A $10.7 billion proposal to bring high-speed rail to New York could use a mix of federal stimulus money, state and federal grants, public-private partnerships, and bonding, according to a plan released yesterday.
The 2009 New York State Rail Plan is intended to reduce congestion on highways and airports by increasing and expanding passenger train travel and increasing rail freight usage by 25% over the next 20 years.
The plan, the state's first in 22 years, is a required step toward obtaining federal funding for rail capital improvement projects.
"We are charting a course for the future," Gov. David Paterson said in a press release. "We have prioritized investments to improve intercity passenger rail service and strengthen our freight rail system, while helping to promote the state's economy and protect the environment by reducing energy use, emissions, and congestion on our highways and runways."
Under the plan, the state would seek to double the number of intercity rail passengers traveling between New York City, Albany, and Niagara Falls, and between Albany and Montreal. Capital improvements in the plan would increase the trains' maximum speed to 110 miles per hour from 79. It would also try to establish and improve rail service in other parts of the state and build new facilities to serve container rail traffic.
It's still not clear whether the state will get the federal funding it wants from the stimulus package, Paterson said.
"Obviously in these hard economic times it's difficult to say that anything is actually committed, but with the $8 billion dollar allocation that President Obama put out and another $5 billion in his budget plan, clearly he wants to make these projects move forward, and that's what gave us the enthusiasm to take this action now," the governor said.
The details of how the plan will be financed haven't been determined yet, Division of Budget spokesman Jeffrey Gordon said. The plan outlines multiple sources of potential funding.
State funding could come in part from general obligation bond proceeds authorized under the Rebuild and Renew New York Transportation Bond Act of 2005. The $2.9 billion authorization allocates $27 million annually for rail and port projects. The state also provides $20 million annually for rail projects under a five-year program passed in fiscal 2006.
Plan documents suggest the state could use tax-credit bonds but doesn't elaborate.
New York could issue bonds under the federal Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users, or SAFETEA-LU.
The act, which was passed in 2005 and expires on Sept. 30, allows up to $15 billion of tax-exempt private-activity bonds to be sold for transportation projects. State legislation would have to be passed in order for New York to sell bonds under the program, according to the plan.
Plan documents also pointed to the Alameda Corridor in California and the Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency Program as examples of public-private partnerships that the state could look to as models.