State DOT Schedules Meetings on High Speed Rail Initiative

Six Meetings Across New York State Will Provide Public with Information and the Opportunity to Comment

October 18, 2010

ALBANY, NY (10/16/2010)-- The New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT), in partnership with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), will hold six public meetings across the state beginning Oct. 19th in Buffalo to discuss plans to improve passenger rail service.

The meetings are the initial scoping events called for as part of a detailed environmental review being conducted for the High Speed Rail Empire Corridor Project (HSR Project). These meetings are a way for the public and other project stakeholders to provide input to the project team. This input will help create the type of high speed passenger rail service that is right for residents, businesses and travelers in New York State.

"Expanding high speed intercity passenger rail service will give New Yorkers and others who visit our great State additional travel options, increase mobility, create jobs along the corridor, enhance tourism and spur economic growth," NYSDOT Acting Commissioner Stanley Gee said. "We encourage the public to attend this initial round of public meetings because active community involvement is essential to developing passenger rail improvements that will serve us effectively now and for decades to come."

This project is examining how to introduce passenger train speeds of at least 110 mile per hour between Schenectady and Niagara Falls and adding to the areas between Schenectady and New York City where passenger trains can travel at least 110 miles per hour. The project also seeks to improve reliability, travel times, and the frequency (number of trains) of passenger rail service.

The 463-mile Empire Corridor runs north from New York City through Albany, turns west to Schenectady and then passes through Utica, Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo before terminating at Niagara Falls. Most of the corridor is owned by CSX Transportation (CSX) and it is one of their busiest freight lines in the nation. Passenger service on the corridor is provided by Amtrak. Partners working with NYSDOT on this project include: CSX, Amtrak, Metropolitan Transportation Authority Metro North Railroad, Canadian Pacific Railways and many interested groups.

The six public meetings about the project are scheduled for 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. as follows:

At each meeting, attendees will play an important role in helping make the project team aware of factors critical to them for consideration in assessing the potential needs and benefits associated with improving Empire Corridor passenger rail.

Each meeting will follow a common format for encouraging public input about high speed rail:

5:30-6:15 p.m. An open-house session will feature informational displays about high speed passenger rail service on the Empire Corridor and the potential impacts and benefits of this project. The project team will be available for individual and small group discussions;

6:15-6:45 p.m. There will be a presentation about the Empire Corridor, high speed passenger rail and related information about the potential for high speed passenger rail in the region; and

6:45-7:30 p.m. The project team will be on hand to talk with attendees about their ideas and questions regarding the HSR Project.

Interested parties also can view an online public briefing covering the same information available at the scoping meetings by visiting www.nysdot.gov/empire-corridor from Monday, October 25th through Monday, November 29th. Comments can be made online and in person at the public scoping meetings.

Public scoping meetings are an essential element of the first tier of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), which will help decide what is right for the Empire Corridor. This is the first step of the two-tiered environmental process being conducted for the High Speed Rail Empire Corridor Project. An EIS is a method of providing a strategic plan and assuring appropriate environmental documentation, project costs and benefits have been made available to public officials and citizens before major public investments are made or actions are taken.

In the current phase of this EIS, the public can help NYSDOT and the FRA evaluate potential improvements to intercity passenger rail service within the corridor by attending the public scoping meetings and other events, visiting the project web site, and sharing their comments with the project team. Based on the findings of this project, NYSDOT will then refine this corridor-wide strategic plan into an implementation plan that sets forth specific programs and projects to improve passenger rail service on the Empire Corridor and meet current FRA requirements to compete for additional federal funding for corridor-wide service improvements.

To learn more about the project, or to provide the project team with written comments, please visit the project web site at www.nysdot.gov/empire-corridor.