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Earlier This Month, A Freight Train Going Through Rockland Collided with A Semi Stuck on CSX Tracks, Which Is No Stranger to Flammable Crude & Toxic Materials, Renewing Concerns After East Palestine Disaster & Newburgh’s 2017 CSX Derailment That Leaked 4,600+ Gallons of Diesel Fuel Near the Hudson River

Schumer, In A Personal Meeting with CSX CEO, Sounded Alarm on Dangerous Rockland Rail Crossing & Secured A Major Commitment to Finally Replace By The End Of 2023 West Haverstraw’s Horrible Railroad Ave Crossing, That Recently Injured Several Firefighters

Schumer: It’s Time to Get Upgrades for Safer Rail Crossings in Haverstraw – And Across the Hudson Valley – Back on Track.

On the heels of Rockland’s latest train tractor-trailer crash that horrified Haverstraw, and following both the recent East Palestine crisis and Newburgh’s 2017 derailment, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer today announced that last week he personally met with CSX CEO, Joseph R. Hinrichs, and called on the company to immediately investigate and address Rockland’s at-risk grade crossings. During the meeting, Schumer successfully secured a firm commitment from CSX to fix the dangerous  West Haverstraw Railroad Avenue crossing by the end of 2023. In addition, the senator reiterated past concerns about Haverstraw’s New Main Street crossing, and urged CSX to quickly address the other problematic crossings across Rockland and the Hudson Valley.  

“The violent train-and-truck collision that occurred in Haverstraw last week, not to mention the emergency responders injured and hospitalized because of the degraded crossing down the road, have set off rail-safety alarm bells across Rockland County. Although no one was injured last week, the incident could’ve been a horrific tragedy and serves as a warning of the significant dangers that face Rockland residents if we don’t prioritize fixing these rail crossings ASAP,” said Senator Schumer. “I heard those alarm bells loud and clear, which is why I personally met with the CSX CEO less than a week after the Haverstraw crash and secured a firm commitment from him to prioritize fixing the nearby Railroad Ave crossing this year to prevent future accidents. I want to thank CSX for heeding our calls and recognizing the urgency of this issue – the safety of the Rockland community depends on it.”

During last week’s meeting, Schumer explained to CSX that local officials have received hundreds of complaints from first responders and residents about the Railroad Avenue crossing’s state of disrepair, stressing that the crossing is one of two ways that most area police, EMS, and firefighters respond to emergencies. Disturbingly, the uneven and damaged tracks recently injured several firefighters responding to a call. Residents, seniors, and handicapped people have also expressed increasing concerns, with wheelchairs and scooters unable to safely cross the tracks. Specifically, CSX will remove the panels in the crossing and install new panels, and resurface the crossing to be as smooth as possible, and stated they will coordinate with local officials for detours while the work is being done. Local officials have called on CSX to address the Railroad Ave crossing for years.

“We thank Senator Schumer for personally meeting with CSX and securing a commitment from their CEO to fix the Railroad Ave crossing by the end of this year. With the recent train crash just miles down the tracks, our top priority is making sure this critical replacement work happens as soon as possible for the peace of mind of our residents and first responders who cross the tracks every day. It is unfortunate that an event on the tracks needed to occur for CSX to guarantee action from them since I have been advocating for two plus years,” said West Haverstraw Mayor Robert D’Amelio.

“The intersections of the railroad crossings are vital thoroughfares for our first responders and the public. Ensuring that these railroad crossing intersections are safe is of paramount concern to everyone. Senator Schumer has our gratitude for coordinating with CSX major improvements that will be put in place this year. We are so thankful to Senator Schumer before any human tragedy occurs,” said Town of Haverstraw Supervisor Howard Phillips.

“The intersection on Railroad Avenue is an artery to the west side of the Village and our first responders have already been injured while responding to a call due to the conditions. As we all know, when responding to an emergency a delay of even just seconds can be the difference of life and death. Our first responders deserve a safe railroad crossing,” said West Haverstraw Fire Department Chief Robert Lagrow.

“There have been many well documented issues at CSX crossings in Rockland over the years and I appreciate Senator Schumer securing this commitment from their CEO to improve the Railroad Avenue crossing in West Haverstraw by the end of 2023. This work will help protect residents and make the jobs of our dedicated first responders safer and easier,” said Rockland County Executive Ed Day.

With Haverstraw’s recent train crash adding another troubling chapter to the Hudson Valley’s history book of accidents and derailments, Schumer thanked CSX for its commitment to overhaul the Railroad Avenue crossing this year and said the upgrades must occur ASAP. Additionally, Schumer emphasized that CSX should investigate and if needed repair any risky grade crossings beyond Haverstraw extending to the entire Hudson Valley. He noted that this crossing has a history of past collisions. According to the Federal Rail Administration, there have been at least 10 incidents at the crossing dating back to 1979, two of which were deadly. Schumer warned that despite the trains not carrying oil, this set of tracks is frequently used by freight trains carrying highly flammable crude oil and other toxic materials. With the recent East Palestine derailment shocking the nation, Schumer pointed to Newburgh’s nearly catastrophic derailment in 2017 that leaked 4,600 gallons of diesel fuel next to the Hudson River and injured four.  At the time, the senator visited Newburgh, calling on the federal government to harden its standards surrounding approaching trains and crossing signals.

Schumer is no stranger to fighting for better rail safety in Haverstraw. Just six years ago, Schumer visited the exact same New Main Street railroad crossing in the wake of another train crash to call on the Department of Transportation (DOT) and Department of Energy (DOE) to finalize the on-going assessment of the need for oil stabilization standards. Schumer’s 2017 visit came after a CSX freight train struck and destroyed a car carrier trailer trapped on the tracks at the New Main Street and Route 9W railroad crossing. The driver escaped without injury before the collision, similar to last week’s incident.

Schumer has been a longtime advocate for rail safety along the 131-mile CSX River Subdivision line running through Rockland, Orange, and Ulster counties in the Hudson Valley. In late 2021, he successfully called on CSX to repair its Blue Point Rail Bridge between Highland and Milton in Ulster County. In 2018, Schumer called on USDOT to reverse course and leave-in-place the rule requiring freight carriers to equip high hazard flammable unit trains carrying crude oil or hazardous materials with Electronically Controlled Pneumatic brakes by 2023.

Moreover, the senator led the charge against dangerous oil-by-rail cars including DOT-111s and successfully fought for the full implementation of lifesaving Positive Train Control technology. Schumer has been outspoken on the need for railroads to conduct comprehensive sleep apnea screening for their engineers, a frequent cause of derailments, and he's successfully pushed for the installation of inward facing cameras on a number of rail systems. Schumer's push calling on CSX to immediately investigate and address at-risk crossings builds on the $9 billion in federal rail safety funding that he championed in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and represents yet another step in his tireless efforts to improve rail safety in the Hudson Valley and across New York State.