(WBNG Binghamton) Wednesday, New York Senator Charles E. Schumer announced that the Economic Development Administration has provisionally committed to award $4,718,000 in federal disaster funding for the Chenango Industrial Development Agency to move forward with the Utica Main Rail Line Revitalization project.
According to a news release from Schumer's office:
Although the CCIDA still needs to raise $407,000 to pay for the construction project, Schumer noted that this EDA approval is a huge step in the right direction for economic development in the Southern Tier.
In September, Schumer called on the EDA to expedite funding for this vital rail project that sought to repair lines in Chenango damaged by a historic 100-year flood. Today, the EDA notified Schumer and the Chenango County IDA that the agency was granting it a $4.7 million preliminary award, pending receipt of final supporting documents.
“Today’s announcement puts us on the right track to move full steam ahead to revitalize the Utica Main Rail Line. Functioning rail lines make it easier and cheaper – and cleaner – to move goods and materials, which create a fertile environment for job-creating businesses to take root and grow. This is exactly the kind of smart public infrastructure investment that can foster private sector job growth an economic revitalization. I was proud to advocate to the federal Economic Development Agency for the Chenango IDA, and I will continue to work closely with local leaders to help in any way I can,” said Senator Schumer.
In a September 13th letter, Schumer urged the EDA to support a $4,700,000 application from the Chenango County Industrial Development Agency (CCIDA) to restore the New York Susquehanna and Western Railroad (NYS&W) from Chenango Forks to Sherburne after a historic flood damaged the tracks. Schumer urged the EDA to recognize the importance of restoring this line for economic growth in the region. The project is contingent on a local and state commitment to cover some of the costs towards the project. Local stakeholders and businesses have awaited news on the disaster funding, as it has been the first real attempt to improve rail transportation for local economic development projects that could benefit from the reopened Utica Main Line tracks.
After the 2006 floods, service was suspended on more than 40 miles of track, making it impossible to send goods from Binghamton to Utica , and cutting off access to important interchanges enabling goods to travel to farther locals by rail. The revitalization not only offers support to existing business and jobs, but increases the viability of vacant industrial sites and brings potential job creation.
In November 2011, Schumer helped pass legislation that included billions of dollars in disaster funding, which would help New Yorkers recover from Tropical Storms Irene and Lee. That Fiscal Year 2012 Appropriations “mini-bus” legislation included $200 million appropriated for the EDA to distribute to disaster-ridden counties. The EDA will be able to use this funding to provide financial resources and technical assistance to help rebuild economic development and provide grants to build new infrastructure, like basic utilities, research facilities, and businesses that foster economic development to retain or attract jobs to the region.
The EDA plays a critical “second responder role” in addition to FEMA, in helping local governments weather the storm and provide emergency funding for repairs. Schumer’s push to secure a $200 million lifeline in the FY12 Appropriations “mini-bus” legislation funds a variety of EDA projects in the wake of these major disasters. Specifically, EDA can be tasked with the following projects in the wake of a major disaster, which fit perfectly with the stated goals of the CIA farming center.
1.) Strategic Planning: EDA offers financial resources and technical assistance to help develop and enhance economic development plans following a disaster. This is achieved through the funding of disaster recovery plans, strategies, and funding for disaster recovery coordinators.
2.) Infrastructure Development: EDA offers grant funds to build new infrastructure (e.g., business incubators, technology parks, research facilities, basic utilities such as water treatment) that foster economic development to retain or attract jobs to the region.
3.) Capital for Alternative Financing: Through EDA’s Revolving Loan Fund (RLF) program, non-profit and governmental entities can apply to establish an RLF which in turn makes below market-rate loans to businesses to help recovery.