Calling high-speed rail "21st Century technology," Sen. Charles Schumer stopped in Bergen on Tuesday to try and prod CSX to make way for a new passenger rail line that would connect Bergen and Chili.
The $58 million demonstration track, Schumer hopes, would lead to perhaps more than $1.5 billion in funding to build a high-speed rail line from Buffalo to New York City.
CSX, Schumer said, is standing in the way of progress by not providing access to the right of way of its current lines.
Meanwhile, the federal government -- it won't cost New York taxpayers anything, Schumer said -- has buckets of money to spend on high-speed rail, and if New York doesn't grab the money, some other state will.
CSX is hampering New York's rightful claim to the money, according to the senator.
"High-speed rail has been shown to work in other countries," Schumer said. "It will work in Upstate New York. It will create jobs and bring companies to Upstate New York."
Upstate, Schumer said, is a lot like Europe.
"We’re a little more closer to Europe where it has worked," Schumer said. "The distance between the French and German cities and the distance between our cities, and the difference in population of the French and German cities and our cities are very similar."
He spoke several times about the benefits to Rochester and Buffalo of high-speed rail, but while standing in Genesee County, he made no mention of how high speed might benefit the local economy.
In an era when business executives can, as a practical matter, get from Buffalo to Manhatten in nano seconds, Schumer said high-speed rail is a business necessity.
"High-speed rail is 21st Century technology," Schumer said. "Just figure out if you have to get from Midtown New York to Midtown Buffalo or Midtown Rochester, you can go 200 mph in a train – it takes an hour to get from downtown New York City to the airport, then you’ve got to wait for the plane. Yes, the actual plane flight is faster, but when you look at it, rail is faster and easier."
Bergen Mayor Ralph Marsocci expressed concern about a 200 mph training passing through his village and Schumer said that is certainly one of the issues that would need to be addressed.
After a round of skeptical questions by reporters and even one or two of the local business leaders in attendance, Schumer said, “We can hear people say ‘No, no, no' and the same people said ‘No, no, no’ to the Erie Canal. Transportion has always been a linchpin of our economy in Upstate New York. Building good strong transportation makes a great deal of sense."
Below, a photo of a sign hung on a building near where Schumer spoke Tuesday. It reads "Choo Choo Chuck / The Track to Nowere (sic)."
Bottom two pictures, gratuitous photos of trains that passed while the media was waiting for "Choo Choo Chuck" to arrive.
As one of the trains approached during Schumer's remarks, Schumer recalled, as he leaned out from the podium to watch the approaching train, that when he was a child his family couldn't afford nice vacations, so they went to this cabin that was right next to a rail. His parents hated it, he said, "but when I was 5 I used to love to stand there and watch the trains go by."