Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Amtrak/CSX Hudson Line deal to improve service, move projects forward

A long-term lease agreement between CSX Corporation and Amtrak has been made, enabling Amtrak to take full control of the Hudson Line between Schenectady and Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

The contract, which took effect on Dec. 1, ensures that passenger rail service has scheduling priority there and paves the way for four significant rail improvement projects totaling $181 million. The improvements will reduce congestion along the Empire Corridor from New York City to Niagara Falls, N.Y., and improve travel times and reliability for passengers and freight.

The New York State Department of Transportation led the efforts to transform the 94-mile Hudson Line from Schenectady to Poughkeepsie from a freight-controlled line to an Amtrak-controlled line. For decades signals have been designed to freight standards and all planning and construction was subject to approval and control of the freight railroad. Dispatching of trains will now move from CSX's freight yard at Selkirk to Amtrak's Command and Control Center in New York City.

Work already is underway on four passenger rail improvement projects being progressed jointly by NYDOT and Amtrak. The Federal government will provide $155.5 million for these projects, including $147.6 million in funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. New York state will provide $23.15 million. The four projects are:

• Construction of an additional track between Rensselaer and Schenectady to significantly reduce congestion. Work started this fall on a $91.2-million project to build 17 miles of new track, doubling capacity between the two cities. Project completion is scheduled for the fall of 2017. The work is fully funded through the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

• Building a fourth track at the Rensselaer Station to reduce congestion and delays. This is a $50.5-million project funded with state and federal dollars. Construction began this season with preparatory culvert work and delivery of materials, including 20,000 crossties, 9,000 tons of ballast, 137,000 pounds of railroad spikes and 1,000 tie plates and anchors. Track installation will begin next year and the entire project is expected to be completed in the fall of 2017.

• Grade crossing improvements along the Empire Corridor South. This $2.45-million project includes safety improvements at 13 grade crossings in Columbia, Dutchess and Rensselaer counties. Work includes installing new LED lights, electronic flashers and bells, speed predictors, new gates and constructing other intersection improvements. Improvements are to be completed during the next two years. The work is fully funded through the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

• Signal line improvements south of Albany. This is a $36.5-million project to replace more than 60 miles of obsolete signal wires, burying lines that now hang on poles along the rail line and replacing 30-year-old wiring with new underground power cable and electronic track circuits. Design is ongoing and work will begin next season. The project is being advanced with state and federal rail funds and is expected to be completed by the end of 2016.

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