RENSSELAER—At a decidedly low-speed press conference featuring over a dozen speakers, David Paterson and Chuck Schumer, with great fanfare, unveiled an updated state rail plan that calls for greater rail-freight use as well as high-speed passenger rail from Niagara Falls to New York City.
Paterson called the plan "honest and achievable," promising that with $3 billion of funding, the high-speed service (110 m.p.h.!) that upstaters have long lusted for could become reality within three to five years.
He likened the project's significance to the Erie Canal.
"We know what needs to be done," said Schumer. "We have the means to attack the mountain that was lack of money."
The means, of course, being the federal stimulus package.
"At long last, we have the dynamite, so let's blast a tunnel through that mountain," he said. Schumer was chatting up those standing around him during the 90-minute press conference (just listing all the elected officials present took nearly four and half minutes), which was held in the rail station Joe Bruno built.
Schumer slipped out before the end, leaving Paterson to field questions about just how much federal funding is committed to this particular project.
"Obviously in these economic times, it's hard to say that anything is actually committed, "Paterson said. "But with the $8 billion allocation that President Obama put out and then another $5 billion in his budget plan, clearly he wants to make this project move forward and that's what gave us enthusiasm to take the actions that we take now."
Although that money is not intended solely for upstate New York, State Transportation Commissioner Astrid Glynn promised that parts of the high-speed corridor "are indeed shovel-ready."
Representative Jerry Nadler, one of four members of Congress present, said that he believes New York will get "a good fraction" of the stimulus money.
Those funds have not yet been appropriated, and no timetable has been set to do so.