Railroads group makes plea for state money

In order for the state's railroads to help New York, one group said, New York has to help the railroads.

Railroads of New York (RONY) Legislative Counsel Scott Wigger testified at the State Transportation Joint Legislative Budget Hearing on Wednesday, Jan. 28, and called on the state Legislature to restore $10 million in rail capital assistance.

He said the money would ensure the advancement of rail freight capital projects, and include rail freight projects in the federal stimulus package and the next five-year transportation capital plan. Rail advocates across the state argue that these measures will help New York address key long-term economic, environmental and foreign oil dependency issues, according to Wigger.

While we acknowledge that the state is currently facing unprecedented fiscal constraints, growing New York's rail freight system now is critical to our future and essential to moving goods and growing jobs, said Wigger. "We have serious concerns about the state's level of support for the rail freight industry, demonstrated by the devastating cuts for rail freight assistance contained in the proposed 2009-10 executive budget."

The governor's proposed budget has cut capital assistance from the state's base Passenger and Freight Rail Assistance Program. The railroad group argues that while other modes of transportation currently receive billions of dollars each year from the state, the budget slashes two-thirds of the annual rail capital funding.

Wigger also stressed that rail freight can be a critical factor in retaining and attracting manufacturing industries and jobs that are key to New York's economy.

RONY is a not-for-profit statewide association with members serving 60 of New York's 62 counties, advocated for more investment in New York's rail freight system as a strategic way to move goods in a safer, more economical and environmentally friendly manner.

"The rail freight industry today is stable, productive and competitive," Wigger said. "But it needs the Legislature's assistance to bring its rail infrastructure to a level necessary to meet the growing and complex needs of New York's present and future.""

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