CSX Demands New Track in Empire Corridor

CSX is demanding a separate track for passenger trains operating more than 79 mph between Albany and Buffalo, N.Y.

The company made the demand in a filing that is part of a preliminary environmental impact statement for a proposal to raise the maximum speed limits for Amtrak trains using the Empire Corridor to 90 or 110 mph.

CSX said the dedicated passenger track would allow speeds of up to 125 mph.

The former New York Central Water Level Route between Schenectady and Buffalo sees 70 to 75 trains daily. It is, CSX said, the company’s “most important line” in its network.

The railroad said that adding additional passenger trains would only add more congestion, causing delays and hindering access to freight customers on sidings along the main line.

Without adequate separation between the freight tracks and a newly constructed passenger track, high-speed trains also would pose increased danger to CSX track crews, it said.
CSX criticized the methods used to compile the draft statement, saying the projected costs don’t include payments for use of CSX property, which it said is worth “billions.”

The railroad also contended that the draft statement doesn’t reflect the detrimental environmental impact that would result from shifting freight traffic from trains to less fuel-efficient trucks as shippers facing delays from the added rail congestion moves freight to the highways.

CSX said that increase in truck traffic would lead to additional road and bridge maintenance cost.

The CSX filing said the statement fails to consider other, more cost-effective, ways to improve passenger mobility, including improved bus service and air service.

However, the filing doesn’t acknowledge that scheduled air service along the Albany-Buffalo corridor is nonexistent because air carriers have been unable to serve the route profitably.

CSX did note the relative lack of population density and transit connections around existing stations in Buffalo, Syracuse, Utica, Rome, and the Capital Region, factors that could affect demand for the service.

The railroad said the study should have considered the Albany-New York City and Albany-Niagara Falls segments as different corridors, allowing policy makers to proceed with improvements on the first and choosing the “no-build” alternative for the second.

CSX freight trains do not use the same tracks s Amtrak uses between Albany and New York City.
The New York State Department of Transportation collected comments from the public during several meetings across the state and through written submissions. On March 21, it extended the deadline for comments to April 30. CSX filed its comments that day.

The final draft environmental impact statement is expected to be released six months to a year after the comment period ends. Another environmental impact statement on the alternative selected will then be produced.

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