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Fort Drum’s Current Railhead Has Been In Desperate Need Of Upgrades For Years And Was Incapable Of Safely Operating At Full Capacity During Harsh Winter Months; Improvements Were Command’s #1 Infrastructure Priority But For Years Lacked Funding To Start The Project

Schumer Personally Called Army Secretary, Defense Secretary And Army Chief Of Staff To Get The Project On The Dod’s Priority List, And Then Secured The Funding In The Federal Budget Making Today’s Groundbreaking Possible

Schumer: New Fort Drum Railhead Will Boost Mission Readiness & Bring Good-Paying Construction Jobs To The North Country

Following years of advocacy, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer today announced the groundbreaking for Fort Drum’s new $27 million railhead project. The construction of a new railhead at Fort Drum has been a top priority of the base for years, but it had lacked the funding until Senator Schumer was able to intervene and advocate directly to military top brass to make the project a priority and secure funding in the federal budget. Now, thanks to Schumer’s efforts, Fort Drum is finally able to begin the project today to modernize its outdated railhead, bringing good paying construction jobs to the North Country, improving base readiness to meet deployment requirements, and giving Fort Drum personnel the resources they need to continue their vital work.

“When I sat down with Fort Drum officials years ago and they told me they would need tens of millions to upgrade their railhead to keep the base going, I promised I would not stop fighting until they got all the support they needed to continue their vital work here in the North Country. I called everyone from the Secretary of the Army to the head of the Department of Defense to make this project a priority, and worked nonstop to include funding for this critical infrastructure in the federal budget, and as we prepare to break ground on construction today I am pleased to say mission accomplished!” said Senator Schumer. “Fort Drum is a major asset to the Army and woven into the very fabric of the North Country. These improvements will bring good paying construction jobs to the region, ensure the base stays ahead of the curve and will keep Fort Drum operating at full capacity with peak mission readiness for years to come.”

Schumer explained that the current Fort Drum railhead is outdated, and in desperate need of an upgrade. Fort Drum has a limited capability in place to simultaneously load and unload trains for mobilization and therefore multiple missions must be staggered and delayed. Loading trains for deployment often forced Fort Drum to hold inbound trains miles away in the town of Watertown’s rail yard, which increased costs. In addition, the current railhead has limited capacity for storage and harsh winter conditions that have often restricted and delayed operations.

After meeting with Fort Drum officials and hearing of the significant issues and desperate need to replace the railhead, Schumer immediately began working to make the project a priority and secure funding for the project. In 2018, Schumer called then Secretary of the Army Dr. Mark Esper to prioritize the construction of a new railhead project at Fort Drum in the Army’s Fiscal Year 2020 Budget Request. In 2019, Schumer held a personal in-person meeting with General James C. McConville, the then nominee to become the chief of staff of the U.S. Army and other top military brass to reiterate his support and urge them to continue to prioritize the railhead project for funding. Then in 2020, Schumer announced that after years of fighting to make it a priority the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) would authorize the project  for an expanded railhead at Fort Drum. However, when the project needed funding to start, Schumer began a final push and was able to deliver the final piece of the puzzle for funding for Fort Drum in FY21 budget.

Now, the railhead project that is breaking ground today will fix many of the operational and safety constraints currently experienced by the installation. Specifically, the new railhead project would improve loading operations at Fort Drum by building 1.2 miles of new railroad loading tracks. Additionally, the $27M project would fund the construction of new ramps, a side loading area, protection measures from weather, new lighting and utilities work, and a new Alert Holding Area equipped with a cargo inspection building. Schumer said that these measures would greatly benefit Fort Drum’s loading capacity, ensuring that the base could meet all of its deployment requirements.

Schumer has a long history of delivering federal resources to ensure Fort Drum can continue it’s essential work in the North Country. Most recently, Schumer secured $27 million for Fort Drum in the FY22 omnibus to replace the base’s existing water supply that was vulnerable to multiple forms of contamination, requiring Fort Drum to purchase half of its water supply from a municipal source. The funding secured by the senator will provide a safe, secure water supply for 35,000 soldiers and civilians serving at the base for years to come.