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High-speed rail: Is it worth it?

WASHINGTON — We're a region that loves Big Plans, and the latest Big One would be a rail line that could carry you to Albany in less than three hours.

Of course, the best thing about that rail line is that it could also bring you back from Albany to Buffalo just as quickly. But I digress.

In all seriousness, the "Empire Corridor" proposal for high-speed rail between Albany and Buffalo looks like one of those Big Plans that might actually be realized — if CSX Corp., which owns the right-of-way where the rail line would be built, cooperates.

Early signs are not entirely positive. CSX is demanding that the state pick up any liability costs for passenger accidents along that new route, said railroad spokesman Bob Sullivan.

"We're not introducing the passenger traffic introduced by this," Sullivan said. The state would be introducing it, "and that's where the liability should be owned or carried."

The trouble is, that liability could be hugely expensive to New York State. How expensive? Nobody knows.

But at some point in the next few months, unless CSX compromises, you can expect to hear a question that's not been voiced yet about high-speed rail in upstate New York: Is it worth it?

— Jerry Zremski

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