Schumer announces $4.7 million in federal disaster funding to repair damaged rail lines in Chenango

By WBNG News

Schumer announces $4.7 million in federal disaster funding to repair damaged rail lines in Chenango

May 22, 2013 Updated May 22, 2013 at 1:49 PM EST

(WBNG Binghamton) New York Senator Charles E. Schumer announced Wednesday that the Economic Development Administration (EDA) has officially awarded $4,718,000 in federal disaster funding for the Chenango Industrial Development Agency (IDA) to move forward with the Utica Main Rail Line Revitalization project.

According to a news release from Schumer's office:

Schumer noted that this EDA grant is a huge step in the right direction for economic development in the Southern Tier. In September 2012, 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, after the Senator has pushed on behalf of the project for months and announced a preliminary award in October 2012, the EDA notified Schumer and the Chenango County IDA that the agency has officially granted it a $4.7 million award.

“I am thrilled to announce this grant which will keep our effort to revitalize the Utica Main Rail Line moving at full speed. Restoring the rail line will make businesses throughout Chenango County more competitive by making transporting goods easier and cheaper,” said Senator Schumer. “This grant is exactly the kind of smart public infrastructure investment that can attract new businesses to the area, foster private sector job growth and economic revitalization. What’s more, this project will make the rail line more resilient to future disasters. I was proud to advocate to the federal Economic Development Agency for the Chenango IDA and look forward to seeing construction get underway.”

“We are excited about this opportunity to reestablish freight rail service to the main population centers of Chenango County after an absence of service for nearly seven years,” said Steve Craig, Executive Director of the Chenango County IDA. “County of Chenango IDA will be working with local partners, NYSW Railway, NYS DOT, and rail consultants in the coming days and weeks to move this project forward. We are eager to utilize this vital piece of infrastructure to further strengthen the economy in Chenango County.”

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 EDA grant Schumer secured is 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.

U.S Representative Richard Hanna also issued a news release on the topic.

“This funding will allow industries in Chenango County to again make use of the rail, and it will benefit the region as the line connects the cities of Binghamton and Utica,” Hanna said in the news release. “These improvements will allow for freight to move safely and more efficiently through upstate New York.”

And, the County of Chenango Industrial Development Agency issued a news release later Wednesday. It reads:

The County of Chenango IDA (CCIDA) was notified today that the Federal Economic Development Administration has approved a $4,718,017 award for the Revitalization of the Chenango County Rail System.  The Federal investment represents 80% of the $5.897 million cost to completely revitalize the Utica Main Rail Line from the Chenango County line near Greene, NY through Earlville, NY.

The federal funding through the FY 2012 Disaster Relief Opportunity leverages an award CCIDA received in the fall of 2011 from the NYS Department of Transportation, in the amount of $770,422.  In addition, local sources will invest a total of $408,070.

Steve Craig, Executive Director of the CCIDA, said “We are excited about this opportunity to reestablish freight rail service to the main population centers of Chenango County after an absence of service for nearly seven years. County of Chenango IDA will be working with local partners, New York Susquehanna and Western Railway, NYS DOT, and our rail consultants in the coming days and weeks to move this project forward. We are eager put this vital piece of infrastructure to work strengthening the economy of Chenango County.”

According to the Federal Notice of Investment Award statement, the restoration of the rail system will resume access to freight and industrial transportation to businesses throughout Chenango County.  Overall, the improvements are expected to help create job opportunities and attract new businesses to the area, and help make the rail system more resilient to future disasters.

“We have been working on the restoration of freight rail infrastructure in Chenango County for nearly seven years,” stated Jennifer Tavares, Director of Economic Development. “Our entire economic development team, and particularly Rebecca Sands—who coordinated the Federal EDA application—invested significant time in this project over the last several years, and we are extremely pleased with the outcome.”

“We would like to thank the many elected officials and program partners who pushed for the restoration of this key transportation link, and in particular, would like to recognize US Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, and Congressman Richard Hanna for their work on behalf of Chenango County,” said Craig.

According to Tavares, the County of Chenango IDA Board of Directors will hold a Special Meeting in the near future to discuss the funding award and determine the next steps for the project, which would be conducted in cooperation with NYS&W Railway, for the long term maintenance and operation of the Utica Main Rail Line.