01.14.16

SCHUMER TOURS SITE OF DANGEROUS RAIL-GRADE CROSSING IN CORNWALL-ON-HUDSON, THE LOCATION OF SEVERAL RAIL ACCIDENTS AND DERAILMENT IN ORANGE COUNTY; SENATOR PUSHES CSX TO HELP CORNWALL-ON-HUDSON OFFICIALS PREVENT FUTURE RAIL ACCIDENTS

Local Officials Have Deemed Rail Crossing in Cornwall-On-Hudson Unsafe, Senator Pushes CSX to Make Changes to Improve Safety at the Crossing and in the Cornwall Area

Cornwall-On-Hudson Officials Have Several Ideas Including: Mobile Barriers, Enhanced Crossing Gates, and More That Would Significantly Improve Safety at Site of Recent Accident

 Schumer: CSX Should 'Get All Aboard' With Cornwall-On-Hudson Officials’ Efforts To Improve Safety 

Standing at Donahue Memorial Park in Cornwall-on-Hudson, NY, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today joined local officials in their push to enhance safety measures at the Cornwall-On Hudson rail crossing. Schumer is pushing CSX to work with the Village to make safety improvements to the rail-grade crossing and its barriers. Schumer said there have been several accidents at the same rail-grade crossing and CSX should immediately send representatives to the Village of Cornwall to meet with local officials, and then work closely with the Village to take actions to improve safety.

“This rail-grade crossing has been the site of several serious accidents, and something must be done to improve the safety of the crossing for local residents. This most recent accident served as a wake-up call that cannot simply be ignored. The Village Board and the Mayor have laid the groundwork for action, and now we need CSX to get ‘all aboard,’” said Schumer. “So I’m calling on CSX to be a good neighbor and meet with local residents and officials so we can look at ways to make this rail-grade crossing as safe as possible.”

Schumer explained that, in November, a Wappingers Falls resident's car was struck by an oncoming CSX train at the Cornwall-on-Hudson grade-crossing. According to reports, the vehicle became stuck on the railroad tracks/gravel as the resident traversed the grade-crossing area. The woman managed to crawl out of her car to safety, right before the train violently pushed the car roughly 70 feet down the road. Schumer said that while this incident thankfully did not result in a tragic accident it was not the first time an accident made local officials and residents question the safety of grade-crossing. 

Just last year there was another accident at the same rail crossing. While no one was injured, a van parked too close to the tracks was hit by an oncoming freight train on the night of Cornwall Central School District’s high school prom. As a result of these accidents, the Village Board requested a meeting with CSX officials to see if there are any improvements that can be made to the railroad crossing in order to improve safety.  That is why Schumer is stepping in to urge CSX to meet with local officials and residents in order to discuss and explore ways this rail-grade crossing can be made safer.

According to the Village of Cornwall, in 2008 there was also a liquid spill from a railroad car along the riverfront, which closed traffic to Shore Road, Wood Avenue and Dock Hill Road for several hours. CSX was quickly notified by village police and the liquid, which contained anti-freeze and oil, was quickly cleaned up. Schumer said this serves as a reminder that these tracks and intersections must be as safe as possible for residents.                                                   

Schumer laid out specific actions that the Village has identified that CSX could take to ensure that rail-grade crossings in and around the Village of Cornwall are safe. Specifically, Schumer explained that the Village has explored and identified several safety recommendations and ways it could work in conjunction with CSX to ensure that rail-grade crossings in and around the Village of Cornwall are safe, particularly the crossing that was the site of this recent accident. However, Schumer said the Village needs the help and approval of CSX, as it owns and operates the rail-grade crossing that runs through this community.

According to the Village, the actions it has identified and wishes to explore further, alongside CSX, include: pavement improvements to the crossing to prevent cars from getting stuck, barrier improvements and expansions to prevent cars from being able to enter the grade crossing at dangerous times, and other similar improvements that would generally increase safety. Schumer explained that the Mayor, Brendan Coyne, and the Village Board believe enhancements could be made to the “North” entrance crossing, by adding more mobile barriers which would ensure drivers knew to bear right at the track crossing, and prevent drivers from continuing to drive straight once crossing the tracks. Local officials indicated the hill and turn make it difficult for those who are not familiar with the road to know where the road turns, and mobile barriers can add to the safety of the road. In addition, they have said that longer, double-sided crossing gates – which swing down before a train approaches the grade-crossing area – and other enhancements could be made to prevent drivers from getting stuck on the tracks.

Schumer said additional barriers and longer crossing gates could be key to decreasing accidents at the Cornwall-on-Hudson grade-crossing site as well as preventing a future tragedy. In addition, the Senator said these are just two of the suggestions that should be explored by CSX and locals during an in-person meeting. Schumer noted that Donahue Memorial Park – where he stood during his visit to Orange County today – is adjacent to these rail tracks and is also a popular pre-prom destination where teens and their families often take photos along the waterfront. Therefore, Schumer said an abundance of caution must be taken to ensure tracks are of the utmost safety.

Schumer was joined Assemblyman James Skoufis and Cornwall-on-Hudson Mayor Brendan G. Coyne.

Schumer said that while there is no excuse for motorists to ignore crossing gate signals and signage, more must be done to help increase safety at this crossing, which residents and local officials have deemed dangerous. 

A copy of Schumer’s letter to CSX appears below:

Dear Mr. Ward:

I want to bring to your attention a dangerous situation that currently exists in the Village of Cornwall-on-Hudson in Orange County, New York. The rail-grade crossing at the intersection of Shore Road and Dock Hill Road have been the site of a number of accidents, most recently in November of 2015 when a car was stuck on the tracks, hit, and pushed nearly 70 feet down the tracks. Luckily no one was injured, but this accident brought to light the inherent dangers of rail-grade crossings and specifically the numerous accidents that have occurred at Shore Road, at the entrance to Donahue Memorial Park.  

Following the accident the Village of Cornwall has identified a number of actions that might be able to be taken to improve safety at this crossing. Therefore, I am urging you to have an engineering team immediately meet with the Village and begin working on ways to improve safety. Certainly between the ideas and options the Village has already identified, and additional options that your engineers may identify something can be done to improve the safety of this crossing.

I appreciate that CSX has a wide range of capital improvements that they need to make each year, but I would ask that you include the necessary funding for improvements to this particular crossing in your upcoming capital program. A number of the potential solutions the Village has identified – including efforts to simply smooth out the pavement so that cars do not get stuck – are relatively low cost but could have a significant impact on the safety of the crossing.

I appreciate your attention to this matter, should you need further information please do not hesitate to contact my office.

Sincerely.

Charles E. Schumer

United States Senator

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