Finger Lakes Rail awarded $822,000 for track upgrades

Loujane Johns
Bridges south of this stretch of railroad near Glenora are slated for repairs using Railrod grant funds.

“For us, it’s all about prevention,” said Deb Najarro, Manager of Passenger Service and Public Affairs  of Finger Lakes Railway Corp.  She gave the comment when asked how the rail company would use a $822, 000 New York State DOT grant announced on April 28.

Najarro said the major portion of the award would be used in Yates and Schuyler Counties for rehabilitation of bridges between Himrod and Watkins Glen. One bridge is 200 feet high.  “The track is in good condition, but the steel structures need to be focused on.  Railroad infrastructure is aging across the country.”  She said recent accidents in the state and country have drawn focus on the need for repair on aging rails and bridges.  “Finger Lakes Railway has not had any accidents and we want to make sure we have none.”

The work will probably not create any more jobs for FLR, according to Najarro, because a contractor, yet to be named, will be doing the work. 

Getting the funding has been a long process, according to Najarro.  She said the original funding was introduced during the Pataki administration.  In 2007 it was held up by Spitzer and finally became a reality when Patterson took office. She said it is exciting to have the process of looking at railroads starting again.

The sum is part of  a $20 million statewide package.  In making the announcement NYSDOT Commissioner Astrid C. Glynn said, “This $20 million in rail funding is an essential investment in New York State’s rail infrastructure that will generate economic development and reduce the number of trucks on our roads.  Today’s rail investment helps ensure that New York has reliable rail service that businesses and citizens can count on for moving goods and traveling.”

U.S. Representative of the 29th District John “Randy” Kohl joined in the announcement.   “Our community has seen the damage that deficient railroad infrastructure can cause.  With the recent train derailments in and around the 29th District, increased funding is pivotal to ensuring that these tragedies do not occur.  I sincerely thank the NYSDOT for sending us these sorely needed funds,” Kuhl said.

Kuhl has approached the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) for assistance following a derailment in Monroe County on Jan. 16, 2007 and another on Jan. 23, 2008 near Oneida.  The accidents led to investigations and inspections.

The Finger Lakes Railway Corporation is headquartered in Geneva.  It was formed  in 1995 when investors purchased 118 miles of track from Conrail.  FLR has grown from 6 to 50 employees and three to 12 locomotives.  Freight cars carry over 17,000 car loads per year from Canandaigua to Solvay and Penn Yan to Watkins Glen.  The freight cars transport plastics, canned foods, grain,  paper products, scrap and finished steel, lumber, paper, minerals such as salt, sand, soda ash and fertilizer. 

Although primarily a freight company, FLR also offers scenic passenger train rides from the Geneva location. For more information visit: www.fingerlakesscenicrailway.com.