An Energy-Rail-Broadband Expressway to Quebec

While Montreal is only 330 miles from New York City, there are relatively few links between Canada's second-largest metropolitan area and the tri-state region.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo called for changing that in last week's State of the State address, when he proposed creating what he dubbed an "energy highway" between Quebec and New York City. Suggesting that private companies would supply the estimated $2 billion in infrastructure, Gov. Cuomo said that new and updated electric transmission lines could bring low-cost and clean hydroelectric power from Quebec as well as wind power from upstate New York to millions of businesses and residential customers in the Downstate Region.

"Just like we built the Northway, we will develop an energy expressway down from Quebec," Gov. Cuomo said.

RPA supports this idea, and would take it a few steps further. RPA believes we should investigate the potential to create a multi-use corridor linking Montreal with New York City, combining new energy transmission lines with a higher-speed or high-speed rail corridor and ultra-high-speed broadband. This multi-purpose corridor would allow people and information as well as electrical current to make the journey from Montreal to Albany and then New York City. Currently, Amtrak's Adirondack service takes nearly 11 hours to make this trip - averaging about 30 miles per hour - severely curtailing its utility for business travelers and tourists.

To investigate this idea, last August RPA convened a roundtable on the topic and is now actively engaged with stakeholders to vet the proposal further. In Europe and Asia, railroads, electric transmission and broadband corridors are commonly accommodated in the same shared rights-of-way, providing efficiencies and cross-subsidies between each use.

The opportunity exists to do something similar here, strengthening the economic, energy and knowledge links between Montreal, Albany and the Downstate Region, to the advantage of all. A true high-speed rail link - which would involve substantial infrastructure improvements and features like handling customs on the train, as is done in parts of Europe - could make this trip in less than four hours, enabling businesses in each city to serve customers in the others, as well as propelling tourism in both regions. It would change, for the better, the economic geography of New York State and Quebec.

In his address, Gov. Cuomo said his administration would request proposals for a master plan to carry out his energy highway. The administration should broaden its outlook to include rail and broadband links in this first step as well.