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Public Statements

Letter to Commissioner McDonald

Letter

By:
Date:
Location: Unknown

Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer called on the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) to expedite upgrades and construction at the railroad crossing at Rogers and Cloverbank Road in the Town of Hamburg. This state construction work is required before local officials can complete requisite safety measures, including the installation of gates and barriers, to designate the area as a "Quiet Zone" for passing trains, while protecting local residents utilizing the roads. In 2009, Senator Schumer secured $475,000 in federal funding for the Town of Hamburg's construction so that the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) can designate the crossing a "Quiet Zone", but these funds are waiting in limbo until NYSDOT completes their preliminary upgrades to the crossing.

Schumer noted in his letter that over 100 trains pass through the Rogers and Cloverbank crossings each day. Because these trains are required to sound their horns when they approach crossings that are not designated "Quiet Zones" due to the lack of safety components for drivers, the lives of over 20,000 Town of Hamburg residents are burdened by the loud blast of train horns. Schumer believes that all necessary construction for a "Quiet Zone" designation, including both the state and federally-funded components, could be completed before the end of 2013. The Town of Hamburg recently completed their public comment period for the project, which now has FRA approval and is ready to move forward, assuming the NYSDOT project advances on schedule.

"At long last, the Hamburg "Quiet Zone" project is set to move forward to its construction phase, but that all hinges on NYSDOT first completing railroad crossing upgrades at Rogers and Cloverbank Road. That is why I am urging the New York State Department of Transportation to prioritize upgrades at the Rogers and Cloverbank Road rail crossing, to pave the way for peace and quiet for residents in the Town of Hamburg," said Schumer. "Over 100 trains blast their horns through Hamburg's otherwise peaceful neighborhood each day, and the 20,000 residents deserve these state upgrades on time, so that the federal government can designate the crossing a "Quiet Zone.' The Town of Hamburg's public comment period as well as Federal Railroad Administration approval are complete, and once the state makes its simple upgrades, the Town of Hamburg can spend the federal dollars waiting in the wings to construct important safety measures and establish this "Quiet Zone'."

A "Quiet Zone" would put barriers in place at a rail crossing that automobiles cannot penetrate, which prevents the need for a train to honk its horn, and maintains a quiet area for local residents. For the project in Hamburg, there are two rail intersections with both CSX and Norfolk tracks running parallel to each other. Thus far, the only work done on this project has been survey work and cost estimates. The Federal Railroad Administration estimates that this project should be able to be completed within the designated budget. The costs that go into a quiet zone are inspection and design, the cost of the actual gates and other safety measures, and installation of timers at gates and in the pavement.

For years, Schumer has pushed for the project, bringing the companies together with local residents to discuss the need for a quiet zone, as well as securing $475,000 in federal funding to finance the project. These funds, combined with $50,000 in state money should cover the cost of the quiet zone project according to the Federal Railroad Administration. In 2009, Schumer secured $475,000 for the town of Hamburg so that they could undertake a railroad quiet zone project. At that time, Hamburg also received $50,000 in state funding for a total of $525,000 for the project.

A "Quiet Zone" designation allows communities who meet the safety needs at particular highway-rail grade crossings to have train horns silenced. Federal law requires on-coming trains to sound their horns if they are approaching a grade-crossing without advanced safety precautions. The establishment of a new quiet zone requires at minimum that each grade crossing be equipped with flashing lights and gates, and additional safety measures may be required to compensate for the absence of the horn as a warning device. New quiet zones can be in effect 24-hours a day or just during the overnight period between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m.

Western New York is the crossroads of freight rail traffic in the Northeast, and the Town of Hamburg has eight surface crossings and over 12 miles worth of freight track that carry over 100 trains a day through populated residential areas. Approximately 20,000 town residents live within audible range of these tracks.

A copy of Sen. Schumer's letter appears below:

Dear Commissioner McDonald:

I write to ask that you prioritize the completion of the grade crossing upgrades to the railroad crossings at Rogers Road and Cloverbank Road in the town of Hamburg. As you know the grade crossing upgrades at those two locations are directly linked to a town project to install new safety measures at those sites that will allow for quiet crossings. By prioritizing these two projects you can help me resolve the long standing issue of over 100 trains a day blowing their horns and disrupting activity in this densely populated residential neighborhood.

I have been working on this issue for years and have helped secure $475,000 in federal funding for the town project that will allow for quiet zones and am eager for it to move forward without further delay. In order for it to move forward NYSDOT has to proceed with a linked project to complete grade crossing upgrades at both the Rogers Road and Cloverbank Road sites. NYSDOT has indicated that their project will be completed by next spring. I urge you to stick to this critical timeline because it paves the way for the quiet zone project, which has cleared all procedural hurdles to move forward. By sticking to your timeline I am confident that quiet zones could be in effect in Hamburg by the fall of 2013.

Sincerely,

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer


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