Spring may be finally here. Our long-lingering winter is lingering still, but the sun’s becoming persistent. The other evening, I was driving toward my house. The sun was still out. Three skateboarders were on three skateboards. A woman was jogging. These were as good signs as any that the season may have changed at last.
Usually when winter is over, I’m ready to be traveling. For a number of years, I would run along the Erie Canal path with two friends from the beginning of April. This was in the Erie Canal Park in Manlius. My brothers, as high school students, helped to build this park, and people have come here since to run, walk, bicycle and discuss matters.
Those of us who live in or near Syracuse cling to what remnants we have of the Erie Canal. While the main part of the Canal was filled in close to a century ago, it was the Canal that built Syracuse. It also built Buffalo, Rochester, Utica and all the other cities and towns between Lake Erie and Albany. After the Canal fell into disuse, the area fell into decline. We’ve lost most of our manufacturing.
After World War II, the U.S. government made a conscious decision to disregard the nation’s rail system. In the 1950’s, President Eisenhower developed the interstate highway system. Trains fell into decline. Relatively little money went into their maintenance. Old tracks were not repaired. Trains became slower than before, and were most often late.
Now the New York State government has opened discussions on an Empire Corridor system featuring fast trains running from Buffalo to New York City. Governor Cuomo is hoping to obtain funding for this project from the federal government.
It is high time we redeveloped our rail system, as well as our infrastructure of roads and bridges. We need to follow the examples of Europe and Japan in having a twenty-first century rail system. We need to move people quickly through this state. Train travel should be a viable alternative to road and air transport. If all three of these alternatives were given sufficient attention, each would be easier to maintain.
These fast trains will only transport people. They will not, like the Erie Canal, transport freight. But through their development, people in central New York would be able to arrive at places where economic opportunity exists, and still live in central New York. Money would eventually come to central New York through this process. The economy would sooner or later be rebuilt here.
We need to move forward.