By Ellen Abbott
High speed rail has become a political issue across the country, including in upstate New York. Democratic Congressional hopeful Dan Maffei says the issue draws a distinction between him and his opponent in the race for the 24th Congressional district.
Standing in front of the regional transportation center in Syracuse, Maffei held up a letter written by Republican Congresswoman Ann Marie Buerkle to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood last year, opposing reallocation of $2.4 million in high sped rail money to New York state.
"When she sent this letter she was just reiterating her support for the Paul Ryan radical vision of completely cutting off any kind of transportation infrastructure funding, and instead supporting tax cuts for some of the most wealthy Americans," said Maffei.
Maffei says he supports spending federal dollars on a rail system that could travel between 90 and 110 miles per hour, and provide that service between Buffalo and New York City. He says that would be a boost to the economy in central New York.
"It could clearly cut travel times and increase reliability," he said. "And what I see it doing is providing a necessary other way to get into central New York."
In her letter to transportation officials, Buerkle contends that the federal government can't afford to spend millions on a high speed rail line that would not be sustainable.
Challenger Maffei says the debate over high speed rail mimics one that happened in the region two centuries ago over the Erie Canal.
"Back then people said, just as Congressman Buerkle argues in this letter, that it was a waste of money. That there wasn't enough economic development in upstate New York to justify a big infrastructure project like the Erie Canal. But in fact that investment paid off many fold," said Maffei.