Bipartisan High Speed Rail Task Force Appointed

James L. Seward

June 30, 2005

Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno (R-I, Brunswick) today announced the creation of the Senate Task Force on High Speed Rail, a panel that will study the best way to link New York’s cities with high-speed trains, dramatically reducing travel time, stimulating new employment and firmly reestablishing New York’s place as a national transportation innovator and technology leader. Senator Bruno also named John Egan to head a feasibility study, funded by $5 million secured by Senator Bruno in this year’s budget, and to present the findings and recommendations to the task force by the end of this year.

"This task force, comprised of transportation experts within the senate and relying on advice and input from experienced professionals from across the transportation industry, will work to develop the faster, more reliable and affordable transportation technology that is in use in other countries," said Senator Bruno. "With Amtrak’s uncertain situation and the fierce competition within the global economy, it is critical that we develop an adequate high speed rail system that can effectively move people and products between cities in New York State and the nation’s economic centers in order to grow businesses and create jobs and opportunities."

"We are a growing nation of commuters and travellers," Senator James L. Seward said. "High speed rail offers the possibility of an improved transportation system that will benefit travellers and shippers alike, and that means economic opportunity and a boost for businesses that rely on shipping. Now is the time to take a good look at the possibilities it affords."

The bipartisan task force will be chaired by Senator Bruno. Senate Minority Leader David A. Paterson will also participate as a member of the task force. In addition to Senators Bruno and Paterson, the Senate Task Force on High Speed Rail includes members with extensive transportation experience, including Senators Dean Skelos (R, Rockville Centre), Thomas Libous (R-C, Binghamton), Caesar Trunzo (R, Brentwood), Owen Johnson (R-C, Babylon), Frank Padavan (R-C, Bellerose), Michael Nozzolio (R-C, Fayette), Charles Fuschillo (R-C, Merrick), John Flanagan (R-C, East Northport), Joseph Robach (R-C-I-WF), James L. Seward (R-C-I, Oneonta), William Larkin (R-C, Cornwall-on-Hudson), Nicholas Spano (R-C, Westchester) and Senator John D. Sabini (D, Queens).

"High speed rail has been very successful overseas, and can help us to reduce traffic congestion, cut air pollution, reduce our dependence on foreign oil and help us to attract new businesses and jobs," said Senator Paterson. "It is absolutely essential that we investigate the potential of high speed rail in New York, and I commend Senator Bruno for creating this task force."

"A viable, statewide high-speed rail network is critically-important to New York’s economic future," said Senator Skelos, the Senate's representative on the MTA’s Capital Program Review Board. "As it relates to both commerce and our quality-of-life, high-speed rail promises to promote job creation and economic growth and make New York State an even more attractive environment in which to do business."

"Considering the fact that railroads are environmentally conscious, business productive and commuter friendly, the Senate Task Force on High-Speed Rail will serve as an important facet of improving New York by investigating the cost and effectiveness of high-speed rail on New York's infrastructure," said Senator Padavan, member of the Senate Transportation Committee. "John Egan's experience and know-how makes him a perfect candidate to head up this new task force. I look forward to reviewing the findings of the feasibility study and recommendations that he and the panel of transportation experts put together."

"I would like to thank Senator Bruno once again for his leadership and vision, and for the privilege of serving on this Senate Task Force," said Senator Larkin. "Through the advisory board, the selection of such a highly qualified project leader in John Egan, and by funding the necessary feasibility study of a high speed rail system, Senator Bruno has displayed his commitment to the development of New York state as a leader in the global economy."

"Many countries around the world and many other states here in America have recognized the importance of high speed rail and have committed resources to develop the necessary infrastructure," said Senator Sabini, ranking Democrat on the Senate's Transportation Committee. "The rising cost of gasoline and limited air service to upstate markets make it very clear -- New York can't afford to be left behind."

The task force will initially rely on a feasibility study headed by John Egan. John Egan served for over 40 years in state government, including as commissioner of the Office of General Services, executive director of the Dormitory Authority and commissioner of the Department of Transportation. Following that, as chief executive officer of the Albany International Airport, he oversaw construction of a new terminal, parking garage, air traffic control tower, cargo facility and New York State Police Executive Hangar. He is presently the president of Renaissance Corporation of Albany, a philanthropic organization, and he will oversee the completion of the 21-acre University Heights project that will combine the resources of Albany College of Pharmacy, Albany Law School, Albany Medical College and the Sage Colleges.

"John Egan has proved his ability to get visionary infrastructure projects done, and I am confident that his experience and commitment will provide a steady, guiding hand to our efforts to bring critical high speed rail improvements to New York," said Senator Bruno.

"I look forward to this very challenging assignment Senator Bruno has outlined. It truly is a very worthwhile effort especially regarding the impact a viable rail system has on our region, indeed the entire state economy," said John Egan. "Because of its vital nature, we have set an aggressive timetable for completion, and with the outstanding team that the senator has assembled WE WILL succeed by working collaboratively with all those involved."

John Egan will oversee a staff of three, including a project director, a consultant and a project assistant, with offices to be located in the Rensselaer Train Station. The team will: produce a study on the feasibility of a high speed rail system, ultimately linking Buffalo-Albany-New York City and Montreal-Albany-New York City; estimate its total cost and marketability; and begin planning, so that high speed rail recommendations could be part of next year’s State Budget.

"The Department of Transportation stands ready to assist the Senate Task Force on High Speed Rail as it begins its important mission, and will continue to work to ensure we have fast, convenient, and dependable passenger rail service throughout New York State," said John F. Guinan, director of Customer and Stakeholder Relations for the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT).

"CDTA's Rensselaer Rail Station is one of the premier intercity passenger rail facilities in the nation, and a focal point in our efforts to enhance mobility in the Capital Region. It is wholly appropriate that this world class facility host such a crucial effort to map out a bold vision for the future of transportation in New York State," said James Cappiello, chairman, Capital District Transportation Authority Board of Directors. "We welcome the New York State Senate Task Force on High Speed Rail, and stand ready to support their efforts in any way we can."

"As the region gains increasing global recognition due in part to the success of the tech valley initiative, the availability of fast, reliable and high-quality transportation is critical to the effort to attract new companies and people to the area," said Lyn Taylor, president of the Albany-Colonie Regional Chamber of Commerce. "We applaud Senator Bruno's foresight in establishing this task force, which will ensure the region explores a high-speed rail system as a means of fostering economic development, job growth and improved quality of life."

The task force and feasibility study team will receive input from an advisory board which will be created to represent the groups and interests impacted by the high speed rail project, including: local, regional and state transportation organizations and experts, government officials, economic development interests, passenger advocates, railroad industry representatives, academics and others.

The study, comments and recommendations will be completed and submitted to the task force by the end of the year.