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Maloney touts rail project at Sunnyside Yds.

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U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria) visited Sunnyside Yards last Thursday to tout not only a federal grant to fix the bottlenecking of trains at the yards and prepare the yards for high-speed rail, but also the jobs and economic boost expected to come from the construction work.

“The first high-speed rail project in America is going to be this one,” Maloney said.

The congresswoman was joined by state Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria), City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) and representatives from the transportation and contractor fields when she visited the yards to explain the benefits of the grant, which New York received after Florida rejected $2 million in federal funds for high-speed rail.

Within the $354 million allotted to New York state, $294.7 million will be used to improve the Harold Interlocking at Sunnyside Yards in Sunnyside near Skillman Avenue and 39th Street. This part of the yards, named after the former moniker of Skillman Avenue, “Harold Avenue,” services multiple divisions of the Long Island Rail Road, Amtrak and New Jersey Transit, which use the Sunnyside Yards to turn around after coming out of the four East River Tunnels from Penn Station in Manhattan. The interlocking is crisscrossed by about 800 trains a day, many of them using the same tracks.

Denise Richardson, managing director of the General Contractors Association of New York, said the grant will reconfigure the tracks so each company has its own and will allow them to add signaling and switches for the purpose. Some overlays will also be built to create the equivalent of rail bridges over existing tracks. This project will enable Amtrak to create a high-speed rail line from New York to Boston.

“The objective here is to take what we have and make it work more efficiently,” Richardson said.

Maloney predicted during the five years it will take to improve the Harold Interlocking that the project would create 9,213 jobs and after it is done would give a $585.9 million boost to the economy, create millions in tax revenue, reduce commuter times along all three lines and establish tens of thousands of jobs throughout the economy.

“Florida’s loss in high-speed rail money is New York’s gain,” she said.

Gianaris called the grant a tremendous success. Van Bramer also praised Maloney’s ability to bring resources into the neighborhood.

“We need jobs now more than ever and we need good jobs,” Van Bramer said.

Richardson praised Maloney for the investment in high-speed rail, saying it would boost the economy like the construction of the First Transcontinental Railroad or the Interstate Highway System.

“This country developed around infrastruc­ture,” Richardson said.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

Updated 10:52 am, October 12, 2011
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