FREIGHT RAIL

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State Comptroller H. Carl McCall blasted the State Department of Transportation’s administration of a high profile freight rail project as a “boon turned into a boondoggle.”

In a highly critical report released Tuesday, McCall lambasted the state for extensive delays in the development of the Oak Point Link and the Harlem River Yard in the South Bronx, projects costing $213 million that are intended to improve downstate New York’s rail freight network by easing the transportation of truck trailers and containers on rail cars. The projects were supposed to create 5,000 new jobs and reduce air pollution.

The report also criticized the state’s failure to craft a comprehensive rail freight plan or to coordinate the work of other government agencies who took part in the project. For example, while the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey invested $108 million in the Oak Point Link and Harlem River Yard, McCall said, it also invested $19.5 million in a “state-of-the-art” rail facility in Elizabeth, New Jersey, that will likely pull business away from the South Bronx projects.

State DOT spokesman Michael Fleischer acknowledged the projects were hampered by delays and wasteful spending, but he blamed previous administrations. “The problems McCall cited have been brought to a conclusion,” he said. “The Comptroller was himself a member of the Port Authority board from 1986 to 1989” and could have dealt with that agency’s failure to coordinate its investments, Fleischer added.

McCall’s report comes three years after City Limits first reported on the state’s flawed planning of the Oak Point Link and Harlem River Yards projects.