Amtrak expects to finish a massive rail improvement project in New York’s Capital Region this summer.
The $163 million program is adding a second track between Albany and Schenectady, New York, in order to eliminate a bottleneck on the single-track route used by the Lake Shore Limited, Empire Service trains, the Adirondack, the Ethan Allen Express and the Maple Leaf.
The work also includes upgrading the signal system and improving grade crossings.
An earlier stage of the project involved lengthening two passenger platforms at the Albany-Rensselaer station, primarily for the benefit of passengers boarding and disembarking from the Lake Shore Limited.
Amtrak officials said the work is nearly finished south of the Capital Region and that the second track between Albany and Schenectady should go into service in late spring or early summer.
A NYDOT spokesman said contractors are still placing ballast on the new track, as well as making deck repairs on the Union Street and Erie Boulevard bridges in Schenectady, cleaning and improving culverts, and removing poles, now that the new signal system is underground.
However, officials say that earlier ides to increase the level of service west and north of the region are uncertain at best.
Michael Franchini, who heads the Capital District Transportation Committee, a government planning organization that oversees the disbursement of federal transportation funds, said there are no serious proposals to extend Empire Service trains now terminating at Albany-Rensselaer to Schenectady or Saratoga Springs.
The New York Department of Transportation will say only that it continues to consider increased service.
Saratoga County residents who are now served by the New York-Montreal Adirondack said that they need additional service to provide them more flexibility in their travel plans.
Some now drive an hour to the Albany-Rensselaer station to take advantage of its higher level of service to New York City.
In a related development, NYDOT officials have been asked to replace the locomotives used between Albany-Rensselaer and New York Penn Station.
The dual model locomotives are able to run on diesel fuel or electric current, but use electric power in the Manhattan tunnels that bring trains into Penn Station.
Replacing the fleet with 25 new locomotives would cost an estimated $250 million.
The current locomotives are old and prone to breakdowns that delay trains.