Von Hasseln pitches long term plan for train station relocation


Photo by Tim Becker

Community and Economic Development Director Robert von Hasseln explained his long-term plan for the relocation of Amsterdam’s train station from its current location on West Main St. to the downtown area at Tuesday’s Amsterdam Common Council meeting. Von Hasseln said the bulk of the funding for the project would have to come from grants and may take anywhere from 2 to 7 years before the project begins. He also said that council approval would be required at several stages of the plan.

Von Hasseln broke down the plan into four stages. The first conceptual stage, he explained, was when the idea was initially introduced in Amsterdam’s Comprehensive Plan, which was completed in 2003 and included input from a wide range of the city’s residents as well as various business, community and political leaders. He said that the idea was also embraced by Amtrak and the Empire State Corridor program, who von Hasslen said encouraged the city to “think big” and expand the project to be an “inter-modal” transportation hub with additional parking and banquet hall space. He said that CSX Corporation, which owns the railroad tracks, was also consulted and has no objections to the project.

After the station was flooded in 2011, the project received support from the NY Rising Commission and was included in its 2014 report. Von Hasseln said a grant from NY State’s Brownfield Opportunity Area (BOA) program funded plans for the second stage, which calls for preliminary designs to be drawn up and a specific site to be selected. He said he expected the designs would be finished by spring of 2015.

The third stage would be to complete detailed design plans which von Hasseln said would require the city to apply for a state grant using the Consolidated Funding Application process (CFA). The fourth and final stage would be to apply for a TIGER grant (Transportation Improvements Generating Economic Recovery) from the US Department of Transportation to fund the actual construction of the station.

Von Hasslen said he had heard concerns about the cost to city taxpayers and the amount of input from the public and the common council.

“Apparently there’s been some kind of buzz around about maybe we shouldn’t do this or maybe the common council should say let’s stop this now before any more tax payer’s dollars have been involved,” said von Hasseln.

Von Hasseln explained that public participation was a part of the initial comprehensive plan process, the BOA programs, the Empire Corridor program, and the NY Rising Commission. He also pointed out that the common council would have to approve the use of any grant money won by the city. He also pointed out that if the city updates its comprehensive plan, there would be additional opportunity for the public to participate and the common council to give its approval.

“Be assured that if after the preliminary plans are done…and you don’t like it, you have three more chances to put a stake in the heart of this thing. But you don’t need to act now until you actually get a chance to look at what the plans might look like,” said von Hasseln.

When asked about the potential costs to the city, von Hasseln said that the grant he hoped to secure for the detailed plans would fully fund the project and that most of the planning work so far had not cost the city anything. He said the city’s cost to participate in the BOA program was “minimal” but said he did not have an exact figure.

Von Hasseln said the even though the current train station has been rehabilitated after the flood and was currently in use, that it was only a matter of time before it was damaged again from flooding.

“As the NY Rising commission pointed out, it can’t stay in that location because neither the railroad or the government can afford to keep rebuilding it or refinishing it after every flood…everybody from Amtrak, CSX, State of New York knows that it can’t stay there in that flood plain,” said von Hasseln.

Download FEMA flood maps of Amsterdam, NY


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9 Responses to Von Hasseln pitches long term plan for train station relocation

  1. AvatarRobert N. Going says:

    The reason that the train station is in the flood plain is that the railroad track is in the flood plain. The only way to have a train station not in the flood plain is to move it away from the track. Inasmuch as the catastrophic flood line in the downtown area extends to the base of the Public Safety Building, the ideal place for the train station should be somewhere on Market Hill, where it’s high and dry.

    • AvatarTim Becker says:

      According to FEMA’s flood zone maps, you are wrong Robert. The downtown area is not in the 100 or 500 year flood zones. There is a flood zone around the creek, which flows near the public safety building, but to say the area “extends” all the way to the public safety building is incorrect.

      Take a look at the map. The zones are overlaid on a 1974 street map, but it was updated in 1984 and is the most recent map provided by FEMA.

      If you have a source that contradicts this, please let me know and I will research it.

  2. AvatarDon Diehl says:

    Why bother with this very few people use the train. The scheduling from Amsterdam is not user friendly it’s easier and cheaper to go to the Renselear station, moving the station to downtown will not change this.

    • AvatarTim Becker says:

      According to Amtrak’s statistics, 10,694 people either got on or got off a train at the Amsterdam station in FY 2013. Don’t you think downtown businesses could use that extra traffic?

    • AvatarRob Millan says:

      I knew that Hudson was busy, but had no idea nor did I expect 175,000. I think that’s certainly a number to consider when you think about how much Amsterdam and Hudson are astonishingly similar in their downtowns.

  3. Avatardon diehl says:

    No Tim I don’t think 10,000 people a year is a significant number..that’s less than 200 people per week or about 28 per day. Speaking from a “retail point of view” to put this in perspective today with the lowered profit margins a simple store ( like your average mom and pop liquor/wine store) needs 200-300 people per day to survive.

    • AvatarTim Becker says:

      If you think an *additional* 10,694 people per year is insignificant then we are living in two different worlds. I hardly think the businesses who are *already* thriving downtown – who if we use your estimate of 200-300 people per day – would see a 10-14% increase in traffic every day every year – would think that was insignificant.

  4. Avatardon diehl says:

    Tim Yes if the rr station was bringing in 300 people per day it would be significant..going with the 10k a year figure it’s only 28 per day..or it could be 20 folks commuting to and from Albany which would be 10k on/offs on an annual basis. I hope that clears it up what I was trying to say.

    • AvatarTim Becker says:

      No, I don’t think you understand what I’m saying. Let me put it another way. You claim that a business needs 200-300 people per day to make ends meet. I don’t know where that figure comes from, but it doesn’t sound out of line, so I’ll accept it for this debate.

      There are *already* thriving businesses downtown – Riverside Pizza, Sharp Shooters, Book Hound, etc. So based on your numbers, they must *already* be bringing in 200-300 people per day, *without* the train station. Otherwise they wouldn’t be surviving, right? That’s based on your own assertion.

      So if the train station brings in an *extra* 28-29 people per day, that’s a 10%-14% increase in traffic every single day. How is that not significant?