FOLLOWING LAST MONTH’S TERRIFYING INCIDENT OF ROCK CHUNKS RAINING DOWN +140 FEET FROM CSX TRESTLE IN KINGSTON, RESULTING IN HOSPITALIZATIONS & TOTALED CARS, SCHUMER CALLS ON CSX TO IMPLEMENT CRITICAL SAFETY MEASURES ASAP; SENATOR URGES CSX TO INSTALL SAFETY NETTING UNDER TRESTLE, TO SHIELD PASSERBY FROM FALLING DEBRIS, RESTORE SAFETY AND PEACE OF MIND IN ULSTER COUNTY
On July 30, Large Ballast Rocks Were Dislodged From A CSX Train Crossing The Abeel Street Trestle, Plummeting 140 Feet To The Ground, Hospitalizing Two And Damaging Vehicles; FIVE More Incidents Have Been Reported Since
In Ulster County, Schumer Says CSX Must Do More To Promote Rail Safety In Community; Urges Company To Install Netting Above Abeel Street And Issue Comprehensive Safety Plan ASAP
Schumer To CSX: It Shouldn’t Be Raining Ballast Rock In Ulster County—Install A Net!
Standing below the Abeel Street trestle in Ulster County, surrounded by public officials and impacted residents, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today sounded the alarm on a dangerous CSX-owned trestle over Abeel Street in the City of Kingston, New York. On July 30, 2019, large, heavy ballast rocks fell over 140 feet from a CSX freight train as it crossed the trestle, injuring two people and leaving severe damage on vehicles passing by. Schumer said this dangerous situation is particularly untenable, as currently, there is no barrier under the trestle to shield humans and vehicles from debris. Furthermore, Schumer explained, reports indicate that the incident wasn’t a one-off, and that debris has continued to fall from trains crossing the trestle as recently as September 3rd. To address this rail safety shortcoming, and restore some peace of mind to the surrounding Ulster County community, Schumer called on CSX, the owner of the trestle above Abeel Street, to install safety netting over the street and develop and publically release a long-term safety report to the public.
“Each and every day hundreds of Ulster County residents drive down Abeel Street, on their way to and from their job, to pick up their kids from school, or just to get to Kingston. The last thing these hardworking New Yorkers should have to worry about is rocks falling from the sky and destroying their car, or even worse, causing them physical harm,” said Senator Schumer. “So my message to CSX is simple: without wasting any time, install safety netting under your trestle over Abeel Street and issue a complete report on the recent incidents and safety failures. Be a good neighbor to those in Kingston by restoring safety and some peace of mind to the residents of Ulster County. Anything less would be unacceptable.”
Schumer explained that the trestle above Abeel Street has an open deck bridge that carries the potential to jeopardize the safety of those traveling under it, including hundreds of vehicles and residents of Kingston, every day. Roughly a month ago, on July 30th, a maintenance crew was dropping ballast rock from a work train right in front of the entrance to the CSX trestle. Before crossing the trestle, the ballast rock dropping was intended to stop. However, due to either a lapse in judgment or a technical malfunction, the CSX work train continued laying stones on the tracks below causing the stones to fall between the ties on the bridge and to ultimately strike both vehicles and passengers on the ground over 140 feet below. Schumer said that the incident resulted in two Ulster County residents being injured to such an extent that they were hospitalized, property damage to four vehicles driving by, at least one car accident, and significant alarm among county residents.
Schumer said that what is even more troubling is that the problem is not a new one for the City of Kingston. Back in 1992, when Conrail owned the tracks, the Abeel Street trestle was a serious impediment to safety for residents. At one point, a large section of a train was dislodged from a rail car and fell from the tracks, seriously injuring two passengers in vehicles driving down Abeel Street. Schumer pointed to an investigative report following the incident, which clearly states that protective netting had been previously removed for unknown reasons. Furthermore, Schumer explained, in 1992, investigators suggested that the safety netting should be re-installed, arguing, “upon numerous complaints received, necessary action by Conrail would have been to erect a catch type basin or pan of some type underneath the bridge to collect the fallen debris […]. It is my understanding at one time that netting was erected underneath this span over the roadway.” However, the investigators’ suggestions were ignored, and Abeel Street remained unprotected from debris. Schumer argued that now, in 2019, with five additional incident reports filed since last month’s incident, it is only logical that CSX, at long last, reinstall the netting.
Additionally, reports from as recently as this week reveal that a wooden beam is presently hanging from the side of the trestle, with ballast debris still falling from the tracks and landing on Abeel Street. Schumer explained that it is clear that the trestle should immediately be inspected for stability and integrity, and that safety netting must be installed before it causes any more harm to Ulster County residents. The 1992 investigative report also states that, “open decks are costly but their use introduces in-flammable materials, and for bridges over streets and highways, additional measures such as canopies, plates, or wooden flooring must be utilized to protect highway traffic and pedestrian traffic from falling objects, water or other materials during the movement of trains.” Schumer said, though much may have changed over the past 27 years, the necessity of protecting both motorists and pedestrians on Abeel Street has remained the same, and urged CSX to implement these paramount safety measures without any delay.
Furthermore, Schumer also called on CSX to install, produce, and publically release a safety report on the Abeel Street trestle. Schumer explained that locals in Ulster County need to know the exact risks they face when driving down or walking on Abeel Street, and that anything less would be entirely unacceptable. Schumer said that in tandem, the two measures would make a meaningful improvement to rail safety in Ulster County and throughout the state.
Schumer was joined by Mayor of the City of Kingston Steve Noble, Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan, and one of the victims from last month’s incident.
“The people in the City of Kingston should not feel unsafe in our own community. Last month’s incident where ballast rocks fell from a freight train as it crossed over the CSX trestle near Rondout Creek must be addressed by CSX immediately. We appreciate Senator Schumer’s response to concerns from Kingston residents about debris falling onto vehicles, homes, and businesses, making this area continually dangerous,” said Mayor Steve Noble. “We are asking CSX to install netting above Abeel and Dewitt Streets, and to generate and publically release a detailed report indicating how this incident occurred. I look forward to working with Senator Schumer as we push for CSX to ensure the safety of all residents and visitors to Kingston.”?
“The continued foot dragging by CSX to take any actions as dangerous debris continues to fall from their trestle in Kingston is simply inexcusable, and I look forward to working with Senator Schumer to ensure critical safety systems are put in place,” said Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan. “I commend and thank Senator Schumer for his commitment and dedication to this issue and will continue working together to hold CSX accountable while doing everything possible to protect the residents of Ulster County.”
A copy of Schumer’s letter to CSX appears below.
Dear Mr. Foote:
I write with the urgent request that CSX Transportation (CSX) take increased safety precautions at the CSX trestle over Abeel Street in the City of Kingston, New York with all due speed. Specifically, as a result of the July 30, 2019 incident where ballast rocks fell from a CSX freight train as it crossed the trestle Abeel Street, injuring two people and severely damaging vehicles, I am urge CSX to immediately install netting over Abeel Street and implement and publically release a long-term, comprehensive safety report to prevent future incidents from occurring and to increase safety and restore peace of mind to Kingston residents.
The trestle over Abeel Street has an open deck bridge that has the potential to endanger those traveling under it, including hundreds of vehicles and residents each day. On July 30th, a maintenance crew dropped ballast rock on the tracks leading to the CSX trestle. Prior to crossing the trestle the ballast dropping was supposed to stop. Unfortunately, due to either a lapse in judgment or a malfunction, the CSX ballast work train continued laying stones on the tracks and some fell between the ties on the bridge and struck vehicles and passengers over 140-feet below, resulting in two Ulster County residents being hospitalized, causing injuries, property damage, and significant alarm to residents.
Even more troubling, I’ve recently learned that this problem is not new for Abeel Street. Dating back to 1992, when Conrail owned the tracks, this bridge was dangerous for residents; a large piece of a train was dislodged from a railroad car and fell from the tracks, seriously injuring two passengers driving on Abeel Street. An investigative report following that incident clearly states that previous protective netting was removed for unknown reasons. Further, in 1992 investigators suggested that the net should be re-installed, saying, “upon numerous complaints received, necessary action by Conrail would of been to erect a catch type basin or pan of some type underneath the bridge to collect the fallen debris […]. It is my understanding a one time that netting was erected underneath this span over the roadway.” However, action never followed. Now, in 2019, with five incident reports filed since last month’s incident, it is only logical that CSX reinstall the net with all due speed.
In addition, there are reports as recent as September 3rd that a wooden beam is hanging from the trestle and ballast debris is still falling from the tracks and landing on Abeel Street. It is clear that the trestle should be inspected for stability and integrity and safety netting should be installed before it causes any further injury to Kingston residents. The 1992 report also states, “open decks are costly but their use introduces in-flammable materials, and for bridges over streets and highways, additional measures such as canopies, plates, or wooden flooring must be utilized to protect highway traffic and pedestrian traffic from falling objects water or other materials during the movement of trains.” Though much may have changed over the past 27 years, the desire and necessity of protecting motorists and pedestrians on Abeel Street has remained the same, yet has been unfruitful.
It is incumbent on CSX to install safety netting under the Abeel Street trestle, and I also urge CSX to produce and publically release a safety report on the trestle and restore safety and peace of mind to Kingston motorists and pedestrians. Thank you for your attention to these issues; I believe that your attention will make a meaningful improvement in rail safety in Ulster County and throughout New York. Should you have any additional questions, please do not hesitate to contact my office.
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