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Many residents not on board with high speed rail plan that passes Utica

By ANNA MEILER

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) -- It takes about four hours and 45 minutes to get from Utica to New York City by train.

"I leave right from this station, I'd like to save about 45 minutes," said Edwin Waszkiewicz, who spoke at a public meeting at the Utica train station in support of high speed rails.

The New York State Department of Transportation held one of six public meetings Tuesday to ask residents what they think about five alternative plans for high speed rails. The first plan is already underway with roughly $300 million for track upgrades primarily in Albany.

Now two questions: Do we increase train speed? And how much money should we spend?

The plans are to speed up train travel on the Empire Corridor, stretching from Manhattan all the way to Niagara Falls. Maximum speeds could reach 90, 110 or 125 miles per hour.

"Any of these alternatives will involve a massive infrastructure project so there will definitely be support for construction jobs. From the trains traveling higher speeds, tourism is a benefit. If you have more trains and they're traveling faster people will get out there and explore New York State more," said Beau Duffy, Director Of Communication for the New York State Department of Transportation.

But if the plan passes for trains to travel at 125 miles per hour, they won't stop in Utica, because a separate track will be built outside the city. Some residents say they can't get on board with that idea.

"We have people coming here for the Boilermaker and they hear Syracuse is on high speed rail, but Utica and Rome are not on high speed rail? Bad first impression," said Waszkiewicz.

As the speeds increase, so do the costs. Plans A and B are both for 90 miles per hour, but Plan B costs more because it includes the construction of more than 300 miles of new track. The maximum projected cost is $14.71 billion. One resident says that's too much.

"One hundred ten is a happy medium and again, it seems doable- 125 you're talking about acquiring new right of way and bulldozing through neighborhoods and things like that so that makes it a really difficult thing to sell I would think," said Ben Gottfried, who was representing rail advocacy group, Empire State Passenger's Association, at the meeting.

Public comments will play into the final decision.

Submit a comment electronically: www.dot.ny.gov/empire-corridor

E-mail: empirecorridor@dot.ny.gov, using subject line "Draft EIS"

The deadline is March 24th.

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