay for the capital costs to build the high-speed rail services, taxpayers would also have to pay to maintain the rail system. The cheapest, true proposal to upgrade the rail system – to 90 mph – would cost $1.66 billion. The most expensive – the 125 mph proposal – would cost $14.71 billion.

The proposals for high-speed rail service can be accessed at www.dot.ny.gov/empire-corridor/deis.

The comment period officially ends March 24. There are a variety of ways to send comments to the DOT project team, which can be found at www.dot.ny.gov/empire-corridor/contact.

Take a look now at what is being proposed. The future is coming _ faster than ever – and everyone should have a say in what will happen.